Conservative writer explains why 'Trump is an anvil' around the necks of vulnerable Republican senators
Despite the historic blue wave in the 2018 midterm elections, Republicans actually made gains in the Senate because the map heavily favored their success. But that won't be the case in 2020.
Republicans will be defending 22 seats, while Democrats will only be defending 12. The polling firm Morning Consult sees 11 vulnerable Republicans in 2020; it lists only five Democrats as vulnerable. Democrats' most vulnerable senator appears to be in Doug Jones in Alabama after he won something a fluke 2017 special election against a particularly damaged candidate, Roy Moore.
But Republicans have several key vulnerabilities of their own. Sen. Martha McSally (R-AZ) was appointed to her seat after Sen John McCain's death, so she may lack any incumbency advantage in her re-election Fight. Sen. Cory Gardner in Colorado is likely the most at-risk Republican, and Sen. Susan Collins faces significant headwinds as well.
Conservative writer Jennifer Rubin pointed out in a column Thursday that one of the strongest headwinds is coming from the White House.
"Trump is an anvil around their necks," Rubin wrote of Republican senators, citing the new polling from Morning Consult.
"From a 67 percent/27 percent favorable/unfavorable rating in the first quarter of 2017, [Collins] has sunk to 52 percent/39 percent," she wrote. "Then there is Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), who won in 2014 by presenting himself as an advocate for women (e.g. stressing access to over-the-counter contraception). In 2017, he started with a 49/30 favorable margin. Now he is at 35/35."
For Collins, Rubin argues her support for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh grievously hurt her public standing. And while Gardner ran as a moderate, he's voted as a down-the-line Trump fan.
And it doesn't just stop there with the most at-risk senators. Much of the GOP appears burdened by the pugilist in the Oval Office:
Go down the list of 2020 GOP incumbents on the ballot, and you see a similar pattern. Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) has slid from a 39/30 approval/disapproval split to 34/33; Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) tumbled from 44/47 to 36/50; and Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) fell from 47/37 to 40/37. These politicians’ Trump sycophancy could well cost them their seats.
McSally, too, is evenly split in her state at 35/35 approval. She notoriously didn't oppose Trump's emergency declaration because she received a promise that the administration wouldn't siphon any funds from her state — a move that many likely saw as unprincipled, rather than as demonstrating devotion to her constituents. Overall, 15 Republican senators are under 40 percent approval; only eight Democrats are.
"Craven Republicans have avoided stepping out of line for fear of an irate tweet, a mean nickname or a GOP primary opponent," wrote Rubin. "They tried trading their honor for political security and now have neither."