Dissatisfaction with regard to Donald Trump’s impact on the republican Party, which risks losing its majority in the Senate.
Last week, I noted that most of the general indicators are unfavourable to the re-election of Donald Trump (see here and here), and that the chairman acknowledges significant delays in key States where will the race against democrat Joe Biden. No one is more nervous in front of the disaffection of the electorate towards the president than the half-dozen republican senators who seem to be in the process of losing their seat in November.
After the change of guard at the White House, the second the most important event looming on the horizon is the reversal of more likely to the majority in the Senate in favor of the democratic party. This majority is of paramount importance to the president-elect. In the polarized environment that prevails in the United States, a president who cannot count on a majority of his party in the Senate’s hands are tied, among others, for the appointment of federal judges, and especially of the judges of the supreme Court.
The twists and turns of a majority in the Senate are rather rare and this is what wanted to the founders, who set down in the Constitution, the rule of the election of one-third of the senators every two years, for terms of six years.
The Senate republicans have a slope to go up
What are the chances of the republican Party to lose the Senate in November? In the current state of things, they seem to be higher than 50%. At this time, the republicans have a majority of 53 senators, compared to 45 for the democrats (which join two independent generally aligned with them). Out of the 35 seats in play in the Senate, 23 are held by republicans and only 12 democrats. A single-seat democrat is vulnerable. It is the one of Alabama, a State that is solidly republican that the democrats have won in December 2017 after the nomination of a republican candidate far-right, very controversial.
To delight the majority to the republicans, the democrats should beat four senators in office. Is this possible? Quite. In addition to the worrying signs coming from the surveys of voting intentions for the presidency, other general symptoms disturb the sleep of republican senators by the time that run. For example, in 10 States where the races in the Senate promise to be relatively tight (Alaska, Arizona, North Carolina, South Carolina, Colorado, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine and Montana), the democratic candidates have raised more campaign contributions in the first quarter of 2020 as their opponents, the republicans (see here).
In four States, the indicators of a defeat likely for the republican senators in the post are quite eloquent.
Four States where the democrats are favorites
In Arizona, senator Martha McSally has been appointed by the State governor in January 2019, to fill the seat of former senator John McCain, who died earlier this year, after having lost the election to the Senate in November 2018 in the hands of the democrat Kyrsten Sinema. The election of November 2020 is a special election for a term shortened to two years. In this State, all the polls give a majority to a strong democrat, former astronaut Mark Kelly. A survey conducted in may gives 13 points to Kelly, who had also advances important in all the surveys completed in 2020 in this State.
In Colorado, republican Cory Gardner pulls up the rear in two surveys conducted in may, by 17 points and 18 points. His democratic opponent is former governor of the State (2011-2019), John Hickenlooper, who had tried his luck in the race for the presidential nomination democrat this year, without success. Hickenlooper, however, is much more well-liked and popular among Colorado voters that his opponent, a republican, who has hardly impressed at the Senate from 2015.
In Maine, the most recent survey was conducted in march and gives five points ahead in the democrat Sara Gideon on senator Susan Collins. What is more worrisome for the senator in office, however, is the rate of dissatisfaction is very high with the voters of Maine in his place. In the same survey, 57% say they disapprove of the performance of their senator, while only 33% approve of it. In 2016, the Maine had escaped to Donald Trump by a slim three percentage points, but the latest surveys gave 10 points ahead of the democrat.
In Montana, the most recent poll gives a lead of seven points to democrat Steve Bullock (46%) over republican Steve fallow deer (39%). Bullock is the former governor of the State, and he won a re-election in 2016 even if the State had leaned heavily in favor of Donald Trump. He also had tried his chance for the presidential nomination and a democrat in 2020, but his lack of awareness at the national level had prevented it from drilling. It is, however, remained very popular in his State, where the other senator is also a democrat.
Four States where the republicans are in hot water
In addition to these four States where the chances of democrats to win are excellent, there are four others where the republican senators are far from certain to prevail.
In Georgia, two seats are at stake and the candidates will be determined at the primary election on 6 June. The first election brought the current senator Will be Lost, which is seeking a new six-year term. Even if the State tends to lean quite distinctly towards the republican Party, the most recent survey indicates a gender statistics between Lost and the few democrats vying to oppose him. The other election will be a special election for a term shortened to two years. The senator today, Kelly Loeffler, is the target of a scandal after she has sold millions of dollars in shares on the basis of confidential information on the effects of the pandemic that it has received in the Senate. This special election held November 3, will be followed by a second round if no candidate wins the majority. The current republican representative Doug Collins is the favorite to win this seat, but in a second round, which would follow the general election of November, it is extremely difficult to predict what will happen.
In North Carolina, the polls give on average a low advance to the democratic candidate Cal Cunningham, which seeks to replace the current republican senator Thom Tillis. However, there are a lot of undecided voters or discrete in many of these surveys and the results vary a lot between different firms. It remains that this State is considered as the most likely barometer of the race for the Senate as a whole. The situation is complicated even more for the republicans in North Carolina recently, with the investigation into the other State senator, Richard Burr, also involved in the case of sales of shares by members of the senate following the receipt of inside information concerning the economic impact of the sars coronavirus. If Burr was forced to resign more than 60 days before November 3, a second election to the Senate would be held in North Carolina, with special rules that make the results unpredictable.
In Iowa, the senator in the post Jodi Ernst retains a slim lead in most polls, but it is vulnerable, particularly due to the progression fast enough to the pandemic in this State.
Kentucky, finally, will be particularly one to watch this year. The leading republican in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, first elected in 1984, seeks to be elected to a seventh term of six years. He was opposed to the democrat Amy McGrath, an ex-fighter pilot of the u.s. air force that the heels very close in all the available surveys. Even if McConnell is without a doubt one of the politicians the most powerful in Washington, and even if the Kentucky is still pretty solidly in favour of the president Trump (16 points ahead of Biden in this State, according to the most recent survey), the dissatisfaction of the residents of Kentucky at the place of their senator is strong and the candidate the democratic party runs a campaign extremely dynamic with a healthy dose of outside financial assistance.
After this overview of the major battlegrounds of the November election in the Senate, it is clear that the chances of a reversal of the majority are real. There’s still time, of course, but as for the White House, republicans have a steep slope to climb if they want to retain the majority in the Senate following the November election.
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Pierre Martin is a professor of political science at the University of Montreal and director of the Chair in american political and economic studies in the CERIUM. You can follow him on Twitter: @PMartin_UdeM