Over the past 10 days, there have been increasing signs that the White House – all the way up to President Donald Trump – is not happy with its current crop of Senate candidates.
“White House Worries About Kelly Loeffler’s Senate Prospects in Georgia,” read the headline of a New York Times piece published on May 22.
“Trump advisers warn McSally is in trouble,” blared a Politico headline on May 21.
That’s a remarkable one-two punch in the span of 24 hours. Especially when you consider that Republicans currently hold a narrow majority in the Senate – and that if Joe Biden is elected president this fall, Democrats need only a net gain of three seats, two of which the White House is actively fretting about.
Now, to be clear: The White House has every reason to worry.
The record of appointed senators, which Loeffler and Martha McSally (Arizona) both are, winning in their own right is dicey.
In addition to the weight of that history, neither Loeffler nor McSally has distinguished herself in the first six months in the Senate. Loeffler has been beset by a series of stock trades she and her husband made prior to the collapse of the stock market due to the coronavirus pandemic. McSally’s numbers have never recovered from a bruising 2018 campaign that she lost to Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D) and polling suggests she is consistently behind Democrat Mark Kelly.
Should both candidates run and lose, those defeats, coupled with the very tough race that Sen. Cory Gardner (R) faces in Colorado, could alone hand the Senate majority back to Democrats.
When you consider that Democrats are also competitive in GOP-held Senate seats in Maine, Montana, Georgia (both seats are up this November), North Carolina, Kansas and Iowa, you begin to understand the rising potential for a Democratic majority come 2021.
(One complicating factor for Democrats: Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama is a decided underdog to keep his seat this fall in one of the most Republican states in the country.)
Trump’s interests, of course, are far from selfless. As the Times noted in its piece on Loeffler:
“Ms. McSally’s seat in particular troubles Mr. Trump’s advisers. The president has repeatedly asked if her candidacy is adversely affecting his own prospects in a state that has become more competitive, people familiar with the discussions have said.”
The same could be said for the struggles of Loeffler in Georgia and Gardner in Colorado – both states where the two national parties are likely to spend money on ground games and TV ads this fall.
(Of course, all three senators could also blame at least part of their struggles on Trump as he continues to languish in suburban areas.)
Regardless of whose fault it is, the reality that the White House is quite clearly attuned to is this: Two (or even three) Senate seats are trending very, very badly for Republicans and might be out of reach before we even get to November.
The Point: Controlling the Senate majority isn’t as important as winning the White House. But as the last three years have shown, it’s pretty damn close.