IMMEDIATE RELEASE 9 July 2020
Today’s Events in Historical Perspective
America’s Longest-Running Column Founded 1932
Handicapping the Senate races
By Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift
WASHINGTON – For Democrats, winning control of the U.S. Senate is as important as winning the presidency. Polls in key races that will decide which party is the victor show Democrats with a good chance of succeeding in that effort.
Democrats currently have 45 seats plus 2 Independents that caucus with them (Angus King of Maine and Bernie Sanders of Vermont). So, the starting point is 47 Democrats to 53 Republicans in the Senate.
Winning three seats would put the Democrats even and with Joe Biden in the White House, his vice president, as president of the Senate, would break any tie.
But three would not be enough if, as is likely, Alabama’s Democratic Senator Doug Jones loses his bid for reelection in deep red Alabama. Voters there will decide in next week’s primary whether his Republican challenger will be former Attorney General Jeff Sessions or former Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville.
With President Trump’s approval rating in the latest Gallup poll sinking to 38 percent, GOP Senate candidates cannot count on Trump’s coattails to carry them over the finish line. Instead, Trump looks like a drag on their chances. And if a blue wave does develop, those four seats could become six or seven as the dominoes fall.
Maine’s Susan Collins, running for a fifth term, refuses to say whether she will vote for Trump but says she will not campaign against Biden, an indication of the tightrope she is walking as a moderate Republican. Her vote to confirm Supreme Court Justice Kavanaugh cost her support among women, who do not trust Kavanaugh to protect reproductive rights.
In Arizona, former astronaut Mark Kelly is leading Republican Senator Martha McSally. In Colorado, former Governor Hickenlooper is leading Republican Senator Cory Gardner. And in North Carolina, Democrat Cal Cunningham is leading Republican Thom Tillis.
The usual disclaimer must be posited, that the November election is four months away, and a lot can happen. But it is getting increasingly difficult to see how Trump navigates his way out of his slump without a credible plan to combat Covid-19 which is out of control in several states, including Arizona, Florida, and Texas.
Trump’s unwillingness or inability to take hold of the health crisis gripping the country is driving down his numbers. His refusal to acknowledge the legitimacy of the civil rights movement sweeping the country renders him out of touch at a time when people are looking for leadership.
As a result, Senate seats that once seemed out of reach are now suddenly viable for Democrats. Iowa Republican Joni Ernst criticized President Obama for failed leadership in 2014 because two people died from Ebola. Asked on CNN about Trump’s leadership as the country reached the three million mark of people infected with Covid-19, Ernst said “the president is stepping forward.”
In Montana, former Democratic Governor Steve Bullock, after dropping out of the presidential race, is running for the Senate. He remains popular in the state and puts the race in play.
Even Republicans senators Lindsay Graham of South Carolina and John Cornyn of Texas are looking over their shoulders. There could be a blue wave in the making, and they are not taking anything for granted. Graham’s challenger, former Democratic state party chair Jaime Harrison, raised almost $14 million from April to June, a number that reflects the energy among Democrats to regain power.
The bleak landscape for Trump is prompting speculation that he might in the end decide not to face the voters, and instead stage a spectacular walk-off maybe at the Convention. For a man whose true calling is drama made for television, it would be a history-making flame-out. Just think of the TV ratings.
Douglas Cohn’s latest books are World War 4: Nine Scenarios (endorsed by seven flag officers) and The President’s First Year: The Only School for Presidents Is the Presidency.
© 2020 U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.
Distributed by U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.
END WASHINGTON MERRY-GO-ROUND
IMMEDIATE RELEASE 9 July 2020