Yesterday morning, the Cook Political report explained why it is a very real possibility that the GOP loses the Senate in this election cycle. At this point, it’s not pessimistic to think that the Republican Party’s best case scenario is a 50/50 split with the Democrats (giving the Democrats the Senate because the Vice President is the deciding vote). However, 2018 holds some good possibilities for the GOP, as several weak purple/red state Democrats are up for re-election then.
However, there is a problem that will still be lingering with the party in just two short years: the stench of the Trump campaign.
Trump fans can whine and moan all they want, but the fact is that they have an incredibly unpopular and incredibly offensive candidate they’re backing, and the ramifications of such a nomination can’t be easily shaken off. The entire party structure latched itself on to Donald Trump, and much like a terrible, drunken night of one bad decision after another, the party will be left sick, smelly, and possibly a bit sticky. 2018 should be a year for extending the lead. It will now be a year of recovery.
There are roughly ten seats that could be turned over. Barack Obama lost Indiana, Montana, Missouri, North Dakota, and West Virginia in 2012 (he lost all but Indiana in 2008). There are also purple states where Republicans had a chance this year and have a chance in 2018 – Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Virginia.
Let’s take the Cook Report at its worst possible outcome: The Democrats pick up seven seats. If you take the states Obama lost in 2012, that’s five made up right there. If the competitive states flipped, that’s a total of ten, so the GOP net three Senate seats in two elections. The problem? Florida, Pennsylvania, and Virginia are very likely not in Donald Trump’s camp. And, if Rubio loses his seat, that will make it that much harder for Republicans to pick up the other seat up for grabs in 2018.
Virginia could be lost for a few more statewide elections, unless Terry McAuliffe meets our expectations and ends up arrested for something or other before his re-election. Pennsylvania trends blue, and this year was the best chance to flip it and lay the groundwork for a Senate grab in 2018. Ohio could likely go Republican in 2018, as could Wisconsin, by virtue of having popular statewide elected politicians already, but even those are not a given.
Months ago, we had a chance to not only win the presidency this year, but extend to a massive lead in 2018. Now, we’re looking at having to play catch-up in increasingly tough states. Now, tell me: who can we blame for that one?