For eight years, Republicans in Congress had to contend with Barack Obama, a hostile president who could draw large crowds and undermined them at every turn. Not much has changed with one of their own in the White House, many of them complain.
President Trump has fingered fellow Republicans on Capitol Hill for criticism just as often, if not more, than he has opposition Democrats, spurning the political role of party leader and party builder traditionally assumed by the commander in chief.
That detachment has saddled Republicans with the burdens of White House power that are foisted upon political parties in midterm elections, while denying them many of the crucial benefits — fundraising and organization chief among them.
This development has strained relations between Trump and the Republican congressional committees, the foremost GOP campaign organizations charged with holding the House and Senate majorities in 2018.
"He's certainly pursuing a different model," said a Republican operative who worked in the White House under President George W. Bush and requested anonymity in order to speak candidly. "If he's not careful, he's going to help Democrats take over one or both chambers. This is galactically stupid."
Trump hasn't been totally inactive.
This year, he headlined a fundraiser for the National Republican Congressional Committee, the House GOP campaign arm, that brought in a record $30 million. His email and hard mail fundraising appeals for the Republican National Committee have been wildly lucrative.
Through a spate of special House elections held in the spring, Trump recorded robo-calls and put his vaunted social media network to work promoting voter turnout for the Republican candidates, who all won. He hosted two fundraisers for individual Republicans: Rep. Tom MacArthur of New Jersey and Rep. Karen Handel of Georgia.
Vice President Mike Pence is handling the rest of the political duties expected of the president on behalf of his party, traveling to headline events and raise cash for down-ballot Republicans. Pence even launched a political action committee to underwrite these activities.
Between Trump and his No. 2, Republicans are getting the help they need heading into 2018, the president's defenders say, especially with the uptick in politicking planned from both over the next several months.
"Strong support for President Trump and the party has propelled the RNC to robust fundraising numbers. The grassroots continue to give overwhelmingly positive responses to the president and our party's message," RNC spokesman Chase Jennings said.
"There's one thing that very hard to put a price on, and that is the expansion of our coalition. If Republicans emerge from this admin with a larger coalition…we will be much the better for it," added Republican consultant Brad Todd, suggesting that Trump could be building the party by shifting and enlarging its universe of voters.
Republicans focused on 2018 say that Trump's disinterest is still leaving a troubling void. They appreciate Pence's support, but emphasize that it isn't the same as direct and enthusiastic involvement by a president and his White House political team.
Indeed, the NRCC and the NRSC, the Senate GOP campaign arm, both declined to comment when asked to detail the support they have received from Trump.
This lack of attentiveness, combined with Trump's constant public haranguing of congressional Republicans with rhetoric and complaints that Democrats can spin into attack ads next year, has left many in the party frustrated.
"He does not necessarily have the best relationship with the other two federal party committees," said a GOP strategist who is often complimentary of Trump. "It's like he's good with the one that helps elect him [the RNC,] but not so much for the other two."
Moves by Trump's allies, like former White House advisor Steve Bannon, to target Republican incumbents in 2018 primaries, without any admonishment from the president, have only added to their dismay, especially coming in the midst of his aggressive outreach to the Democrats.
This month, Trump traveled to North Dakota to promote tax reform and invited Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., who Republicans are targeting in 2018, to share the stage with him. It was a perfect photo-op for her expected tough re-election campaign in a state that is overwhelmingly Republican. Meanwhile, Trump continues to feud with the GOP's two vulnerable Senate incumbents: Dean Heller of Nevada and Jeff Flake of Arizona. The president also dined at the White House Thursday night with the top two Democratic congressional leaders.
"They'd be well advised to growing the number of Republicans in the Senate, rather than diminishing," Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, said. "I realize that bipartisanship is important, but he shouldn't mistake a smile for support when it really counts."
Trump's job approval has hovered for months in the high 30s to low 40s. If those numbers don't improve, Republicans could suffer steep losses next year. That is among the challenges a party faces in midterms when it controls the White House.
The advantages are supposed to exist with a president on the fundraising circuit and campaign trail, boosting coffers and grassroots energy for down-ballot candidates in a way that the party out of power in the Oval Office can't match.
In addition to the complaints that these have yet to materialize, Republicans active in politics during the Bush era say there is a lack of direction and attentiveness from the White House, through the RNC, to state and county affiliates, to coordinate messaging and party building that can boost the down ballot.
Bush and his White House team were heavily invested with the Republican Party at all levels, and Republicans involved at the time credit that focus from the top with helping to party buck historical trends to win seats in the 2002 midterm, and with success in 2004.
"It's like the wild, wild west in Republican politics right now," a Republican operative based in the South said.