May 22, 2020


For at-Risk GOP Senate, Trump Is an Albatross (A.B. StoddardMay 22, 2020, Real Clear Politics)

If things looked bad for Senate Republicans two months ago, the scenario now is much worse.  As Republicans defend 23 seats, and Democrats just 12, forecasters now say the battle for control of the chamber is a 50-50 tossup. 

McConnell doesn't like answering questions about Trump pushing unpopular "oversight" pursuits on his fragile Senate majority, but he has bluntly characterized the Senate campaign as "a dogfight." Last week he added: "We have a lot of exposure." 

Republicans are now focused on more than eight seats that are competitive and several more that will drain resources, like Texas, where Biden is close or tied in polling with Trump. Should Republicans lose four of the 53 seats they have, under President Joe Biden they would lose their majority. If Trump is reelected they will need to hold their losses to three. Trump himself is behind Biden in every national poll, by 5.5 percentage points in our RCP average, and behind him in averages of battleground states Wisconsin, Florida, Arizona, Michigan and Pennsylvania. Trump is ahead in Ohio and North Carolina in RCP's averages by less than the margin of error. 

The most imperiled Senate incumbents remain Martha McSally in Arizona, Cory Gardner in Colorado,  Thom Tillis in North Carolina and Collins in Maine. Yet polls have now tightened for Joni Ernst in Iowa, David Perdue in Georgia, and Steve Daines in Montana, with some showing the incumbents behind their challengers. Kelly Loeffler, appointed to fill former Sen. Johnny Isakson's Georgia seat in January, is way behind and could lose to Republican Rep. Doug Collins, though if none of the 14 contenders in the open "jungle" election Nov. 3 garners 50%, a run-off will take place in January. Republicans will have to spend handsomely to defend two seats in Georgia, where Peach State Republicans say Democrats are highly competitive up and down the ballot.

In Kansas, McConnell has just days left to convince Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to change his mind and file for the GOP primary race there after all, or Kris Kobach is likely to prevail, giving Democrats a chance at retiring GOP Sen. Pat Roberts' seat. Kobach, a controversial politician, lost his bid for governor in 2018 to Democrat Laura Kelly. Republicans' only likely pickup this cycle is the seat of Doug Jones in Alabama, but they also have a challenger in Michigan with a chance of winning the only other pickup opportunity, making Trump's broadside against Michigan on Wednesday -- a state he won in 2016 and should also want to win in 2020 -- particularly strange. 

Republicans care more about holding their Senate majority than keeping the presidency, but Trump either doesn't know this or he doesn't care. While he has repelled many of the independent and former Republican voters that GOP senators need to win, Trump has the potential to hold on with his own voters who aren't necessarily Republicans and may only vote for the top of the ticket. But his standing with voters outside his base would have to improve, and thus far he has chosen mobilizing and alienating over persuasion. Charlie Cook of the Cook Political Report recently wrote there is a more than one in three chance the Democrats will win a "trifecta" to control the White House, Senate and House of Representatives come January. There are no electoral analyses showing control of the House in play for Republicans.

Posted by at May 22, 2020 7:57 AM