The increasingly irrational coterie of supporters and enablers can blather all they like, praising his “preparation” (who are we kidding?) and denying the severity of the situation. However, a deadly pandemic and a recession cannot be wished away. If President Herbert Hoover was held responsible for the Great Depression (fairly or not), Trump’s name could be forever linked to any health crisis and economic crash on his watch.
In that scenario (and we do not as yet know that is where we will be months from now), House or Senate members with an "R" next to their names on the November ballot could be in grave danger. While senators normally have higher profiles and a better chance to distance themselves from the top of the ticket, Republicans who have allowed no distance and have insisted on keeping the president in office after January’s impeachment trial are quite likely to go down with the ship. They have excused Trump’s conduct, mouthed his misleading statements and left a corrupt and incompetent president in office. There will likely be a steep hill to climb for incumbent Republicans outside of deep-red states.
As though that were not bad enough for Republicans, an examination of individual races shows Democrats have an increasingly impressive hand. The Post reports: “Monday, term-limited Montana governor and former 2020 presidential candidate Steve Bullock announced that he’s running for Senate there, putting up Democrats’ strongest candidate to take this seat from Republicans.” That makes him the second popular governor (or former governor) who has a shot at flipping key Senate seats. (“The same happened in Colorado recently when John Hickenlooper, that state’s former governor and presidential candidate, decided to run for Senate. Those are two well-known names who have the best chance of probably anyone in their party to win these Senate seats for Democrats.”)
Cook Political Report has switched its rating for the Montana seat from Solid Republican to Lean Republican. “Bullock has the benefit of being the incumbent governor in the news. . . And he’s won each term despite the GOP presidential nominee handily winning the state — outperforming Hillary Clinton by 15 points in 2016 and [Barack] Obama by 7 points in 2012,” writes Jessica Taylor. “And Montanans have shown a willingness to split their tickets, with Democratic Sen. Jon Tester repeatedly winning close contests.”
That leaves Democrats with several routes to a net four seats (net three if they win the White House) needed to strip Republicans of their Senate majority:
Even with Alabama increasingly looking like it will go to Republicans, Democrats still have several chances to pick up four seats. Arizona, Colorado, Maine and North Carolina are all in the Toss Up column, while GOP primary fights in Kansas and the Georgia special election have given Democrats openings. Now Montana is added to that list, with other states like Iowa on the cusp.
Maine is looking stronger by the day for Democrats, as Sen. Susan Collins’s favorability takes a nose dive. The latest survey from Public Policy Polling shows the Maine Republican’s approval rating at an atrocious 33 percent with 57 percent disapproving. She currently trails her challenger there by 4 percentage points. Her decision to tie herself to Trump (e.g., confirming Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh; acquitting in the Senate trial) could well end her political career.
In Arizona, the appointed Sen. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) got right-wing applause for berating a reporter some months ago, but back home, she is in trouble against Mark Kelly, an astronaut and the husband of former congresswoman and gun-safety advocate Gabrielle Giffords. McSally’s approval is also underwater; she trails Kelly by single digits.
Likewise, North Carolina is looking promising for Democrats. The Democrats’ favored candidate, Cal Cunningham (a former state senator and decorated Iraq and Afghanistan war veteran), won his primary.
In sum, Republicans’ Senate majority may well be the victim of a floundering president at the top of the ticket plus weak incumbent senators in purple and blue states. We are about eight months from the 2020 election — a lifetime in politics — but if the coronavirus epidemic continues to spread and the economy goes belly up, Trump will be out of office, a victim of his own incompetence and narcissism. Republicans who never could bring themselves to stand up to him could suffer the consequences, a fitting end to their sycophantic and irresponsible tenure in the Trump era.