That crazy first round of Democratic debates - the ones where the candidates literally crawled over each other to stake out the most insane left-wing positions possible on every issue - were just one of many reasons to be optimistic about GOP chances in 2020. Sure, President Trump has lagging head-to-head poll numbers against Democrats, but he’s also got a roaring economy, record job numbers, climbing approval ratings, the built-in advantages of incumbency, a united base, a massive and ever-growing campaign war chest, and a seasoned campaign machine staffed by people who, this time around, actually have a clue (folks, Brad Parscale is no joke).
And though those poll numbers currently have Trump losing to everyone from Biden to the Furry, and will - as in 2016 - likely continue to do so right up until election day, a majority of Americans actually think he will win reelection. So do the betting markets. Sure, he might lose, but it would be naive for anyone on either side to count him out no matter what those poll numbers say right now.
Trump’s America basically consists of about a third who would crawl over hot coals to vote FOR the president, a third who would crawl over hot coals to vote AGAINST him (but no Republican would have won the vast majority of these voters anyway), and another third who could conceivably be persuaded one way or another. It’s a divide that’s been the same in American politics for decades, but it’s also likely never been more intense, which is a key difference in today’s passionate partisan age.
But with the Mueller investigation behind him and seemingly every desperate attempt to “pin” something on the president bouncing off him like Nerf bullets, including the latest sexual assault accuser’s lame attempt to boost book sales, America has a slightly better than even shot at four more years of Trump.
The House of Representatives is also a horse race, but this time Democrats have the advantage. However, an argument could be made that Democrats have gained all they are likely to gain there, at least in the near future. Only three Republicans sit in districts won by Hillary Clinton in 2016, while 31 Democrats are in districts carried by Trump. In its analysis of the upcoming election cycle, Cook Political report lists 34 “vulnerable Democratic seats” versus only 18 Republican ones, but Republicans would need to gain 18 or 19 seats to win back the majority, a tall task.
But I’m not going to fret about the House, and neither should you. Without 60 votes in the Senate, no major legislation would be passed anyway, as was proven time and time again when Paul Ryan had the speaker’s gavel. Let them investigate till the cows come home and pass gun confiscations and carbon taxes that’ll never make it to Trump’s desk. The more craziness that comes out of there, the better. It only helps the president.
Now the Senate, on the other hand, is absolutely crucial for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the continuance of Trump’s critical task of remaking the judiciary, and GOP chances of holding it are fairly strong. Former Bloomberg executive director Albert Hunt cites a lack of the last election cycle’s “popular Governors and 2018 superstars” choosing to become 2020 Senate candidates as an Achilles heel for Democrats, with huge consequences: “If they win the presidency and the House but Republican Mitch McConnell is still the Senate majority leader, they can forget about any new agenda. The Kentucky Republican has shown he will bend or change any rules or procedures to thwart the opposition.”
Alabama’s expected return to sanity will mark the only likely Democratic flip, but it would mean Democrats would need to flip four of the 22 up-for-grabs GOP Senate seats (five if they don’t win the presidency), in order to flip the Senate. The toughest races for Republicans will likely be in Arizona with Martha McSalley, Maine with Susan Collins, Georgia with David Perdue, Iowa with Joni Ernst, Colorado with Cory Gardner, and North Carolina with Thom Tillis. However, most of these are a GOP lean at worst.
However, one of those seats, Colorado, and two other would-be safe GOP seats - Texas and Montana - could become much more unsteady for Republicans should current 2020 Democratic presidential candidates Beto O’Rourke, John Hickenlooper, and Mike Bullock take the advice of Democratic pollster Brad Bannon and drop their presidential bids in favor of Senate runs.
“In Texas, Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke could mount a serious challenge to Republican Sen. John Cornyn,” Bannon writes. “O’Rourke came close to upsetting Republican Sen. Ted Cruz in 2018 and he might have a better chance of winning in a presidential election year when turnout among Latino voters would be higher. Gov. Mike Bullock is the only Democrat in Montana who has a prayer of beating freshman GOP Sen. Steve Daines.”
Even if all three opted to change their plans, however, only Colorado would likely be at risk. Given the built-in advantages of incumbency, it’s hard to imagine Texans voting for O’Rourke over the not-as-polarizing-as-Cruz Cornyn or Montanans selecting Bullock over Daines, although anything is possible.
"Of the 22 seats Republicans will have to defend in 2020, Trump carried 15 of them by double digits in 2016,” The Washington Examiner’s Philip Klein writes. “Just two — Sens. Cory Gardner in Colorado and Susan Collins in Maine — are in states that Trump lost. Three more are in states that Trump won by within about five points: Arizona, Georgia, and North Carolina. One might want to add Sen. Joni Ernst as potentially vulnerable in Iowa, which has proven a swing state in recent political history, even though Trump carried it by 9.4 points in 2016."
Even if, God forbid, Trump loses, holding the Senate would be a crucial task in keeping Democrats’ Bolshevik tendencies at bay until the next election cycle, and it looks like Republicans have a pretty good shot at doing so.
Take nothing for granted. Do your part. Get involved. Vote, and encourage others to do so. Try to talk some sanity into a liberal friend or family member. It’s impossible to predict the results, but what we do know for sure is that the next year and a half is going to be a wild ride!