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Republican Strategists Worry Trump Will Lose Presidency and the Senate Majority

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Republican Strategists Worry Trump Will Lose Presidency and the Senate Majority

2020-05-28 22:30:10

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Susan Collins (Image source: Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons)


Since the Democrats did well in the 2018 midterms and took the House away from the Republicans, there have been fears among the GOP that Democrats will not only maintain the House but will take the Senate as well. With the changing scope of 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic, now there are fears that they will lose the presidency as well.


The pandemic just has not been kind to Donald Trump. He has tried to treat it like the media or a political opponent, but it just doesn't operate that way. He can't say anything that will stifle it. No matter how many times he called it a hoax, it was hard to deny the bodies stacking up. He's consistently made the wrong steps with the pandemic, and now the one thing that was going right in his presidency, the economy, has tanked.  

"Put it this way, I am very glad my boss isn't on the ballot this cycle," said a high-ranking aide to a Senate Republican. There's a realistic fear among Republican strategists that Trump will lose his reelection and drag others down with him.


Seven GOP strategists not directly associated with Trump's reelection campaign said his pandemic response and the economy has damaged his hopes for another four years and that it's having lasting effects on other Republicans. 

The polls that have been published that show Trump losing to presumptive Democratic nominee former Vice President Joe Biden echo what the strategists are finding in their own polls. They believe it's starting to move into the Senate as well. The GOP already had to defend 23 Senate seats in November and protect its three-seat majority.


States that were thought to be slam dunks, like Arizona and North Carolina, are now questionable. Trump's campaign advisers, Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie, warned him last week that his support was falling in some swing states.  

The strategists are worried Trump is now a liability for the Party and that they need to look beyond his base. Expectations have already been lowered, and now they are talking of minimizing the fallout instead of preventing it. They are looking at examples of the failed presidential bids of Mitt Romney and John McCain.


"Republican candidates need something more like Romney in '12 and less like McCain in '08," said Washington GOP strategist Liam Donovan. Romney's defeat brought with it two lost Senate seats while McCain's defeat brought eight. 

Even more, there's also a fear that the election will become all about Trump's actions during the pandemic, along with the endangered economy. It's feared that could turn away swing voters.


The GOP is in danger of losing all its power in Washington by November, and strategists are hoping Trump's campaign can change it up and make the race more about Biden being undesirable than about the pandemic. But it's becoming harder and harder to look past the pandemic. 

"This is the one thing [Trump] cannot change the subject on," said a Republican strategist. "This is not a political opponent, this is not going away, and he has never had to deal with something like this."


Trump's campaign argues that voters trust him and will choose him in the end to turn things around. "The economic message resonates strongly, particularly in a time like this," said Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh. "President Trump is clearly the one to restore us to that position. He did it once; he will do it again." 

Yet, if there are no signs the economy will soon face an upturn, it will be a difficult argument to win. "Absent some sort of V-shaped recovery, many people think he is dead in the water," said the Republican strategist.


Trump has solidified himself within his party, making it hard for congressional Republicans to campaign without him as a consideration. Yet, that now risks pushing away conservative voters who don't like Trump. 

"It's a very, very tough environment. If you have a college degree and you live in suburbia, you don't want to vote for us," said a longtime Republican consultant, who also said there is worry Trump is losing support from seniors and independent men.


Some believe the priority should be keeping the Senate majority, and that means finding a way to appeal to suburbanites who flipped and voted Democratic in 2018. It's going to affect Republican candidates in states Trump has no expectation of winning. 

Sen. Susan Collins of Maine has been trying to pull away from Trump and show how independent she is, but it will be difficult for voters to swallow that, as everyone remembers her talking against Trump, including his Senate impeachment trial, only to vote with the party to side with Trump.


Collins is campaigning for her fifth term, and her most recent TV ad refers to her as "the most bipartisan U.S. senator" for the seventh year in a row by Georgetown University's Lugar Center. Voters have a better memory than that, though, after she acquitted Trump, voted for Justice Brad Kavanaugh, and also sided with Trump on health care. 

Trump's campaign is obviously painting it with a different brush. "Any candidate that wants to win will run with the president," said Erin Perrine, the campaign's deputy communications. director. "He has the energy, the enthusiasm, and the grass roots infrastructure. If you are a candidate, you are going to want to be part of that movement." 

But the longer this pandemic goes on, the more people who line up for unemployment, and the more Republicans vote against stimulus aid, the more it puts all of that in jeopardy.

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