Discord & Dissension – Part XII – Fight For The Senate

So far, Jeff and I have focused solely on the presidential election in November, and granted, that is the single most important of the many elections coming up in November, but it is not the only crucial one.  We will come back to the presidential election soon, but for today I want to talk about the Senate races.

There are 35 senate seats up for grabs on November 3rd, 23 of which are currently held by republicans.  The current demographics of the Senate are 53 republicans, 45 democrats, and 2 independents who caucus with the democrats.  So, the democrats, in order to gain a simple majority, will need to flip at least a net 4 of the 23 republican-held seats.  Can they do it?  I think there is a better-than-average chance that they can and will, but as we saw in 2016, it doesn’t pay to take anything for granted.

But before I get into the specific races that I think will be integral to re-gaining a democratic majority, let’s talk for just a minute about the down ballot, also known as the coattail effect.  For those who may not be familiar with the term, it is the tendency for a popular political party leader to attract votes for other candidates of the same party in an election. For example, in the United States, the party of a victorious presidential candidate will often win many seats in Congress as well; these members of Congress are voted into office “on the coattails” of the president, as happened in 2016, giving Congress a republican majority in both chambers.

However, it also works in the opposite direction, and that may be to the democrats’ advantage this year, as Trump is almost certain to lose popularity the longer the pandemic crisis goes on, the more lives are lost due to his ineptitude, egomania, and continued disregard for the lives of the people of this country.  Those republican senators like Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham who have almost slavishly cast their lot in with Trump, are almost certain to suffer if Trump is falling in the polls, as I expect to see happen (fingers crossed).

Twelve of the twenty-three republican seats up for grabs are considered to be safe for the republican party, so at this time there isn’t much point talking about flipping those seats, so I will focus on the other eleven.  They are …

  • Martha McSally – Arizona
  • Cory Gardner – Colorado
  • Kelly Loeffler – Georgia
  • David Perdue – Georgia
  • Joni Ernst – Iowa
  • Pat Roberts – Kansas *
  • Mitch McConnell – Kentucky
  • Susan Collins – Maine
  • Steve Daines – Montana
  • Thom Tillis – North Carolina
  • John Cornyn – Texas

Martha McSally and Kelly Loeffler were never elected to their senate seats, but rather were appointed by their state’s governors to fill seats on the death of Arizona Senator John McCain and the poor health of Georgia Senator Johnny Isakson.  Neither are particularly popular in their states, and both have been the source of some controversies, the latest involving Kelly Loeffler and insider trading when after a briefing by top government scientists about the coronavirus in January, she immediately sold stocks that later tanked. She then turned around and re-invested in Citrix, a technology company that offers teleworking software and whose share price is one of the few that has risen since the crisis began.

For now, in the interest of both time and space, I will focus only on the four races where democrats stand the best chance to take over a republican seat, and I will come back to the others in a future post.

McSallyIn nearly every poll, McSally trails behind her democratic opponent, former astronaut Mark Kelly by a margin of between 5 and 12 points.  Mark Kelly is very popular, and I personally don’t foresee McSally being able to pull a rabbit out of her hat.  McSally is a retired U.S. Air Force Colonel, but she uses that almost as a weapon sometimes, a bit too much to suit most people.  She lost the 2018 election to democrat Kyrsten Sinema but gained her senate seat later that year after the death of John McCain.  I do think this is one the democrats can flip with relative ease.

gardnerTurning our sights now to Colorado where Senator Cory Gardner has become so unpopular that his approval rating is a mere 37%.  His democratic opponent is almost certain to be former Colorado governor and former presidential candidate, John Hickenlooper.  There are few Colorado polls out at this time, but the most reliable one puts Hickenlooper 12 points ahead of Gardner.  Another I think can be won by democrats, for even Trump has lost a good bit of his popularity in the state.

Susan-CollinsBy all rights, Susan Collins should be a pariah, an outcast in her home state of Maine.  Her democratic opponent, Maine state House Speaker Sara Gideon, is in fact leading in the polls, but by a small margin.  Ms. Collins has been in the Senate since 1997 and like some of her fellow senators, namely Mitch McConnell, is the perfect example of the need for term limits.  She lost some of her popularity when she referred to then-nominee for the Supreme Court, Brett Kavanaugh, as “an exemplary public servant, judge, teacher, coach, husband, and father”, despite credible accusations of sexual misconduct.  She then added: “I will vote to confirm Judge Kavanaugh.”  Then she plunged a bit further during the impeachment trial when, after having said a few months prior that Trump had made “a big mistake” in asking foreign countries for political favours, she turned around and voted not to convict Trump.  She claimed she believed that Trump “has learned from this case”.  Within days, it became obvious that he hadn’t, and Ms. Collins became the butt of many jokes.  Currently, she is polling between 2.5 and 4 points behind Ms. Gideon and given that there are still some 200 days until the election, it is likely that she will say something else that proves her unfitness for her senate seat.  We can hope, at any rate.

thom-tillisIn North Carolina, the race between republican incumbent Thom Tillis and democrat Cal Cunningham is considered to be a toss-up at this point.  Only two polls have rung in, one putting Tillis ahead with a two-point lead, the other in favour of Cunningham by 5 points.  One thing that may help Cunningham is that North Carolina’s approval rating for Trump is only in the 43% range, and this may be where the down-ballot comes into play.  I’m less certain of this one than I am Arizona, Colorado and Maine, but it is definitely one where anything could happen.  Remember, there are 6+ months left …

Those are the four senate seats most likely to be flipped.  Two others, Joni Ernst of Iowa, and Moscow Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, bear watching and, by some accounts, may be easily switched, and we’ll talk a bit more about those, as well as others at another time.  Meanwhile, though, remember I said that to gain a majority in the Senate the democrats would need to gain a net 4 seats.  So, if the democrats are able to persevere only in the above four states, they must also hold all their current seats for a majority.  There is, fortunately, only one seat held by democrat Doug Jones of Alabama, that is in jeopardy, but it is a serious jeopardy.

doug-jonesSenator Jones earned his seat in a special election in 2017 to fill Jeff Sessions’ seat after Sessions became the Attorney General.  At that time, Jones ran against the scandal-ridden infamous Roy Moore, racist extraordinaire.  While at this time, there are three contenders for the republican nominee, and the primary has been postponed until July, most surveys are showing that any of the three, one being Jeff Sessions himself, could easily beat Jones.  I think, realistically, this is one that the democrats will lose, giving them a net 3 new seats, and tying the Senate 50-50.

Now, one last thing.  If, as most reading this are hoping, Joe Biden defeats Donald Trump for the office of president, a net 3 gain will suffice, for the vice president is the one who would break any ties.  However, if Donald Trump should win his bid for re-election, and there is a tie in the Senate, the republicans would prevail, as they have for the past three years.  One way or another, we must make sure this doesn’t happen.

Discord & Dissension — Table of Contents

20 thoughts on “Discord & Dissension – Part XII – Fight For The Senate

  1. Pingback: Discord & Dissension — Table of Contents | Filosofa's Word

  2. I wonder, why is it that when you made a post the other day about some of the democratic senators like Maxine Waters, who you were proud of for serving for 29 years, you didn’t mention her as a good example for why we needterm limits? Yet,with republicans, the need for these limits is plainly obvious. Why is that?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well, Scott, I didn’t say I was proud of her for the length of time she served, but what I said was that I was proud that she speaks her mind, that she doesn’t pull any punches. I think there should be term limits for all members of Congress: three 2-year terms for the House, and two 6-year terms for the Senate. And that is for both parties.

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  3. Jill, thanks for doing these. In general, we need to let these Senators know that we find blindly supporting this president has been harmful to democracy. And, many of them know that which makes it worse.

    Specifically, Senator Tillis did two things (which I found poor stewardship) while Speaker of the NC House that are carved in my memory. First, he sent legislators home at midnight on a budget impasse, but told his GOP legislators to remain close. He called them back to vote at 1 am. With a small quorom, he took a vote that passed. This cheating at best, unethical at worst.

    Second, on a contentious fracking vote that passed by one, a Democratic legislator went up front before the count and said she voted incorrectly and wanted to change her vote. He denied her request. That is poor form. By the way, the vote made no difference as there is not much to frack, so the frackers won’t invest here. So, he screwed her over for nought.

    He may not, but I remember these episodes. These ends do not justify the means. Keith

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Keith! Jeff and I are really hoping to make a difference this year, even though our voices are small.

      You and I have both spent a good part of the last year writing, talking, and otherwise communicating with our elected officials to let them know how we feel, and yet … they seem to go on about their merry way while paying lip service to us. I think they have staff send out form letters replying to us, while they continue to accept funding from the weapons complex, fossil fuel and logging industries, and other.

      I was hoping you would have some data to weigh in on Thom Tillis’ candidacy! Of your two remembrances, the first one makes me spit bullets. I believe our U.S. Congress did something similar not too long ago. It should be outlawed! What are your thoughts about Tillis’ chances in November?

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      • Jill, Tillis has a strong opponent in Cal Cunningham, so it will be close. Tillis is running a commercial bragging that he supports physicians against special interest groups that want government rate setting to pay them less. Think about this. He is against efforts for patients to pay less in the world’s most costly healthcare system. In essence, he saying screw you to the patients.

        As for Trump, he went against the committee’s wishes to have a special enrollment for the ACA for people who may need health coverage and can’t afford COBRA benefits when an employer lets them go. A key part of Obama’s stimulus in 2009 was to pay for COBRA benefits for a few months. It does not take a rocket scientist to know that Trump cannot do anything to help the ACA, even save people’s lives. This paragraph sums up Trump in a nutshell. Keith

        Liked by 1 person

        • Not too long ago, Warren Davidson said almost the exact same thing as re limits on what physicians can charge, and also about setting medication rates, for he claimed it would discourage the development of new drugs. Who do these guys think they are kidding? Do they really think we are that stupid? Sigh.

          I’m with you … I hope Cal Cunningham wins by a landslide … or even a narrow margin. Truth is, I’d like to see every republican senator who’s running this year ousted, but that’s a pipe dream.

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          • Jill, we pay the highest Rx costs in the world as other countries have laws restricting the inclusion of R&D costs in the price. So, Americans pay the R&D costs, which is unfair. This is one reason the companies do not want you ordering the drug produced overseas. Same drug. Keith

            Liked by 1 person

            • Agreed … this is why I get my insulin and heart meds from Canada, for I cannot afford U.S. prices, even with MediCare. Yes, it is the exact same drug, but at less than 1/3 of the cost! And now, with the threat of the USPS being sidelined, curtailed, or whatever, I am concerned about even being able to get them at all. But, do you think Trump cares?

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  4. As you know, Jill, I was a Republican for 44 years. Trump ended that. I’m now doing all I can to defeat Trump and his many Republican lackeys in Congress. To that end, in 2018 I campaigned and voted for Democrat Stephany Rose Spaulding against the entrenched Trump brown noser Doug Lamborn here in Colorado’s 5th Congressional District. This year, for the first time in my life, I have donated money to a Democratic candidate, John Hickenlooper. Over the last couple years I’ve emailed Corey Gardner’s office to express my objections to Trump policies and statements. Gardner’s replies are always generic, never addressing my concerns. I doubt I can tip any Trumpists here in uber-Trumpist El Paso County, but I’m confident that, overall, the state will turn on Gardner.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I fully understand why Trump would cause you to leave the Republican Party … I’m at a loss how so many have stayed and continue to praise Trump and his band of thugs. Good for you for supporting Hickenlooper … from what I saw of him during his brief run for president, he seems a good man, and from what I know of Gardner, he is not. I think Hickenlooper stands a very good chance to win the seat, and I’m really pleased to hear you confirm that.

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  5. The Democrats were looking good before the lockdowns began. It’s early yet, but it seems the Republicans are starting to take the “return to normal” position, with the Democrats squaring off, opposite that. I suspect that if this issue becomes polarized, the Republicans may win that argument in the public opinion polls. If so, then not only will they keep the Senate, but Trump may be re-elected.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sigh. You may well be right, but I’m hoping that Trump’s mishandling and bungling that has cost lives will be at least one strike against republicans. Fingers crossed, my friend … this nation will not survive another 4 years of Trump … at least not as a free nation.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Reblogged this on On The Fence Voters and commented:
    Once again, Jill has done a wonderful job accentuating the importance of the November election. With this post, she breaks down those Senate seats that look good for the Democrats, as well as those that are a little to close for comfort. No matter how you look at it, sitting this one out is NOT an option. Thanks Jill!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh absolutely! While a democratic-majority in both chambers of Congress could control legislation, it would need either the president’s signature or both the House and Senate would need a veto-proof majority (67%), which neither is likely to have, even under the best of circumstances. BUT … the main reason it still very much matters is that, as we have seen for the past 3 years, Trump does much by ‘executive order’, or by declaring a national emergency even when there isn’t one (remember when he declared one so he could re-allocate funding for his wall?), and therein lies the real danger. The other very important things are the Supreme Court … another 4 years would almost certainly give him the opportunity to put two more partisan, conservative lifetime Justices on the Court. And, his cabinet … every cabinet position is held by a person highly UNqualified for the position, thus the EPA is led by a former oil company lobbyist, and we’ve seen how William Barr declares Trump to be ‘above the law’. Combine all these things, and you have all the ingredients for a dictator.

      Liked by 1 person

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