Democrats see a clear path to recover the Senate: “Something real is forming across the country”

In the race for control of the Senate, Democrats see a nationalized referendum on a president who was unable to contain the coronavirus and the resulting economic collapse. A moment of racial judgment on vigilance and inequality has mobilized its base. And, in just over three months, Democrats have turned their attention to defending key battlefields in Alabama, Michigan, and New Hampshire to an expanded map that includes not only major targets like Colorado and Arizona, but states like Iowa, Maine, and Montana.

“I think the idea that this president was going to be a catastrophic disaster in an emergency was theoretical until this year. His performance in the past three months is very jarring for many Americans,” said Sen. Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat. “I think people now feel that Trump not only has to go, but that his facilitators also have to go.”

Democrats need to get three or four seats to win back the majority depending on who wins the White House. And the party has a lot of work to do. Democrats acknowledge that defending your own, especially when it comes to conservative-leaning Senator Doug Jones in Alabama, will not be easy. But, party officials and leaders are cautiously optimistic, even when they acknowledge that polls and circumstances can change by a penny.

“Obviously you can’t take anything for granted, but it seems like we’re defending relatively few vulnerable incumbents,” said Sen. Chris Coons, a Democrat from Delaware. “We have strong candidates. They face quite strong headlines, but we are at a time when it is difficult for candidates to separate themselves from the President’s chaotic and hectic response.”

Both sides acknowledge that external crises have made the political environment volatile and that Democrats are better positioned than they have been throughout the year. A New York Times-Siena College poll this week found Biden leading in critical states like Arizona, Florida, and North Carolina by single digits. In states like Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan, states that were crucial to Trump’s 2016 victory, Trump has fallen by double digits.

“It’s been a pretty tough few weeks, and Biden is hiding in his basement, so everyone is focusing on President Trump and not the choice between two candidates,” said Senator John Cornyn, a Republican from Texas. “What Trump needs to do is have a real race against an opponent. Hopefully, as the economy begins to recover, people will feel more optimistic and lean toward the November election, but I hope it will be a very close race. “

Democrats attribute their current political fortunes with some shifting dynamics on the ground as well. In Montana, the party finally convinced Governor Steve Bullock of two terms to compete against Republican Senator Steve Daines in March. And a messy and bitter Republican primary in Kansas can give Democrats a chance in a state that a Democratic Senate candidate has not won in over 80 years. Trump stalwart Kris Kobach, a polarizing figure, who lost his run for Republican governor, could win the nomination, increasing Democrats’ chances with his candidate Barbara Bollier, a former Republican and current state senator.

“I think it will be a really tough election,” Senator Shelley Moore Capito said of the November election. “I think the map is going to be very close. We are a very divided country and therefore I have been in many political contests. I am not really surprised.”

Even in some states Republicans were expected to win easily, the terrain may be changing. In Iowa, a new Des Moines Register poll conducted earlier this month showed Sen. Joni Ernst, the Republican-in-office, three points less than Democratic rival Theresa Greenfield.

“Iowa is a bell climate for me. It’s a place where Trump won by 10. We haven’t been able to put together a winning streak in a long time and it’s legitimately competitive,” Murphy said. “That to me is a sign. Something real is forming across the country.”

Still, Democrats are obsessed in 2016 when summer polls and experts indicated that Trump would probably never win the White House and Republicans were caught in a difficult battle between embracing Trump’s candidacy to satisfy his base and winning over the undecided voters to stay afloat.

“I’m excited, but four months to go,” said Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois. “I’d just say this. Whatever Joe Biden is doing, he should continue doing it. If that means working in his basement in Delaware, then so be it. I know it’s frustrating. He told me he was frustrated by that. But by keeping a a certain level of decorum and respect is such a sharp contrast to the President that I think that is part of the reason why the poll numbers are on their way. “

Recent polls have brought Republican senators to damage control. Senator Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican, pointed to an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal on Friday, pleading with Trump to come up with a second-term agenda that he can follow. Republicans are urging the president to change his tactics and improve his own numbers to propel headlines. Republican senators have tried to implore Trump to keep a lower profile, focusing on the policies he has enacted while in office, rather than tweeting his latest impulses or using protests as opportunities to highlight his personal complaints.

“Sometimes he weakens himself,” said Cornyn, who is also in reelection in Texas. “You don’t want this to be a referendum on the incumbent, you want it to be an election. Right now it has been more a referendum than an election.”

Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina and a close ally of Trump, said he planned to have dinner with the president over the weekend, where he expected elections to take place.

“The president wants to do it on him. I want to do it on what he has done as president and what he will do in the future,” said Graham, who is also in re-election.

Majority Leader John Thune warned that Republican Party members must be making plans not to run into Trump’s tails this cycle.

“I think a lot of our candidates and members have their own brand. That will serve them well. They will have to run their own campaigns and maybe not recruit at the top of the ballot,” Thune said.

On Trump, Thune continued: “I think there is still a long way to go before the election, but he will have to come up with a slightly different game plan than the one he is using now.”