On the Republican side, it is looking like a bloodbath. Let’s divide them into tiers.
The most imperiled may soon find themselves cut off from Republican money in a scramble to save more rescuable incumbents. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) is down by 12 points in the latest Quinnipiac poll, a function of her decision to cozy up to President Trump on everything from two anti-choice Supreme Court justices to his tax plan to, most important, impeachment. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) is also down by double digits. He too voted with Trump (even on repeal of Obamacare) far too frequently in a state that has gone from purple to blue (voting for the Democrat for president the last three times and with a Democratic governor since 2007). In this category you will also find perhaps the least capable incumbent senator, Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), who has voted and behaved with the media as if she hails from a deep red state rather than a purple one. Filling out the most vulnerable group is Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), whose approval ratings are rotten and consistently trails a very able opponent, former state senator and military veteran Cal Cunningham. Morning Consult’s poll shows Tillis trailing by eight points and running substantially behind Trump, who is essentially in a dead heat against former vice president Joe Biden. (“In 2019, his home job approval fell among the party’s base following a debate over Trump’s emergency declaration to pay for construction of a U.S.-Mexico border barrier. Tillis vowed in a Washington Post op-ed to stand on principle on behalf of Congress against executive overreach, then voted against a resolution to block Trump’s action,” Morning Consult says.)
If you stopped at these seats, Democrats would have a net pickup of three, enough to split the Senate 50-50 with the Democrats’ nominee for vice president, Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), there to break the tie, if her ticket wins. But there are many, many more at-risk Republicans.
In the next tier are five at-risk seats from Montana, Georgia (two seats are up), Iowa and even South Carolina. In the latest Quinnipiac poll, Trump’s most gag-inducing sycophant, Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), is tied in his race against Jamie Harrison. Graham is upside-down in approval (44 percent favorable vs. 49 percent unfavorable). “For Jaime Harrison, 47 percent have a favorable opinion, while 34 percent have an unfavorable opinion. Likely voters say 48 - 24 percent that Harrison is honest, and they say 49 - 40 percent that Graham is not honest,” Quinnipiac says. If African American turnout spikes for Harrison, who would be the second African American senator from South Carolina (along with Republican Tim Scott), Graham might be in real trouble.
Then you drop down to seats that you would not normally expect to flip, except in the not insignificant chance Trump loses in a landslide (in part because demoralized Republican voters don’t show up at the polls — and were told not to vote by mail!). In Kansas, state Sen. Barbara Bollier (D), a physician and former Republican, is running nip and tuck against Republican Rep. Roger Marshall, who was actually the candidate national Republicans wanted in the primary (as opposed to the toxic Kris Kobach). And then there is Texas, where Biden is essentially tied with Trump. Normally, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) would be an easy winner, but on everything from DACA to repeal of Obamacare, he is finding himself on the defensive. His opponent, MJ Hegar, a veteran, recently declared, “I am a pilot who was shot down, and that means that our commander in chief thinks that I’m a loser, and, you know, more importantly, when I heard these comments … I flashed back to the friends that I’ve lost, to their children that I’ve had to watch grow up remotely on social media, the men and women I’ve medevaced off the battlefield, that were wounded or were killed.” Whether that is enough to drag Cornyn down remains to be seen.
The 11 possible pickups are not all going to fall Democrats’ way, but if even half do, they will enjoy a small majority in the Senate. If ever there were a time for Senate Republicans to pull out all the stops to pass a stimulus bill or to break with Trump on repeal of the ACA, now would be it. However, they seem incapable of helping themselves. They’ve latched onto Trump, and they will suffer the consequences.
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