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(CNN)The last time an incumbent president fought for reelection, his party faced a second challenge: holding its narrow Senate majority.
They managed both using an old political formula. In key states then-President Barack Obama couldn't win, fellow Democrats fielded Senate candidates better suited to local electorates who could.
It won't be easy for President Donald Trump and Republicans this fall, and not merely because Trump faces a bigger deficit against Democratic rival Joe Biden than Obama ever faced against Mitt Romney in 2012. So far at least, Republican Senate candidates have shown little capacity to separate their fates from Trump.
That means big trouble for the GOP attempt to hold seats in states where Biden leads such as Arizona, Colorado, Maine and North Carolina. The nonpartisan Cook Political Report recently pronounced Democrats favored to achieve the net gain of at least three seats they need to gain the majority if Biden wins or four if the President is re-elected."If (the election) is today, I don't see how Republicans can hold," agrees GOP strategist Liam Donovan. Up and down the ballot, he explains: "The only question is, 'Do you like Trump?' "
Three charts that show how Republicans are losing their chance to keep the SenateRead MoreA generation ago, when the Democratic and Republican parties embraced considerable ideological and geographic diversity, such simple electoral equations didn't apply. The share of voters backing candidates of different parties for president and Senate has shrunk from around 20% in the 1970s to around 6% today, notes political scientist Gary Jacobson.When Obama sought reelection, such "ticket-splitting" allowed Democrats to win Senate seats in Indiana, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota and West Virginia -- all red states that Romney carried easily. Democrats candidates with comparatively conservative profiles managed to significantly outpoll Obama.Neither party pulled that off in 2016 when Trump and Hillary Clinton led the Republican and Democratic tickets. The convergence of president and Senate voting was complete; Republican Senate candidates won only in Trump-carried states, Democratic Senate candidates only in Clinton-carried states.This year, as Trump trails nationally and in critical battlegrounds alike, that bodes ill for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's field of candidates. Three months before Election Day, some endangered GOP Senate candidates are not only failing to outpace the president but actually under-performing him.In Michigan, which Trump won narrowly four years ago, the polling average on realclearpolitics.com shows him trailing by eight percentage points now. GOP Senate challenger John James trails Democratic incumbent Gary Peters by even more.The same is true of embattled Republican incumbents, who in past campaigns might have leaned on their own distinct home-state political identities.In Arizona, GOP Sen. Martha McSally trails Democratic challenger Mark Kelly by twice the three-percentage deficit Trump faces. In North Carolina, GOP Sen. Thom Tillis faces the same predicament against Democratic challenger Cal Cunningham.Political analysts cite multiple factors. The bleak national environment for the GOP has powered strong fundfraising by Democratic candidates, helping them heap fresh attacks on Republicans already weighed down by Trump's unpopularity. Among Democrats and some independents, antipathy toward Trump transfers directly onto Republican Congressional candidates they believe would assist him in office.In 2012, opponents "didn't despise Barack Obama with the level of intensity that people despite Donald Trump," says Amy Walter, an analyst at the Cook Report. "He has forced you to pick a side. There's no gray area."That black-or-white dynamic erodes intra-party support for Republicans seeking to protect themselves by establishing any distance at all from Trump. In North Carolina, after briefly bucking Trump on funding for the US-Mexico "border wall" last year, Tillis has faced catcalls from Trump allies without gaining support among Trump's adversaries.Not even the Northeastern Republican who touts her independence the loudest has escaped the undertow. In recent public polling, veteran GOP Sen. Susan Collins just about matched Trump's approval rating at around 40%.To shift attention from the President to her Democratic challenger Sara Gideon, Collins has proposed no fewer than 16 debates between them before Election Day. Other Republicans have attempted similar gambits.
The gigantic shadow Trump casts over 2020, and shrinking supply on media resources available for covering state and local politics, make that a difficult strategy to pull off. What Republican candidates need most is for partisan solidarity to reverse some of the erosion Trump has suffered among Republican-leaning constituencies, such as older and non-college whites, that lifted him in 2016."The only hope they have is that, as we get close to the election, Trump is able to win back some of those disaffected Republicans," Walter said.
News Source: CNN
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Republican senators grow anxious over direction of stimulus talks with no deal in sight
Washington (CNN)Republican senators are increasingly concerned over the state of stimulus negotiations on Capitol Hill. They're frustrated over how long it is taking to reach an agreement and fearful that a deal may not come together at all as the country remains in crisis.
With the Senate majority on the line in the fall, GOP senators have a wide range of complaints. Some feel that they have been locked out of top-level negotiations, that the talks are proceeding too slowly, that Democrats are acting in bad faith and that if a final deal is reached, it may not be one that they are able to support. A number of the Senate's most vulnerable Republicans facing competitive reelection fights are eager for a deal as voters back home demand action from Washington. At the same time, a sizable number of Republicans are reluctant to get behind any deal at all in light of the trillions of dollars that have already been approved by Congress for coronavirus relief, a dynamic that has put key blocs of the party at odds at a critical time.
Many members feel left in the dark as negotiations have been centered around daily talks in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office with Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer and the lead negotiators for the Trump administration, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows. During Wednesday's closed-door Senate GOP lunch, Mnuchin and Meadows briefed members on their progress, but few said that it seemed like negotiations had moved very far. And, there is growing concern from many conservatives that the negotiations are moving far away from a place that Republicans may be comfortable with. "There is a little progress, but it is not very encouraging," Sen. David Perdue, a Republican from Georgia up for reelection, said Wednesday. "As a practical guy working on this, I am worried. My caution is that we don't do something that is very irresponsible."Read MoreGOP Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri said this week, "It worries me that we have no idea what the final product will be here," adding, "I think it's concerning that we don't have any idea really what's going on. I think a lot of senators have that sentiment."GOP Sen. Ron Johnson has been pushing for a vote on an amendment to allow states to either pay up to 67% of an individual's misplaced wages or pay jobless Americans $200 per week. Asked if he was frustrated with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and GOP leaders for not scheduling a vote on his amendment, Johnson said: "I have no idea what they're thinking."One major issue that negotiators must reconcile to reach a deal is an agreement on the topline spending number. For now, the two sides remain far apart. Pelosi told CNN this week that the price tag she is looking for is $3.4 trillion. Mnuchin responded by calling it "ridiculous." The Senate GOP proposal unveiled last month had a price tag of roughly $1 trillion. GOP Sen. Mike Rounds of South Dakota said that while he is hoping to be part of the solution, he is growing concerned that the deal reached between the White House and Democrats could be too far in the Democrats' direction for him to support it. "I really want to see a program, but not at any cost," Rounds said. "I would love to be a part of a solution, but not at any cost."At the same time, other Republicans want administration negotiators to agree to more in order to reach a deal. "I hope so," Maine Sen. Susan Collins, who is up for reelection in a seat that is a top target for Democrats, said when asked if the GOP should agree to more funding for state and local governments. "I don't want to see first responders... as well as sanitation crews and public works employs laid off and losing their jobs plus disrupting essential services."There is uncertainty over if and when a deal can be struck. McConnell indicated on Wednesday that the start of the Senate's August recess will now be pushed back to provide additional time for ongoing talks. "We'll certainly be in next week. We'll see what happens after that," he said. Mnuchin and Meadows set a deadline to negotiate with Democrats at the end of the week. It's unclear if they will meet that.Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri, a member of Senate GOP leadership, argued that if there wasn't a deal, members might as well go home. "If there's not a deal by Friday, there won't be a deal," Blunt said.Some Republicans are openly voicing frustration at how long the negotiations are taking. Adding to the pressure on lawmakers is the fact that key provisions of past pandemic stimulus measures have now lapsed, including the federal enhanced unemployment benefit that out-of-work Americans have relied on during the crisis. "Everybody -- we would like a little more certainty that we're gonna see that deal come together, come together quickly," Alaska GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski said. "So am I satisfied? I guess, I have to say that's where we are. And I wish we were done with it. I wish we hadn't gotten to the point where we've seen the (unemployment insurance) lapse here and worry about every certain provision." Republican Senate Majority Whip John Thune defended Republicans' decision to wait to start coronavirus relief discussions until July. "I think the decision to move was timed right," Thune said when asked if McConnell waited too long to begin talks. He added that any earlier, he doesn't think GOP members would have been "ready to move onto a bill."Democrats have argued that Republicans dragged their heels and waited too long to begin dealing with the latest stimulus effort in earnest, but some Republicans are accusing Democrats of not acting in good faith during the process. Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan said the GOP frustration is with Schumer for blocking a one-week extension last week of expired jobless benefits."That wasn't good faith," Sullivan said. Other Republicans are taking issue with decisions made by leaders in their own party. GOP Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma told CNN this week, "I always want to be able to have a senator in the room" when asked about McConnell not joining Trump administration officials and Democrats for the negotiations so far."I always do," Lankford said when asked if he thinks it would be better if McConnell should sit down with Democrats. "We have a House, a Senate and White House -- we have three institutions. If we have got just a White House and a House negotiating, we are leaving out the Senate...And I think we have something to say."So far, the talks have been led by Mnuchin and Meadows, who have been meeting with Pelosi and Schumer. Mnuchin and Meadows have been frequently meeting with McConnell and his staff as well to get the GOP leader's input. McConnell has defended his decision to stay out of the talks by arguing that the White House needs to be in the room since President Donald Trump is the only one who can sign something into law.
Thune defended the majority leader's decision, saying that "it's like he's in the room, even though he's not" since he's being constantly updated by Mnuchin and Meadows.McConnell wants to "be assured that whatever comes out is something that gets signed," Thune said, adding, "It's just a recognition of reality."