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Forget the House — GOP panics they might lose the Senate now too

Republicans are admitting they’ll probably lose the House this November, but now they’re worried they might not even be able to hold on to the Senate.

By Eric Boehlert - April 09, 2018
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Mitch McConnell

With more and more Republican operatives quietly conceding the uphill challenge they face keeping the House under GOP control after November, there’s a shift underway to try to barricade the Senate from a possible midterm blue wave.

The party is “furiously directing money and resources to hold and potentially boost their narrow majority in the Senate,” the Washington Post reports.

The move comes just days after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) warned that the party could be a facing a “Category 3,4 or 5” storm come November.

According to the Post, what seems to be underway is something of a McConnell power play for cash and support. By not-so-subtly signaling to donors that the House may already be lost, he’s suggesting their money would be best spent protecting the Senate.

Mathematically, Republicans enjoy a huge advantage in that the GOP only has to defend nine seats in November, while Democrats have to defend 26. And lots of those are in states that Trump won in 2016, such as West Virginia, Missouri, and Indiana.

In any normal election cycle, Republicans would be plotting Senate gains this November.

But this is no normal cycle. Not with the historically unpopular Trump, whose White House remains engulfed in chaos and controversy.

Problems are popping up all over the Senate map for Republicans. Just last week, in a shock poll from the deeply red state of Tennessee, Democrat Phil Bredesen boasted a double-digit lead over Republican Marsha Blackburn.

In West Virginia, convicted criminal Don Blankenship, the one-time head of Massey Energy Company, could end up being the party’s nominee for the state’s Senate race, which raises all kinds of hurdles for the GOP.

And In Arizona, Republican fears are mounting that the three candidates — criminally racist Joe Arpaio, far-right Trump enthusiast Martha McSally, and conspiracy theorist Kelli Ward — squared off in the GOP primary battle are all so radical that they will create an opening for a Democratic victory in November.

Republicans seem to be thrashing about for a coherent strategy. The latest is to play up the fact that scandal-plagued Trump could face impeachment if Democrats sweep Congress in November.

“As Republican leaders scramble to stave off a Democratic wave or at least mitigate their party’s losses in November, a strategy is emerging on the right for how to energize conservatives and drive a wedge between the anti-Trump left and moderate voters: warn that Democrats will immediately move to impeach President Trump if they capture the House,” the New York Times reports.

There are a couple obvious drawbacks. For instance, if the GOP idea is to fire up its far-right base by highlighting pending impeachment next year, wouldn’t the GOP strategy simultaneously fire the Democratic far-left base, which desperately wants impeachment?

At the same time, older, white, educated voters, who helped elected Trump in 2016, are now “trending toward Democrats in such numbers that their ballots could tip the scales in tight congressional races from New Jersey to California,” Reuters reports, based on its latest polling date.

It’s hard to imagine how centering the midterms campaign around the contentious and chaotic issue of Trump’s impeachment would appeal to that crucial, aging voting block.

Right now, the GOP is trying to put out fires in both the House and the Senate.


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