Senate Republicans just can’t put out the fires Donald Trump keeps setting fast enough. At first, their effort to maintain their majority in November centered around defending four main seats in Maine, Arizona, Colorado, and North Carolina while hoping for a pickup of Sen. Doug Jones’ seat in Alabama.
But Trump’s cratering approvals and his spectacularly horrible leadership skills in a crisis just keep sucking more states into play.
For starters, Trump’s approvals keep sinking. Gallup just put him at 39% in a poll taken from May 28 to June 4, slipping 10 points from 49% in late March. Notably, only 47% of Americans approve of Trump’s handling of the economy according to Gallup’s latest survey, which is a steep tumble from 63% approval in January. The economy has always been Trump’s strongest issue area.
Bloomberg News reports that Trump huddled with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell Wednesday, the same day Gallup’s new poll was released. Neither one of them disclosed their private conversation, but it hardly matters—Republicans are irrevocably tied to Trump at this point. Not only have they simply surrendered like a bunch of lemmings, they built him into the lawless monster he’s become and then voted to save his presidency without even fielding a proper impeachment trial.
What that means is that Democrats’ pickup opportunities in the Senate just keep expanding beyond those seats held by Sens. Susan Collins, Cory Gardner, Martha McSally, and Thom Tillis. Overall, Republicans are defending 23 Senate seats to just 12 for Democrats. The new states that Democrats are eyeing include Iowa, Montana, and Georgia. Here are some basic data points for each:
Iowa: The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee put $7.3 million into TV/digital ads targeting Sen. Joni Ernst’s seat, with two recent polls showing Ernst’s Democratic challenger, Theresa Greenfield, up by several points.
Montana: The DSCC also directed $5.2 million to Montana to help Democrat Steve Bullock, the state’s current governor, topple incumbent GOP Sen. Steve Daines.
Georgia: No DSCC action here yet, but Cook Political Report recently re-rated incumbent Sen. David Perdue’s seat to “Lean R,” making it more competitive. Ernst’s and Daines’ seats are also in the Lean Republican category, as is the seat of the other Georgia GOP senator, Kelly Loeffler.
Other possibilities remain, such as in Kansas, where GOP right-winger Kris Kobach—who lost his 2018 gubernatorial bid—could become the Republican nominee to replace retiring Sen. Pat Roberts.
Republicans are also putting money into defending states beyond the original four. The Senate Leadership Fund, a McConnell-aligned super PAC, reserved $10.1 million in radio/TV space this month in Montana, and Iowa was part of the PAC’s $67.1 million ad buy in March. That buy also included Arizona, Colorado, Maine, North Carolina, and Kentucky (McConnell’s seat!).
A spokesperson for the National Republican Senatorial Committee made the laughable argument that once more money was spent defining these Democratic challengers, they wouldn’t look so hot.
“A lot of these Democrats haven’t had much money spent against them yet and once their records are litigated voter opinion will turn against them,” Jesse Hunt told Bloomberg.
The idea that any of these Democrats’ records could be worse than voting to save Trump’s presidency just in time for him to screw up a pandemic response and a national reckoning on race is sheer folly. Senate Republicans can spend all the money they want—they will rise and fall with Donald Trump. He is their fate.