They may not be the biggest headaches for the GOP. Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) has a dreadful approval number (34 percent) for an incumbent; 37 percent disapprove. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) is doing a little better (37 percent approval/ 40 percent disapprove) but will run in a state that President Trump will probably lose.
Trump isn’t popular in states with competitive Senate races (“The president’s net approval rating is 17 points underwater in Colorado and 15 points in the red in Iowa”). While he may want to visit vulnerable incumbent senators’ states, it is not at all clear whether they want to be seen with him.
These senators share the problem that many of their colleagues do. First, they have not done much other than sign on to a trade deal improved by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s negotiators and pass an unpopular tax cut. The “grim reaper” McConnell, as Pelosi (D-Calif.) likes to call him, has not acted on more than 250 bipartisan bills passed by the House, including background checks, voting reform, prescription drug cost control, net neutrality and more. Pelosi will make the stack a little higher by seeking passage of an infrastructure bill after the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday break. Second, the spotlight will be on the senators in their capacity as impeachment jurors.
Some senators have an easy political road. McConnell must vote against impeachment, for which he will be rewarded in a deep-red state. However, the rest are trapped. If they vote to acquit, Republicans such as Collins, Gardner and McSally risk losing Democrats and independent-leaning Democrats they need to win, especially if they are seen as hiding from witnesses or burying documents. If they vote to convict, Republicans may mount a primary challenge and/or stay home in November.
They might consider voting to allow witnesses and documents but ultimately vote to acquit. The risk with that approach is that they wind up pleasing no one.
In a normal situation, with a party not under the spell of a narcissistic president and a president able to admit he is in trouble, there would be talk of something like censure, giving weak-kneed senators the opening to vote to acquit but find that Trump brought disgrace onto the office. (If they were really level-headed, they’d also pass legislation with stiff penalties for soliciting foreign help in an election.) However, Trump would have a meltdown if Republicans censured him. He thinks he has been impeached for the “perfect call.” That leaves Republican senators with no way out.
A lot of these Republicans could lose whichever way they go. Come to think of it, since their chances of reelection are dwindling, why not do the right thing and uphold their oaths by voting to remove Trump? Yeah, fat chance of that happening.