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Republicans “Increasingly Nervous” as Dems Put Senate Majority Within Reach

Warnings Signs Pile Up as GOP Incumbents Face “Ominous” Polling Numbers, “Overwhelmed” by Democrats’ “Small-Dollar Fundraising Energy” in Q1

Suddenly Desperate for Political Distance, NRSC Tells Republican Senators Not to Defend Trump’s Coronavirus Response

A series of new reports this weekend highlighted the growing Republican panic about Democrats’ rising chances in the fight for the majority. Democrats have put more seats in play and built momentum thanks to impressive challengers, robust grassroots fundraising, and weak GOP incumbents saddled with toxic records on issues like health care and protections for pre-existing conditions who have failed to be independent voices for their states.

  • GOP Pollster: The Landscape for Republicans Has Become “Far Grimmer.”
    The New York Times reports that Republicans are “increasingly nervous that they are at risk” of losing the Senate based on “ominous public and private polling” and the fact that Democratic candidates raised “substantially more money than Republicans” in the first quarter thanks to “small-dollar fundraising energy.”
  • McConnell Aide No Longer Sounding Optimistic About The Top of the Ticket.
    The Washington Post reports on the growing consensus that the Senate landscape “has shifted in recent weeks” and put Democrats “within striking distance of a takeover.” As the national environment has deteriorated for Republicans, the best that longtime McConnell adviser Josh Holmes could offer on President Trump’s challenges was: “I think at this point the presidential is going to be what it is.”
  • NRSC Advice to Republicans: “Don’t Defend Trump” on Coronavirus Response.
    POLITICO reports on a 57-page leaked memo that the NRSC sent to GOP senators telling them “don’t defend Trump” when asked about the president’s poor handling of the coronavirus response. The report exposed Republican incumbents and candidates for using Washington talking points to try to redirect blame to China for the growing public health crisis — while failing to hold China, or President Trump, accountable.

Read more on why Senate Republicans are “increasingly nervous” about losing their majority:

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

New York Times: Nervous Republicans See Trump Sinking, and Taking Senate With Him

The election is still six months away, but a rash of ominous new polls and the president’s erratic briefings have the G.O.P. worried about a Democratic takeover.

  • President Trump’s erratic handling of the coronavirus outbreak, the worsening economy and a cascade of ominous public and private polling have Republicans increasingly nervous that they are at risk of losing the presidency and the Senate if Mr. Trump does not put the nation on a radically improved course.
  • Democrats raised substantially more money than Republicans did in the first quarter in the most pivotal congressional races, according to recent campaign finance reports.
  • Glen Bolger, a longtime Republican pollster, said the landscape for his party had become far grimmer compared with the pre-virus plan to run almost singularly around the country’s prosperity.
  • The surveys also showed Republican senators in Arizona, Colorado, North Carolina and Maine trailing or locked in a dead heat with potential Democratic rivals — in part because their fate is linked to Mr. Trump’s job performance. If incumbents in those states lose, and Republicans pick up only the Senate seat in Alabama, Democrats would take control of the chamber should Mr. Biden win the presidency.
  • “He’s got to run very close for us to keep the Senate,” Charles R. Black Jr., a veteran Republican consultant, said of Mr. Trump. “I’ve always thought we were favored to, but I can’t say that now with all these cards up in the air.”
  • “It already feels very similar to the 2008 cycle,” said Billy Piper, a Republican lobbyist and former chief of staff to Senator Mitch McConnell.
  • [Republicans]… are alarmed by one element of this election that is already abundantly clear: The small-dollar fund-raising energy Democrats enjoyed in the midterms has not abated.
  • Republican senators facing difficult races were not only all outraised by Democrats, they were also overwhelmed.
  • In Maine, for example, Senator Susan Collins brought in $2.4 million while her little-known rival, the House speaker Sara Gideon, raised more than $7 million.
  • Even more concerning to Republicans is the lesser-known Thom Tillis of North Carolina. Republican officials are especially irritated at Mr. Tillis because he has little small-dollar support and raised only $2.1 million, which was more than doubled by his Democratic opponent.
  • “These Senate first-quarter fund-raising numbers are a serious wake-up call for the G.O.P.,” said Scott Reed, the top political strategist at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Washington Post: Democrats see Senate suddenly within reach, boosted by Biden’s ascent

  • Joe Biden’s unexpectedly rapid consolidation of the Democratic presidential nomination has upended calculations in both parties about the U.S. Senate landscape, with Democrats hopeful that Biden can actively help with close races and Republicans increasingly nervous about losing their 53-47 majority.
  • The former vice president’s emergence is part of a larger shift in prospects that has become clear in states such as Arizona, Colorado, North Carolina and even Montana and Georgia, as a surge in Democratic fundraising, along with President Trump’s struggles to manage the coronavirus pandemic, have led independent analysts to upgrade Democrats’ chances.
  • Nonpartisan analysts and strategists in both parties agree that the Senate landscape has shifted in recent weeks, pushing Democrats to within striking distance of a takeover. The pandemic and the collapse of the economy, once Trump’s biggest strength, are big factors, but so is Biden’s rise.
  • The GOP is defending 23 Senate seats this year, including several in purple states, compared with 12 for Democrats, mostly on safely blue terrain.
  • The ripest Democratic pickup opportunities are in Arizona, Maine, North Carolina and Colorado. The leading Democratic challengers outraised GOP incumbents in all of these states during the first three months of the year.
  • Even some Republicans say Senate control will be a toss-up in November. “I think their optimism is fading a bit, because it feels like more of a jump ball,” said Dan Eberhart, an oil industry executive and GOP donor, speaking of officials in his party.
  • “I think Republicans just have to tend to their own knitting. I think at this point the presidential is going to be what it is. The ability for anybody down-ticket to impact that one way or another is very limited,” said Josh Holmes, a former chief of staff to McConnell.
  • Many see a blueprint in Democrats’ 2018 House victories, which largely ran through moderate suburbs. They are gearing up to reprise a midterm pitch that centered on health care, a message they hope will have even greater resonance due to the pandemic.

POLITICO: GOP memo urges anti-China assault over coronavirus

  • The National Republican Senatorial Committee has sent campaigns a detailed, 57-page memo authored by a top Republican strategist advising GOP candidates to address the coronavirus crisis by aggressively attacking China.
  • The document urges candidates to stay relentlessly on message against the country when responding to any questions about the virus. When asked whether the spread of the coronavirus is Trump’s fault, candidates are advised to respond by pivoting to China.
  • “Don’t defend Trump, other than the China Travel Ban — attack China,” the memo states.
  • The GOP’s planned China-focused assault, however, is complicated by Trump’s occasional praise for President Xi Jinping.

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