To provide a slight ray of optimism on a day that has seen three what would be five-alarm scandals for any of administration, it should be noted that Trump is really unpopular, and in a political world where incumbency provides little advantage and federal elections are mostly determined by how a voter feels about Trump, that is not great for marginal Republican senators:
- Those numbers for Collins, well before the campaign starts and negative polarization really kicks in, are brutal. She’s toast, and indeed I wonder if she’s even going to run if those numbers don’t improve quickly. One also has to wonder if McConnell is going to regret ramming Kavanaugh through rather than letting Collins be the hero and earn lots of moderate credit and then quietly vote for a less politically toxic nominee who would cast the same votes. (Although really it’s moot because presumably McConnell wasn’t making a political calculation but like virtually all Republican elites thinks Kavanaugh was the helpless victim of a massive Democrat Party gyno-conspiracy to get Amy Coney or Neomi Rao on the Court instead of Kavanaugh.)
- Gardner’s numbers are better than you would expect but he’s also a goner.
- North Carolina is plausibly flippable, and while vote suppression can help Tillis gerrymandering can’t. Not easy but far from impossible.
- The intriguing one here is Iowa. I think a lot of people who assumed that the upper midwest was a Democratic firewall before 2016 have now assumed that Trump has flipped it red for a long time. Outside of Ohio, though, the evidence for that is pretty thin. The case that Iowa was lost was more plausible than with Michigan or Wisconsin, but it’s also true that Republicans were killed there in the 2018 midterms, , Trump is extremely unpopular there, and his trade war has been horrible for the state, which Obama carried pretty comfortably in 2012. For the presidential election per se it’s not really that important since it’s very unlikely to be a tipping point state, but a competitive Dem campaign could mean Ernst losing, which would be a huge pickup.
- I don’t think Jones will be able to hang on. But he’s about as popular as a Democratic senator in a deep red state can be, and he’s shown that you can do that as a pro-choice moderate liberal rather than as a Ben Nelson or John Breaux-style corporate lickspittle.
- I think that Beto deciding to launch a stillborn presidential campaign instead of running for Senate has actually been a good thing. Not only because MJ Hegar seems fine, but because the one major political talent he seems to have — raising money — could have sucked resources towards an extreme longshot run in Texas rather than more plausible pickups in IA or NC or AZ or ME. Texas is a good medium-term target but in 2020 it’s still a miracle away, and Dems need to focus on more winnable Senate races.