Thursday, January 23, 2020

12 GOP Senate Seats Democrats Could Flip

Republicans currently hold 53 of the Senate’s 100 seats; Democrats will need a minimum net gain of three seats with a new, Democratic vice president to flip partisan control of the body. Of the 23 Republican-controlled Senate seats up for election this year, there are currently 13 seats in 12 states that offer plausible prospects for Democrats to defeat their Republican opponent.

Three Republican held Senate seats up for reelection in 2020 are rated as toss-ups by the Cook Political Report. Those at risk Republican seats are held by Colorado’s Sen. Cory Gardner, Maine’s Sen. Susan Collins, and Arizona’s Martha McSally — and the list of “at risk” Republican Senators is growing as members of the Party of Trump.

The impeachment trial in the US Senate is clearly a constitutional and moral moment of truth. Lead House impeachment manager Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, not only made a compelling factual narrative case for convicting Trump in the Senate impeachment hearings, he presented a political narrative that the president’s party in the Senate is complicit in a cover-up. Schiff eloquently blasted McConnell’s obstruction of witnesses and evidence and urged the senators to stand up for democracy and America’s security. At Alternet, Cody Fenwick provides “5 of the strongest moments from Adam Schiff’s opening statement of Trump’s impeachment trial.” Here’s a video clip of Schiff’s presentation from Time:


Syndicated columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. explains “Why Democrats owe a debt to Mitch McConnell” in The Washington Post:
“By working with Trump to rig the trial by admitting as little evidence as possible, McConnell robbed the proceeding of any legitimacy as a fair adjudication of Trump’s behavior. Instead of being able to claim that Trump was “cleared” by a searching and serious process, Republican senators will now be on the defensive for their complicity in the Trump coverup…It gets worse. Thanks to assertions by Trump’s lawyers that he did absolutely nothing wrong, an acquittal vote, as The Post editorialized, “would confirm to Mr. Trump that he is free to solicit foreign interference in the 2020 election and to withhold congressionally appropriated aid to induce such interference.” Is that the position that Republican Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Cory Gardner (Colo.), Thom Tillis (N.C.) and Martha McSally (Ariz.), among others, want to embrace as they run for reelection this fall? Good luck with that.”
It is not out of the question that Democrats could hold the House (or add a few seats), win the White House and win the Senate majority in 2020. It does not mean it’s very likely, but chances of a clean sweep improve every day as Republicans become increasingly chained to Donald Trump through Senate impeachment proceedings.

The impeachment trial may not result in President Trump’s removal, but it could well result in Republicans’ removal from the Senate majority. Many Republican incumbents were below 45 percent approval even before the trial began, including Susan Collins (Maine), Joni Ernst (Iowa), Thom Tillis (North Carolina), Martha McSally (Arizona), Cory Gardner (Colorado) and John Cornyn (Texas). In their refusal to allow new witnesses and documents, their determination to acquit even before the trial began and their conduct during the trial, provides rich source content for opponents’ media and YouTube Ad makers.

The anti-Trump Lincoln Project
has already launched one
against Collins:

In the coming months we will udoubtedly see video ads that highlight the lack of professionalism by senators who read books, doodle, wander off, fall asleep and sneer at the House managers.

The Senate certainly is in play. This year 23 GOP seats up to only 12 for Democrats, which is the opposite of 2018, when Democrats had 26 seats up to just nine for Republicans. It is true that while Democrats in 2018 had a lot of red-state seats to defend, Republicans this time, theoretically, do not have vulnerable senators in deep-blue states. However, they’ve got plenty to worry about.

Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Cory Gardner of Colorado run in states Trump lost in 2016. Both are vulnerable as their party moves far to the right and they choose to march in lockstep. Both face strong challengers, Maine’s Democratic state House Speaker Sara Gideon and former Democratic governor John Hickenlooper, respectively.

Democrats also have an increasingly good shot at flipping additional Republican Senate seats, with impeached Pres. Trump at the top of their party’s ticket.

Republicans in Georgia will have to defend one vacant seat, and the other just recently filled with a rich businesswoman, Kelly Loeffler, who President Trump did not favor. North Carolina’s incumbent Sen. Thom Tillis likely will face a strong challenger in Cal Cunningham, who led Tillis by 2 points in a Public Policy Polling poll last fall. Sen. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), who lost her race in 2018 but was appointed to the seat once held by the late Sen. John McCain, is trailing a strong opponent in polling (former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’s husband and astronaut Mark Kelly) in an increasingly purple state.

If things really go Democrats’ way, Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), who has been running from impeachment questions, could be vulnerable. As could Sen. John Cornyn in Texas (where a slew of Republican House members are retiring thanks to the state’s increasing Democratic tilt), where Cornyn’s approval was well below 50 percent. Indeed, not a single incumbent in these states had an approval rating in last year’s Morning Consult poll over 44 percent.

Even Kansas may be in play for Democrats. Yes, Kansas. Democrat Laura Kelly won the governor’s race in 2018 against a Stephen Miller-type anti-immigration firebrand, Kris Kobach. Kobach will be running for the open Senate seat, and Mike Pompeo will not be (for now). “National Republicans have outright said that the controversial Kobach can’t win a general election after losing the 2018 governor’s race by 5 points to Democrat Laura Kelly,” writes the Cook Report’s Jessica Taylor.
“In private polling, Republicans have Kobach losing to likely Democratic nominee Barbara Bollier, and Kobach leading every other Republican in a head-to-head except Pompeo. Add in the fact that Democrats have a strong recruit in Bollier ⁠— a former Republican state senator who cited Trump as one of the reasons she switched parties in Dec. 2018.”
Democrats certainly cannot bet on winning all of these, but if they win the White House, they only need a net pickup of three in the Senate (with the vice president breaking 50-50 tie votes). They have really only one vulnerable incumbent, Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.). They have an expanding playing field (with real shots in Lean Republican or toss-up seats at risk for Republicans in Maine, Colorado, Arizona, Kansas and North Carolina) that will force Republicans to defend lots of seats — cutting off the ones who are in the worst shape when money gets tough.

Today’s Pew Research poll confirms other recent polling in two key respects: President Trump remains deeply unpopular, and most voters think he did what he is accused of doing.
While the public’s preferences for the outcome of the Senate trial are closely divided, 63% of Americans say Trump has definitely (38%) or probably (25%) done things that are illegal, either during his time in office or while he was running for president. A larger majority (70%) say he has definitely (45%) or probably (26%) done unethical things …

Similarly, an Insider SurveyMonkey Audience poll this week found:
  • Among Americans aged 18-29, 63% said Trump should be removed from office, compared to 24% who think he shouldn't be, and 13% who didn't know.
  • For Americans aged 30-44, 56% said Trump should be removed from office in contrast with 28% who think he should not be removed, and 15.8% who don't know.
  • Among those aged 45-60, 47.6% think that Trump should be removed from office compared to 42% who think he should not be removed, and 10% who don't know.
  • For Americans aged 60 and older, a narrow majority of 51% believed Trump should be removed from office in contrast to 40% who think he should not be removed, and 8% who don't know.
Pew found a surprisingly significant percentage of Republicans think Trump has acted illegally or unethically. “More than nine-in-ten Democrats (91%) and about one-third (32%) of Republicans say he has definitely or probably done illegal things, while 90% of Democrats and 47% of Republicans say he has definitely or probably done things that are unethical.”

The above referenced polls were completed before the impeachment hearing began on Jan. 21. Opinion was mixed as to whether the Senate Republicans would conduct a fair trial. “About half of Americans (48%) are at least somewhat confident that Senate Democrats will be fair and reasonable, while slightly fewer (43%) say the same about the Senate GOP.” After watching Republicans’ antics and refusal (so far) to allow witnesses, voters may take a dim view of their handling of the trial. Over half (51 percent) want Trump removed, while 46 percent do not.

Trump’s approval/disapproval remains relatively steady at 40 percent approve, 59 percent disapprove, with 52% saying they trust what Trump says less than previous presidents, 26% saying they trust what Trump says more, and 22% saying they trust what he says about the same as they trusted previous presidents.

The numbers tell us that a significant percentage of Republicans approve of Trump’s performance (80 percent) for reelection even if they think he acted illegally (32 percent) or unethically (47 percent). That is what blind loyalty to a cultlike leader looks like.

Trump’s approval/disapproval remains badly underwater with women (37/62 percent), college grads (35/64 percent) and whites with college degrees (36/63 percent). Whites without college degrees, one of his strongest sources of support, are still in his corner (59/40), although white women, who supported him in 2016, have drifted away (48/51).

More alarmingly for Trump, he trails several Democratic contenders in head-to-head matchups. In a recent poll from CNN, he loses to former vice president Joe Biden by 9 points, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont by 7 points and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts by 5 points.

There are several takeaways from this batch of data. First, voters are more divided on whether to remove him than on whether he did something illegal. That may be because they think the illegal things are not impeachable or simply because they are queasy about removal. Second, the conduct of the impeachment trial, on top of other negative feelings about Trump, might move opinion about Trump more negatvely, and, more importantly for Senators up for reelection in 2020, impact voters’ feelings about the Senators.

Finally, hardcore Republican voters will not break with him even if they are compelled to admit he broke the law or acted unethically. He is their guy, crook or not. That does not mean, however, that there aren’t Republicans (and Democrats and Independents) who voted for him in 2016 who will stay home in 2020 rather than vote for Trump - and Republican Senators on the ballot.

The Nation Magazine factors in four key criteria — past electoral results, demographic developments, existing civic engagement infrastructure, and incumbent favorability ratings — rank 12 states with a Republican incumbent (and one state, Alabama, with a vulnerable Democrat) with scores that illustrates their respective winnability. Read, “12 States Where Democrats Could Flip the Senate,” at The Nation .

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