The Stew Reporting on government and politics

Down-ballot battle

Politics | A look at the 2020 Senate election forecast
by Kyle Ziemnick
Posted 7/11/19, 05:13 pm

WASHINGTON—The start of the 2020 presidential campaign cycle may be dominating headlines at the moment, but another crucial political battle is shaping up down the ballot from President Donald Trump and his eventual opponent. The race for control of the U.S. Senate in 2020 will determine whether Republicans can continue to confirm conservative judges to the federal judiciary, ward off liberal policies such as the Green New Deal or universal healthcare, and defend pro-family positions.

The GOP currently has a 53-47 edge in the Senate, with 34 seats up for grabs in November 2020. Of those seats, Republicans hold 22, and Democrats control 12.

Campaigning for those races has already begun in many states. Republican Kris Kobach, the former Kansas secretary of state who led Trump’s voter fraud commission after the 2016 election, kicked off his bid Monday to replace retiring Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan. Kobach, who lost the 2018 Kansas gubernatorial race to Democrat Laura Kelly, is a polarizing figure in the state. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has said he would rather see U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo run for Roberts’ seat to minimize the risk of a Democratic win.

McConnell faces his own challenge in Kentucky. Democrat Amy McGrath, the former Marine pilot who gained nationwide attention during her unsuccessful run for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives last year, announced Tuesday she planned to run against McConnell.

To gain control of the Senate, Democrats either will have to flip four GOP seats or win three seats from Republicans and the vice presidency for a tie-breaking vote.

All but two of the Republican seats up for grabs in 2020 are in states that Trump won in 2016. The two GOP seats in states where Hillary Clinton came out on top belong to Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Cory Gardner of Colorado. Collins, according to polling by Morning Consult, has a 52 percent approval rating in her home state. Political scientist Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball blog and the Cook Political Report already project her as the winner. At least 12 Democrats have jumped into the Colorado race to challenge Gardner, the only Republican in statewide office. His seat is considered a toss-up.

Arizona also has a vulnerable GOP Senate seat held by Sen. Martha McSally, who was appointed in December 2018 by Gov. Doug Ducey to replace the late Sen. John McCain. McSally in November 2018 lost in a nail-biter to Democrat Kyrsten Sinema for the state’s other Senate seat. In 2020, she will most likely face Democrat Mark Kelly, a former astronaut and husband to retired U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords, D-Ariz. Early polls have the race at a near dead heat.

Democrats will probably have to sweep Maine, Colorado, and Arizona to have a chance at the majority, but they must also defend a vulnerable seat. Sen. Doug Jones, D-Ala., who defeated Republican Roy Moore in a special election in 2017 to replace GOP Sen. Jeff Sessions after he was named U.S. attorney general, will try to earn his first full term in a state Trump won by almost 28 percent. Republicans are worried Moore could win the GOP nomination again and potentially cost them the opportunity to pick up a seat.

Apart from those four tight races, Democrats are also looking at Republican Sens. Thom Tillis in North Carolina, David Perdue in Georgia, and Joni Ernst in Iowa as possible targets. Their chances rest largely on current perceptions of Trump, who won all of those states in 2016.

“The Trump numbers suggest two things to us: his vulnerability and a massive historic turnout,” Democratic Senate Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois told Politico.

In 2016, the winner in every Senate race was the same party as the presidential candidate who won that state, a trend Pew Research found has been on the rise for decades. Turnout is almost always boosted during a presidential election year. So Republican candidates know if the presidential election goes awry, they may have to outperform Trump to hold on to the Senate.

“It’s going to be house-to-house, hand-to-hand combat,” Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, told Politico. “My goal is to earn every vote the president gets, but to add to that.”

Associated Press/Photo by Meg Kinnard Associated Press/Photo by Meg Kinnard Former Vice President Joe Biden greets supporters Sunday in Charleston, S.C.

Biden defends record

Former Vice President Joe Biden on Saturday apologized for comments he made last month about his collaboration with segregationist senators in the 1970s.

The Democratic Party’s 2020 presidential front-runner brought on the controversy at a June fundraising event in Iowa, where he characterized the U.S. Senate during the 1970s as a time of greater “civility.” One of his Democratic rivals, Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., took the opportunity during the first Democratic debates last month to hammer Biden on his civil rights record, including his opposition to federally mandated busing to integrate schools. Following a rather meek defense from Biden, pundits opined that Harris had won the debate.

At an event in South Carolina last week, Biden told voters he regretted his comments: “Was I wrong a few weeks ago to somehow give the impression to people that I was praising those men who I successfully opposed time and time again? Yes, I was. I regret it. I’m sorry for any of the pain and misconception I may have caused anybody.”

Biden also defended his record by pointing to his spot as running mate to the nation’s first African American president. “I was vetted by him and selected by him,” Biden said of former President Barack Obama. “I will take his judgment of my record, my character, and my ability to handle the job over anyone else’s.”

Harris spokesman Ian Sams tweeted Saturday, “Every candidate’s record will (and should) be scrutinized in this race … there are no free passes.”

Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., announced Monday he will no longer seek the Democratic nomination for president. A day later, California billionaire and environmental activist Tom Steyer announced his own candidacy. Steyer had originally said he would not run and would focus instead on lobbying Congress to launch impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump. —Harvest Prude

Associated Press/Photo by Susan Walsh Associated Press/Photo by Susan Walsh Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Storming Twitter barricades

Now that a federal appeals court has said it is unconstitutional for President Donald Trump to block his detractors on Twitter, critics of U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., are suing her for doing the same.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that Trump’s blocking Twitter users who had criticized his policies violated their First Amendment rights by discriminating against them based on their viewpoints. The judges agreed with an earlier court ruling that said the president’s personal account amounted to a public forum that he regularly used to conduct official government business. “The First Amendment does not permit a public official who utilizes a social media account for all manner of official purposes to exclude persons from an otherwise open online dialogue because they expressed views with which the official disagrees,” the court ruled.

Afterward, Joseph Saladino, a Republican candidate for Congress from Staten Island, N.Y., and Dov Hikind, a Democratic former New York assemblyman who has clashed with Ocasio-Cortez over her views on Israel, filed separate suits against her for having blocked them on Twitter. “Trump is not allowed to block people, will the standards apply equally?” Saladino tweeted.

The Knight First Amendment Institute, which had sued Trump along with seven Twitter users, said the decision should make other officials “think twice before hitting the block button when they don’t like what someone has posted.”

The appeals court, however, stressed that “not every social media account operated by a public official is a government account” and that each case would need to be weighed on its merits. —Anne K. Walters

Associated Press/Photo by J. Scott Applewhite Associated Press/Photo by J. Scott Applewhite U.S. Rep. Justin Amash

Going it alone

U.S. Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan formally quit the House Republican Conference and resigned from the House Oversight Committee in a letter to Republican leadership Monday.

In May, Amash became the only member of the Republican Party to call for the impeachment of President Donald Trump on charges of obstructing justice. In June, he quit the Freedom Caucus, a group of fellow libertarian-leaning lawmakers that he helped found. In a Washington Post op-ed published July 4, Amash announced he was leaving the Republican Party entirely. He said he wanted to distance himself from the two-party system and “the partisan loyalties and rhetoric that divide and dehumanize us.”

Had Amash not proactively resigned his committee assignment, he would have lost his seat once he exited the GOP Conference. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., will now decide whether to place Amash, who is now the only independent lawmaker in the House, on any committees.

Amash’s recent political evolution has stirred speculation about whether he will mount a bid for president as a libertarian. He has not yet ruled out that possibility. —H.P.

Kyle Ziemnick

Kyle is a graduate of the World Journalism Institute.

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Comments

  • news2me
    Posted: Sat, 07/13/2019 12:09 am

    AOC, which I am sick of hearing about, should NOT be able to block her account. But I am not surprised that a judge ruled differently for her Twitter. It's so sad the Dems can speak with hatred and bias, but no one is allowed to disagree. 

    Just like Hillary, who bleached her computer got a pass by all. They said there was no criminal intent. But Trump is a pathological liar and stole the election. He isn't our president. The IRS employees whose computers imploded so there was no evidence that they treated the Tea Party badly. No one held any of them in contempt. 

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