President Donald Trump was a dominant force in the midterm elections as attitudes toward him influenced the decisions of more than 6 in 10 voters. According to AP VoteCast, women voted considerably more in favor of Democratic candidates. (Nov. 6)
WASHINGTON — Votes are still being counted from Tuesday’s election but a picture of the 2020 campaign is coming into focus.
Republicans not only emerged with their majority intact but expanded it by at least two seats. That cushion will make it harder for Democrats to retake the chamber two years from now.
Unlike 2018, 2020 is a presidential election year in which Donald Trump will be on the ballot as he seeks a second term. Voter sentiment about the president will play a big role in determining who turns out to the polls and which party they support.
Here are six takeaways from the Senate races:
The Trump effect key for Senate races in 2020
Not only did Republicans keep the Senate, they outperformed many pollsters’ expectations in that chamber by trouncing Democratic incumbents in conservative states such as Missouri, North Dakota and Indiana.
The president immersed himself in campaigning for GOP Senate candidates in the final weeks of the midterm races. He and his aides view the Senate results as a vindication of the president’s power as a political force, even as Republicans lost their majority in the House.
Trump’s popularity with the conservative base could present daunting obstacles for Democrats trying to make inroads in red states in the 2020 Senate contests.
Re-emergence of the Blue Wall?
On the flip side, Tuesday’s election underscored the challenges Trump and his allies could face swing states two years from now.
Trump won the presidency two years ago by squeaking out victories in the industrial Midwest in four states thought to be reliably blue: Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
Voters in all of those states opted to re-elect Democratic Senate incumbents Tuesday. In addition, three of those states chose Democrats for governor. The exception was Ohio where Republican Mike DeWine defeated Democrat Richard Cordray.
Jim Messina, a Democratic strategist who managed President Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign, said Tuesday’s election results show that Trump triumph’s in the upper Midwest in 2016 was an aberration that won’t be replicated in 2020. Lingering voter dissatisfaction with the president and his agenda remains strong, he said on CNN
“The blue wall is going to be real in 2020,” Messina said.
Map for GOP challenging but not that bad
Of the 33 seats up for election, 20 are Republican. A 21st — Mississippi — will be decided by a runoff election still up for grabs in the 2018 election.
Of those, only three appear to be Democratic pickup opportunities: Colorado, Iowa, and Maine. A fourth, North Carolina, could be in play given that Republican Tom Tillis is likely running for re-election to a seat Democrat Kay Hagan won in 2008.
Conversely, the GOP could flip three of the 12 Democratic seats up for election: Alabama, Michigan and New Hampshire.
With Republicans adding to their margin Tuesday, it makes it more likely the GOP will hold the Senate beyond 2020 as well.
Will older Republican incumbents run again?
A third of the GOP senators up for re-election two years from now will be 70 or older in 2020. That list comprises David Perdue of Georgia, James Risch of Idaho, Pat Roberts of Kansas, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, James Inhofe of Oklahoma, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, and Michael Enzi of Wyoming.
Given that it’s usually more difficult to defend an open seat, expect lots of pressure on those as-yet-uncommitted GOP senators to run again. One who’s likely to seek re-election is Sen. Jim Inhofe, who turns 84 next week, now that he’s become chairman of the Armed Services Committee following Arizona GOP Sen. John McCain’s death in August.
Democrat Doug Jones prime GOP target
Alabama wasn’t supposed to go blue last year.
But Democrat Doug Jones won a surprise victory during a special election in December, defeating Judge Roy Moore, who was beset by allegations he had romantically pursued and sexually assaulted girls in their teens when he was in his 30s.
It’s not clear whom Republicans will nominate. But if it’s someone who does not carry the political baggage Moore did, the GOP will be heavily favored to retake the seat.
Aiding Republican chances of retaking the seat is that Trump will be on the ballot. The president won Alabama by 28 points in 2016.
Bullseye on Collins
When GOP moderate Susan Collins of Maine voted for Supreme Court Brett Kavanaugh, opponents vowed to unseat her in 2020.
An online campaign to defeat Collins in her 2020 election has grown to $3,746,413 from 126,932 donations even though an opponent has yet to emerge against Collins.
Susan Rice, Obama’s National Security Council chief, has been talked up as a potential challenger. She has roots in Portland and a home in Maine.
A well-funded challenger still would face an uphill climb against Collins, a four-term incumbent who won her last race by 36 points.
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