Friday, July 22, 2022
Republicans are on the Verge of Blowing their Chance to Win a Senate Majority
Given President Joe Biden's historically bad poll numbers and historical trends, it seemed inevitable that Republicans would win control of the House and Senate this November. Indeed, it is all but a sure thing that the Republicans win the House, probably gaining 20-30 seats.
But the Senate is a different story. Republicans have nominated, or appear poised to nominate, several flawed candidates that have been pushed by former President Donald Trump. Polling suggests those candidates are going to struggle to win the general election. Let's examine:
Arizona: Like Georgia, Republicans appear to be blowing an easy pick up in Arizona. Trump is pushing a candidate named Blake Masters to win the GOP primary. Masters has embraced the Big Lie. But Masters is trailing by 9 points in a matchup against Democratic Senator Mark Kelly. Democratic Hold.
Georgia: Former football star Herschel Walker easily won the Republican Primary in late May. But Walker, who admits to having mental health issues and a history of domestic violence, is not proving popular with Georgia general election voters. A recent Quinnipiac poll has incumbent Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock ahead of Walker by 10 points. The same poll has the governor's race, a rematch between Brian Kemp and Stacey Abrams, as being tied. Republicans' golden opportunity to pick up a seat in Georgia may be slipping away. Democratic Hold.
Iowa: As I said in another column, I don't think it's a slam dunk that 89 year old Charles Grassley wins a 9th term in the Senate. Democrats managed to do something right by nominating Mike Franken, a three star Navy Admiral, to face him. Three polls show Franken within single digits of Grassley. If President Biden's popularity improves before election day, that will help candidates like Franken. Republican Hold.
Ohio: The Republicans could have nominated a worse candidate than JD Vance, but they could have also nominated someone better. The scant polling shows Vance slightly ahead of Democratic Congressman Tim Ryan who is very much in the mold of the other Democrat Sherrod Brown, the other Ohio Senator who does exceedingly well with working class voters. Vance's extreme position on abortion (he compared abortion to slavery and doesn't seem to even support traditional exceptions - rape, incest, life of the mother to a ban on the procedure), could sink him in Ohio which is filled with lots of suburban voters. Republican Hold.
Missouri: Given the political climate favoring Republicans, it should be a slam dunk for the GOP to hold the seat of retiring Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt. But Missourians Republicans seem intent of nominating former Missouri Governor Eric Greitens. Greitens, allegedly, took naked bondage pictures of his hairdresser that he threatened to share on the internet if she ever exposed his affair with her. The hairdresser also claimed Greitens forced her to have oral sex and later slapped her and knocked her to the floor. The prosecutor filed felony invasion of privacy charge against then Governor Greitens, but then dropped the charge when the photo relied on for the charge couldn't be located. Nonetheless, the Republican-dominated Missouri legislature felt there was sufficient evidence to proceed with impeachment in a special session that ultimately resulted in Greitens resigning. Greitens has a narrow lead in his bid to win the GOP nomination for Senate. Nominating him though would give Democrats a solid chance for a pickup in what has increasingly become a very red state. Republican Hold.
Nevada: This is turning out to be maybe Republicans' best chance to pick up a Democratic seat. Former Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt is facing Democratic Senator Catherine Cortez Mastro. To win the primary Laxalt touted his endorsement by former President Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Tom Cotton, Ron DeSantis, Josh Hawley, Mike Pompeo and Donald Trump, Jr. But now he's finding those big name Trumpers hurt him when it comes to winning support from Nevada's independent voters in a general election. Democratic Hold.
New Hampshire: There has not been any polling done in the state since April. In polls conducted before that, Democratic Maggie Hassan has led her likely Republican opponent Donald Bolduc by single digits. Bolduc who, as Brigadier General served ten tours in Afghanistan, is having to go hard Trumpy to secure the September primary nomination. That may cripple him for the general election in blue leaning New Hampshire. Democratic Hold.
North Carolina: Polls have former Congressman Tedd Budd with a 3 to 5 point lead over former North Carolina Chief Justice Cheri Beasley. While I expect Budd will win the race and keep the seat, currently held by Richard Burr, in the GOP column, it is shocking that Beasley is competitive in this red-leaning state in what should be a great Republican year. Republican Hold.
Pennsylvania: This state looks to be a disaster for Republicans' hopes of retaking the Senate. With the endorsement of Trump, New Jersey resident Dr. Oz won the primary. Trouble is Dr. Oz was disliked by many Republicans. Meanwhile the Democratic nominee, Lt. Governor John Fetterman has strong crossover appeal. At this point, it seems that Fetterman's biggest opponent is not Dr. Oz but his health. Democratic Pickup.
Utah: In Utah, former Republican Evan McMullin is running as an independent against unpopular Republican Senator Mike Lee. The Democrats chose not to nominate a candidate and have thrown their support behind McMullen. Polls show Lee has just a 5 or 6 point advantage. While Lee still has to be favored, imagine how interesting it would get if McMullin, a hard core conservative who has never backed Trump, is the deciding vote in a closely divided Senate. Republican Hold.
Wisconsin: Senator Ron Johnson is the most unpopular Republican running for re-election in 2022. Most of the head-to-head polling show Johnson's possible Democratic opponents (the primary isn't until August 9th) running even or ahead of the Johnson. Still, it's hard to bet against Johnson in what should be a big GOP year. Republican Hold.
Conclusion: It would appear that the Republicans, by nominating weak Trump-backed candidates, are blowing numerous chances to knock of Democratic Senators. Republicans will almost certainly lose the Pennsylvania Senate race, leaving them having to pick up two seats to gain a majority. It looks like New Hampshire and Nevada are the two places where that is most likely to happen. The chance of Republicans winning the Senate have now fallen below 50%.