Jennifer Duffy of the Cook Political Report writes, “So far, the 34 Senate contests on the ballot in 2020 feature 12 Democratic incumbents and 20 Republican incumbents: GOP U.S. Sens. Pat Roberts of Kansas and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee have announced that they will not seek reelection" She adds, "Only one incumbent — GOP U.S. Sen. John Cornyn of Texas — has a war chest over $5 million.”
And it is very possible Cornyn might draw a very competitive challenger, one with 100 percent name recognition in the state. According to Politico, “Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer met with former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke last week to discuss a possible 2020 Senate campaign against GOP Sen. John Cornyn, according to a source familiar with the meeting.” And if O’Rourke doesn’t do it, another presidential aspirant, former Housing and Urban Development secretary and San Antonio mayor Julián Castro, could always shift races. Cornyn certainly learned from the 2018 Senate race between O’Rourke and Sen. Ted Cruz that the margin between a Republican and a Democratic Senate victory is much narrower than previously believed.
Meanwhile, there are a batch of other Senate pickup opportunities for Democrats. The most vulnerable Republicans would be Susan Collins (Maine), who is under renewed heat for her support for Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh and the misbegotten notion that he would defend Roe v. Wade; Cory Gardner of Colorado, which has become a reliably blue state in presidential years; and Martha McSally (Ariz.), who lost her Senate race in 2018 and was then appointed to the late John McCain’s seat after John Kyl had briefly stepped in.
And speaking of Arizona, McSally got some bad news this week when Mark Kelly, the husband of gun-violence victim and former representative Gabrielle Giffords announced that he will run. The astronaut’s ad is the early favorite for best video political introduction:
Also, don’t forget Georgia, where the Democratic Party’s new rock star, Stacey Abrams, may challenge Sen. David Perdue, a dependable Trump apologist whose claim to fame is his effort to reduce legal immigration. Throw in Sen. Thom Tillis (N.C.) — who will be running in a presidential swing state that was trending blue before Democrats’ 2016 debacle — and you can easily get to half a dozen possible Democratic pickups. The best shot for Republicans to pick off a Democratic seat is in Alabama but, beyond that, there are no hot prospects.
And all that is before Republicans get to the overarching problem: President Trump at the top of the ticket. With the House in Democratic hands, the job of circling the wagons around Trump (including the rubber-stamping of his nominees) has fallen to the Senate. While Senate incumbents usually enjoy a reputation distinct from the president of their party, in this case their sycophancy comes with a price: Their political future is now inextricably bound with Trump’s.
If Trump is polling around 40 percent, the final report from special counsel Robert S. Mueller III is damning, and the economy, as many experts predict, has cooled off, you do wonder whether Republican senators might be more inclined to turn on the president, pressuring him to step down (with the implicit threat of impeachment proceedings hanging over them). That’s getting ahead of things, however.
Presently, the concern for Senate Republicans should be: What, other than the shutdown, the attempt to end the Affordable Care Act and passage of the unpopular tax cut can they claim to have accomplished? Judges, I suppose. But that alone is unlikely to save them if Democrats have the wind at their backs.
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