Fifty days out from the November elections, Democrats are widely seen as favored to retake the House majority and are increasingly seen as having a real chance at winning back the Senate if a series of close races break in their direction.
The party enjoys a healthy lead in the generic House ballot, and a seemingly unending series of bad headlines for President TrumpDonald John TrumpSenate advances public lands bill in late-night vote Warren, Democrats urge Trump to back down from veto threat over changing Confederate-named bases Esper orders ‘After Action Review’ of National Guard’s role in protests MORE has battered his approval ratings and served as a drag on his party.
The latest negative news came Friday with former Trump campaign chairman Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortGOP votes to give Graham broad subpoena power in Obama-era probe Will the ‘law and order’ president pardon Roger Stone? Trump taps Lewandowski, Bossie for Commission on Presidential Scholars MORE’s decision to plead guilty and cooperate with special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerCNN’s Toobin warns McCabe is in ‘perilous condition’ with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill’s 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout MORE’s probe.
It’s a potentially pivotal moment in the Mueller probe that could put prosecutors in the room of a much-talked-about 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Trump campaign officials and figures associated with the Kremlin.
Manafort was one of three key Trump associates who participated in that meeting.
The White House and Republicans argue the growing economy will bolster GOP defenses and save their majorities. Democrats would need to gain a healthy 23 seats to take back the House.
“I think we’ll lose some seats, but I think we keep the majority,” Rep. Roger WilliamsJohn (Roger) Roger WilliamsLawmakers shame ex-Wells Fargo directors for failing to reboot bank Democrats ‘frustrated’ by administration’s coronavirus response after closed-door briefing Republicans sense momentum after impeachment win MORE (R-Texas) told The Hill last week ahead of a weeklong recess for the House.
Yet Republican leaders have also put out warning signals, highlighting the reality that their party is playing defense with 50 days to go.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSenate advances public lands bill in late-night vote GOP senator to try to reverse requirement that Pentagon remove Confederate names from bases No, ‘blue states’ do not bail out ‘red states’ MORE (R-Ky.) warned last week that the midterms will be “very challenging” for the GOP, acknowledging that the party is facing a “storm” in its quest to hold its majority in the Senate.
McConnell’s quandary can be seen clearly in the nature of the battleground states.
Republicans have a favorable map, with Democrats defending more than twice as many Senate seats as the GOP, with 10 of them in states won by Trump in 2016.
But Republicans face competitive battles in Tennessee, Arizona and Texas, three dependably GOP states.
Close races have not emerged in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Ohio, three states won by Trump where Democrats are defending Senate seats.
In the House, 11 GOP seats are considered “likely Democrat” or “leaning Democrat” by the Cook Political Report, compared to one seat held by Democrats that is considered likely to be won by Republicans.
The one Democratic seat, in Pennsylvania, is likely to be won by a Republican candidate because of newly drawn district lines.
Another 28 GOP-held seats are considered toss-ups, compared to just three for Democrats in Cook’s tally.
Democrats left for the recess sounding confident.
“The mood is we wish the elections were Tuesday,” said Rep. Dan KildeeDaniel (Dan) Timothy KildeePelosi makes fans as Democrat who gets under Trump’s skin House to consider amendment blocking warrantless web browsing surveillance Bipartisan bill aims to help smallest businesses weather the coronavirus crisis MORE (D-Mich.). “The Republicans are in political quicksand, and the more they struggle the harder it is for them.
Republicans warn that a Democratic takeover of the House would lead to impeachment for Trump — a message intended to fire up the president’s base.
They also are warning of a leftward tilt to the Democratic Party seen in a few primary upsets, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s victory in New York over Rep. Joseph Crowley.
Democratic leaders, as they have done for much of 2018, are seeking to tamp down impeachment talk while focusing on healthcare and other pocketbook issues.
Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said Thursday that healthcare will be the top issue for voters this year.
“Many of our Republican colleagues have voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act, not just once but as many as 60 times,” Luján said.
Trump is likely to play an outsize role in the midterms even with Democrats downplaying impeachment.
Deep dissatisfaction with the president has helped boost Democratic turnout throughout the primaries. Democrats have also been raising more money than their GOP counterparts, another factor pointing to greater enthusiasm on their sides.
There is still time for Trump to turn some news cycles to his advantage.
How the White House responds to Hurricane Florence will be a test of the president’s leadership and the administration’s preparations. Trump insisted last week that federal, state and local officials were “absolutely prepared” for the hurricane.
Sitting presidents typically see their party lose congressional seats in their first midterms, putting history squarely on Democrats’ side.
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Trump’s approval rating currently sits just below 41 percent, according to a polling average compiled by FiveThirtyEight.
That’s lower than former President Obama’s approval rating in 2010, the same year that Republicans took the majority in the House and gained six seats in the Senate.
But the concentration of Democratic voters in more urban and suburban areas of the country means that the party will need a larger share of the midterm than the Republicans, whose voters tend to live in more rural and exurban areas.
And in the battle for the Senate, the map could save the GOP’s majority.
Democrats need almost all of the close races to break their way to win back the Senate majority.
That means that Democrats Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn Heitkamp70 former senators propose bipartisan caucus for incumbents Susan Collins set to play pivotal role in impeachment drama Pro-trade group launches media buy as Trump and Democrats near deal on new NAFTA MORE in North Dakota, Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyEx-Sen. Joe Donnelly endorses Biden Lobbying world 70 former senators propose bipartisan caucus for incumbents MORE in Indiana and Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillMissouri county issues travel advisory for Lake of the Ozarks after Memorial Day parties Senate faces protracted floor fight over judges amid pandemic safety concerns Amash on eyeing presidential bid: ‘Millions of Americans’ want someone other than Trump, Biden MORE in Missouri will need to win in states that Trump won in 2016 by wide margins.
Republicans also see a pick-up opportunity in Florida, where they recruited Gov. Rick Scott to run against Democratic Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonNASA, SpaceX and the private-public partnership that caused the flight of the Crew Dragon Lobbying world The most expensive congressional races of the last decade MORE.
While Florida has emerged as a piece of good news in the Senate race for the GOP, they have reason to worry a bit about Texas, where Democrats recruited a telegenic candidate in Rep. Beto O’RourkeBeto O’RourkeBiden will help close out Texas Democrats’ virtual convention: report O’Rourke on Texas reopening: ‘Dangerous, dumb and weak’ Parties gear up for battle over Texas state House MORE to run against Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzSenate advances public lands bill in late-night vote The Hill’s Morning Report – Trump’s public standing sags after Floyd protests GOP senators introduce resolution opposing calls to defund the police MORE (R).
Cruz is favored to win reelection, but the mere fact that Texas is a close race is a victory of sorts for Democrats, potentially forcing Republicans to spend money in a state they’d hope would be in the bag.
In West Virginia, Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinTrump administration seeks to use global aid for nuclear projects Shelley Moore Capito wins Senate primary West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice wins GOP gubernatorial primary MORE (D) is proving resilient in what may be Trump’s strongest state in the nation.
Democrats long saw Nevada as their most likely Senate pickup opportunity in 2018 given Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonWhite House accuses Biden of pushing ‘conspiracy theories’ with Trump election claim Biden courts younger voters — who have been a weakness Trayvon Martin’s mother Sybrina Fulton qualifies to run for county commissioner in Florida MORE’s victory there in 2016. Rep. Jacky RosenJacklyn (Jacky) Sheryl RosenThe Hill’s Coronavirus Report: Mnuchin sees ‘strong likelihood’ of another relief package; Warner says some businesses ‘may not come back’ at The Hill’s Advancing America’s Economy summit The Hill’s Coronavirus Report: CDC Director Redfield responds to Navarro criticism; Mnuchin and Powell brief Senate panel Hillicon Valley: Experts raise security concerns about online voting | Musk finds supporter in Trump | Officials warn that Chinese hackers targeting COVID-19 research groups MORE (D) has mounted an aggressive challenge against incumbent Sen. Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerOn The Trail: Democrats plan to hammer Trump on Social Security, Medicare Lobbying World Democrats spend big to put Senate in play MORE (R).
But the party is also eyeing seats in Arizona and Tennessee, where polls remain tight.
Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D) made inroads in her Arizona Senate bid throughout the summer as three Republicans duked it out in a bruising primary that eventually yielded Rep. Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyGOP senators introduce resolution opposing calls to defund the police No evidence of unauthorized data transfers by top Chinese drone manufacturer: study Senate Democratic campaign arm launches online hub ahead of November MORE (R) as the nominee.
In Tennessee, Democrats have a strong candidate in former Gov. Phil Bredesen, who is challenging Rep. Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnGOP senators introduce resolution opposing calls to defund the police GOP senators dodge on treatment of White House protesters Five things to know about Trump’s legal power under the Insurrection Act MORE (R), a staunch Trump ally, to replace retiring Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerGOP lawmakers stick to Trump amid new criticism Trump asserts his power over Republicans Romney is only GOP senator not on new White House coronavirus task force MORE (R).
If he wins in November, Bredesen would be the first Democrat elected to the Senate from the Volunteer State since Al GoreAlbert (Al) Arnold GoreCNN coronavirus town hall to feature science author David Quammen, ‘Empire’ actress Taraji Henson Top Democratic pollster advised Biden campaign to pick Warren as VP Melania Trump to appear on CNN coronavirus town hall Thursday night MORE in 1990.