In Defying the Odds, we discuss congressional elections as well as the presidential race.
On Thursday, the top operative for Senate Republicans' campaign arm appeared on a private Zoom call organized by GOP operatives to discuss the party's efforts to stave off a Democratic takeover.
During the presentation, National Republican Senatorial Committee executive director Kevin McLaughlin warned that if hardline conservative Kris Kobach wins next Tuesday's Kansas Senate primary, it could doom the GOP Senate majority — and perhaps even hurt President Donald Trump in a state that hasn't voted Democratic since 1964.
“The Senate majority runs through Kansas,” McLaughlin warned, according to people familiar with the call.Emily Cochrane and Catie Edmondson at NYT:
The new warning came after a flurry of Democratic meddling has scrambled the closing weeks of a primary race that had otherwise gotten back on track. Senate Republicans have opposed Kobach for a year, fretting that he can’t win a Senate contest after losing the 2018 gubernatorial race, and have warned about him consistently in public and in private.
Suburban districts like these have long been critical bases of Republican support, packed with affluent white voters who reliably chose Republicans to represent them in Congress. Democrats seized control of the House in 2018 by making inroads in communities like these, and Republicans have tied their hopes of reclaiming power to preserving their remaining footholds there. But as Mr. Trump continues to stumble in his response to the pandemic and seeks to stir up racist fears with pledges to preserve the “Suburban Lifestyle Dream,” such districts are slipping further from the party’s grasp, and threatening to drag down congressional Republicans in November’s elections.
Interviews with more than two dozen party officials, strategists and voters in areas like these help explain what recent polls have found: that Mr. Trump’s strategy is alienating independent and even some conservative voters — particularly women and better-educated Americans — who are turned off by his partisan appeals and disappointed in his leadership. From the suburbs of St. Louis to Omaha to Houston, they expressed deep concern about Mr. Trump’s approach to twin national crises, lamenting his confident declarations that the coronavirus was under control and his move to stoke racial divides after nationwide protests over police brutality against Black Americans.
One result is that House Republicans, who began the election cycle hoping to win an uphill battle to recapture their majority — or at the very least, claw back some of the competitive districts they lost to Democrats in 2018 — are instead scrambling to shore up seats that once would have required little effort to hold. Analysts at the nonpartisan Cook Political Report recently forecast that November could bring “a Democratic tsunami,” and placed once safe Republican incumbents on an “anti-Trump wave watch list.”Amy Walter at Cook Political Report:
But this is 2020. We are constantly battling 2016 political PTSD ("what if the polls are wrong?"). Trump also has an uncanny ability to survive political challenges that would sink traditional politicians.
We also live in a time of deep and sustained partisanship. In 2018, despite losing the national vote by almost eight points, Republicans were able to (narrowly) hold onto statewide races in Texas, Georgia, Florida and Ohio. And, of course, this partisanship and division is nurtured and exploited by technology like social media. As such, we don't just live in different bubbles; we live in different realities. It's not just that Democrats and Republicans disagree on how well Trump is handling this crisis; they disagree on whether we are currently in a crisis. For example, according to a July Pew Opinion Research poll, just under half (46 percent) of Republicans view coronavirus as a major threat to the health of the public, compared to 67 percent of independents and 85 percent of Democrats.
The once rock-solid grip that the president had on his party seems to be slipping. Talking with pollsters and strategists from both sides this week, it's clear that Trump is suffering not just with Democrats and independents but also with GOP voters. They tell us of polling that shows Trump underwater in districts he carried easily in 2016. One GOP strategist told me that even in heavily Republican districts, Trump's job approval rating among Republicans has dropped 10-20 points. The KFF poll released last week found Trump's overall job approval rating among Republicans dropped 12 points between May and July. On handling coronavirus, the drop in GOP support was an even more dramatic 26 points.