A Democratic Senate majority is a strong possibility in the next election and may be more important than winning the White House.
The 2020 General Election has captivated the public as over a dozen individuals jockey for a place on the ballot in the race for the presidency. Democrats who successfully swept the US House of Representatives during the 2018 midterms could be eyeing a bigger prize on the horizon — a Democratic Senate majority.
Barring more scandals and retirements, 33 of the 100 seats are up for reelection. Currently, the GOP has the upper hand with 53 seats, but Republicans will be defending 22 of those in November 2020. The Democrats need only flip four to gain the majority. If the Democrats flip three and gain the White House, they will still control the Senate as the two sitting Independents caucus with the Democrats. However, two of their own Senate seats are in jeopardy, so they will need to focus on winning at least six races.
The races to watch: Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Maine, North Carolina, New Hampshire.
How the GOP Lost 2018
The GOP focused on the one issue important to the party while the rest of the nation was concerned about something else entirely. Republicans chose to appeal to their base rather than developing a strategy to win, or at least defend their seats.
According to the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, health care was cited by 30 percent of the voters as the “most important” issue to influence how they cast their ballot in 2018. Democratic candidates who adopted this as their platform were successful because health care appealed to the millions who had lost coverage.
The Republicans ignored what was driving voters and chose to march under a different banner: Immigration.
Instead of listening to the voters, they attempted to force the narrative to match their message. It was a spectacular failure.
With only 15 percent of the voters identifying immigration as their top priority, the issue was far down the list after the economy and jobs, and equal to gun policy.
This approach made little sense, until you look at it through the eyes of the Republican Party.
Among conservative voters, the importance of immigration was at 25 percent, ranking above the economy, jobs or gun legislation. While not the highest priority with all voters, it was the most important to the GOP base, so this became their platform.
While Donald Trump and the Republican leaders continue to focus on an agenda largely centered on a contentious fight for a border wall, most Americans are still concerned with the economy and health care, according to the Pew Research Center.
However, there is one issue that threatens to rise above all others.
Money, Money, Money
Wealth inequality and the tax cuts for billionaires are likely to become major issues in the 2020 General Election. Because wealth inequality, the minimum wage and unions are topics that the resonate with more liberal and progressive candidates, it will boost the drive to a Democratic Senate.
But the issue may become problematic for both sides as the cost of mounting a successful campaign has put politics out of reach for all but the most wealthy or well-connected candidates.
As Republicans face greater scrutiny of donors and campaign financing, the question may become how many races can they afford to defend. In light of some possible 20 candidates vying for the presidency, the GOP will pick and choose which senate races to finance.
How Races Are Won
When the bill came due, the 2018 Arizona senate race finished at an estimated $60 million, illustrating the whopping cost of mounting an unsuccessful defense in a contentious campaign season. Considering the GOP has at 22 seats to defend in 2020, and the Democrats only need to flip three to six of those, it is presumed they will be a position of responding to an attack on multiple fronts.
It is no secret in national politics that the candidate who spends more money usually wins. This means that all races being equal, the GOP will need to spend significantly more money if it is to hold onto ten more races than the Democrats.
Even if the Republicans choose to fight the six most likely races the Democrats will target and hope the other incumbents retain their seats, the lessons from Arizona’s 2018 races shows that keeping control could cost more than they can afford.
The Price of a Defeat in a Democratic Senate
The Republican Arizona senate loss in 2018 cost $21 million by a seasoned and highly successful fund raiser — and another senate race in the state is up for grabs in 2020. This means winning just four seats could exceed the roughly $84 million at minimum and up to a whopping $462 million for all senate races.
This does not include 33 Republican House races targeted by Democrats in 2020, nor the money to be spent on the presidential race which topped $2.3 billion in 2016 or almost $2.5 billion when adjusted for inflation. The final numbers are likely to be staggering.
Republicans spent $2.4 billion in the 2018 midterms and still lost the House majority. Replenishing the coffers is going to be more difficult as Democrat controlled committees have begun investigating donors and campaign finance.
This means the party will have to raise more funds in a climate that is hostile to “persons of means” where the past campaign finance is under scrutiny. The number of voters they can rely on for donations is also shrinking.
It goes without saying one of the biggest donors to the Republican Party is the National Rifle Association (NRA). That well may have dried up or at least been severely depleted following evidence of Russian involvement in the organization. Investigations into how much money has been funneled from Russia to the NRA may discourage legitimate donors from giving because they are not particularly keen on getting caught up in a federal campaign finance scandal.
Voter Demographics Favors Democrats
The University of Virginia concludes that 40 percent of all voters in states that register parties are Democrats while 29 percent are Republicans, and 28% are Independents. This means fewer people contributing to a greater number of races. It also means a larger pool of volunteers for Democrats, more organic social media shares, more word of mouth — basically, more interest and an easier time.
Democrats garner more donations from individuals than Republicans. Small donations from more people are far more likely to result in votes, rather than the big donors Republicans rely on.
Historically, Republicans have consistently voted more so than Democrats, meaning energizing their base will not have a significantly greater effect in increasing turnout. The GOP is preaching to the choir, who would have likely turned out and voted for the Republican candidate anyway. Additionally, the Republican base is literally dying as younger voters tend to be more liberal, according to Pew Research. Conservatives are older and are not being replaced.
How Will the GOP Fund 2020?
During the election of 2018, the writing was on the wall.
Opposition research showed how many congressional Republicans were likely to be defeated, and those candidates were forgotten by the GOP. There was no love nor money for their campaigns.
Republicans spent a literal fortune to defend their seats in 2018, so they may be unwilling to focus on 2020 races without much of a chance of winning. They may choose to devote more money to defending their presidential incumbent. They may be unwilling to devote the resources to races they are likely to lose such as Susan Collins of Maine and Martha McSally of Arizona.
This begs the question, how will the GOP allocate resources in 2020?
People v. Money
The 2018 midterm elections finished with unprecedented voter turnout that culminated in a blue wave. Democrats flipped seats in solidly red districts to gain a forty member advantage in the House of Representatives. The RNC did not devote resources in several congressional races that Democrats went on to win.
Donald Trump’s reelection bid may be the proverbial GOP elephant in the room. Republicans may repeat the strategy of abandoning the House and focusing on the Senate in the hopes that an incumbent in the White House will carry their candidates to victory.
The GOP has 33 House races to defend and a president that is extremely unpopular. It seems they are adopting their standard strategy of campaigning to their base. This will likely fail as it did in 2018, creating an even greater majority in the House and assuring a Democratic majority in the Senate.
What happens in the Senate may be far more important than the presidential race.
One thing is certain, Democrats enthusiasm and energy is intensifying. People who had voted for the first time in 2018 are likely to vote again in the general election.
By looking at the numbers, this could be an uphill climb for the GOP.
The 2018 Colorado election results of the statewide governor’s race show the Democrats won with 308K votes.
The incumbent senator, Republican Cory Gardner will have to find a way to swing voters against a mounting “Blue Wave” tsunami. Colorado may be leading the change in national politics on issues as well as candidates.
This seat is in jeopardy.
Colorado seems safe to elect a Democrat to replace Gardner.
Acting in his “official duties”, Kemp withheld over 50,000 voter registration forms. During the early voting period, elderly people of African-American heritage were blocked by local officials from getting on a bus to cast their ballots.
These accusations of voter suppression are likely to backfire against Republican candidates in the general election. Currently, Republican David Perdue is the junior Senator.
If 2018 is any indication, the GOP could suffer from an increasingly suspicious and critical public. Democrats seized control of the Georgia House of Representatives. Should Stacey Abrams decide to run for the Senate, her wealth of nationwide support in the governor’s race could propel her to Washington D.C. It is likely she will have a sizeable war chest should she choose to run. Of her nearly $28 million, almost $12 million came from out of state.
There is a good chance Georgia could flip another senate seat to Democrats.
Iowa is another state to possibly turn a senate seat to team blue. They also flipped their state House of Representatives to Democratic control in the 2018 election cycle. While incumbent Republican Joni Ernst is liked among the her base, there are several candidates on the Democratic side ready to challenge her.
Ernst will be vulnerable to defeat due to opposition from women voters unhappy with her support to confirm both Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh to the US Supreme Court. Both justices recently voted to overturn Roe v Wade in a case involving the State of Louisiana. Ernst will be portrayed as a foot soldier in the Republican party’s “war on women.”
Ernst also voted for the Tax Cut and Jobs Act which will leave her particularly vulnerable if taxing the rich becomes an election issue as anticipated.
Iowans may decide they deserve better. The race could go either way.
In North Carolina, incumbent Thom Tillis is the Republican on the ballot. Tillis, like Ernst in Iowa, has toed the Trump line. North Carolina has a significant agricultural community that relies on trade to support their businesses. Tillis’ votes on Gorsuch and Kavanaugh also put him at risk with women that support a right to choose.
The odds are good that North Carolina women will elect a Democrat.
Democrat Jeanne Shaheen is the incumbent senator seeking reelection and this one is trouble for team blue. This state has had notoriously close elections in recent cycles. The revered motto of the state “Live Free or Die” is applied to everything, but especially politics.
How strong the desire for freedom is will be determined by women who feel their rights are under attack.
Ultimately, this will likely solidify Senator Shaheen’s reelection, but it is going to cost the Democrats a lot of money.
Democrats will have the chance to re-elect Doug Jones who was filling the vacancy created when Republican Jeff Sessions became the US Attorney General. This will be an uphill battle for the incumbent. Jones has been named The Democrat Most Likely to Be Defeated.
Rep. Bradley Byrne, who has served the 1st Congressional District, has announced his candidacy. Rumors abound that sessions will run for his old seat as well. His popularity among voters is favorable.
Jones is the disadvantaged underdog in this race.
This seat is likely to go to a Republican.
Kansas will be the true test of the strength. With Republican Pat Roberts retiring, this seat is truly a “jump ball”.
Kansas, once a Republican stronghold with figures like Bob Dole leading the way, is no longer a shoe-in for the GOP.
The midterms of 2018 paint Kansas more purple than the red fortress it once was. Democrats flipped the governorship during this election, and sent a Democrat, Sharice Davids, to represent Kansas’ 3rd Congressional District.
GOP’s Mike Pompeo is the name that often comes up as the Republican candidate to succeed Roberts. As a member of the House, he was warmly received in Kansas — before being drafted into the Trump cabinet. However, his association to Trump should be his “Achilles Heel”.
Pompeo served as the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and is the current Secretary of State. The support Pompeo gives to Trump’s buffoonery will be the same with women in Kansas as elsewhere in the country.
Democrats have an excellent opportunity in Kansas, but it is going to cost.
Whether the GOP intends to fight in Arizona remains the question.
In 2018, Democrat Kyrsten Sinema defeated Republican Martha McSally. It was a bitter and contentious battle in a state that had not sent a Democrat to Washington since Dennis DeConcini. McSally’s upset was particularly troubling as she would have likely won in a different political climate.
She still found her way to Washington, when Republican Governor Doug Ducey appointed her to finish the late John McCain’s term vacated by Jon Kyl.
McSally is the most vulnerable senator in 2020. Mark Kelly, husband to former US House Representative Gabbie Gifford, will challenge her for the seat. McSally was in trouble before the former astronaut announced his bid.
More troubling is Kelly’s challenge to McSally’s fundraising prowess. The Democrat raised an unprecedented $1 million just one day after announcing his candidacy.
Republicans may not have the stomach for this race and opt to devote their attention elsewhere or draft another candidate. The General Election will hand McSally another stunning defeat.
If there is a contender for the second most vulnerable sitting senator, Republican Susan Collins would be it.
Opposition to her support of Justice Brent Kavanaugh was so strong, a Crowdpac for an unnamed Democratic candidate has raised nearly $4 million. So many people rushed to site, where the suggested donation was a mere $20.20, that it crashed. The undeclared candidate raised over $1 million in the first month.
This senate seat is likely to go to anyone other than SusanCollins.
Republican Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, is facing real opposition. Nationwide, his popularity is in the toilet.
Fortunately for the GOP, this not a national election.
McConnell is viewed favorably among the Blue Grass State, but his record of obstructionism makes him vulnerable.
What Mitch is most proud of his Supreme Court roadblock of Merrick Garland. McConnell refused to fulfill his constitutional obligation under the “advise and consent” requirement on President Obama’s selection of Garland to fill the vacated Antonin Scalia seat after he passed.
Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh resulted in the two newest justices that voted to overturn Roe v Wade. Many voters blame McConnell for this travesty. More importantly, the Senate Majority Laeader was also complicit in the longest government shutdown in history. Many of those workers live in Kentucky.
Democrats must challenge this seat now, or forever lose the opportunity. This one is anyone’s call.
2020 is Trouble for the GOP
In a different political climate, the battle for a Democratic Senate majority would be difficult for the GOP to defend. But for 2020, the Republicans are suffering from dozens of wounds and there is blood in the water. From multiple criminal investigations to retiring members, the unity the party has relied on is threatened.
The 2020 General Election may answer the question whether the Republicans can hold on to their power — or if the party can survive at all.
Originally published at primepolitical.com on March 3, 2019.