The presidential election isn’t the only election happening in November. Republicans must defend 24 seats in the Senate, and it’s going to be an uphill battle to maintain a majority:
“If you believe that Clinton retains advantage in the presidential race, and I’m still in that camp, then I think by extension you have to also believe that Democrats are better than 50-50 to take back the Senate,” said Kyle Kondik, a political handicapper at the University of Virginia Center for Politics.
The GOP is at a disadvantage because it has to defend 24 seats, while Democrats only have to protect 10. Democrats need a net gain of four seats and control of the White House to take back the Senate majority.
Of the 10 Senate seats most likely to flip, nine are currently held by Republicans and only one by a Democrat: Sen. Harry Reid (Nev.), the minority leader who will retire at year’s end.
For Republicans to keep control of the Senate, their candidates will have to run well ahead of Trump in states that President Obama carried in 2008 and 2012. That’s tough for Senate candidates to do by more than a few percentage points.
Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois is considered to be the most vulnerable Republican incumbent. In swing states like Ohio, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) has reserved about $50 million worth of television airtime this fall to hammer home the idea at the GOP has become the “Party of Trump.”
Republicans, on the other hand, are hoping that voters will split their tickets if Donald Trump proves to be a weak general-election candidate:
“This is going to be a ticket-splitting kind of year,” McConnell said last week.
“What we’re seeing in purple and blue states is a willingness to vote for the Republican incumbent coupled with voting for the Democratic nominee for president,” said Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster.
“That’s obviously good for Republican incumbents in places like Pennsylvania and Wisconsin and New Hampshire and Illinois,” he added.
However, they’re also worried that Trump’s poor approval rating with Hispanics could hurt Republicans in states with large Hispanic populations:
Trump is also a significant liability in Arizona for [Sen. John] McCain, who acknowledged to donors at a private event earlier this year that he’s in the race of his life. Twenty-two percent of eligible voters in Arizona are Hispanic, according to Pew.
Senate Republicans are frustrated by the lack of any evidence that Trump is making an effort to discipline himself and ease off his penchant for gratuitous insults since locking up the nomination.
Trump on Thursday called a federal judge’s Mexican heritage “an inherent conflict of interest” in his ability to preside fairly over a lawsuit against Trump University.
The week before, he slammed New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez (R), who was once considered a potential running mate, for “not doing her job” after she declined to endorse him.
McConnell called the attack on Martinez “a big mistake” and urged him to stop “gratuitous attacks on allies.”
Given how unpredictable this election has been, however, it’s far too early to assume the Democrats will win in a landslide. The important thing is that Republicans turn out and vote.