Washington Democrats wasted no time last week in trying to tie congressional Republicans facing re-election to Donald Trump, now that he’s the presumptive GOP nominee. Their major focus appears to be the Senate, considering they have to win a net total of just four seats to take control.
Democrats will have plenty of soundbites and video clips of Trump talking about Muslims, women, and other sensitive issues. But this could be a difficult path, given the fact that most of the Republicans they will target have offered only tepid support for Trump – or no support at all.
That won’t slow the strategy. “There’s no going back for vulnerable incumbents and candidates who’ve pledged to support Trump,” the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee said. “Now they have the herculean task of explaining their own out-of-touch records while running alongside their party’s new standard bearer: a divisive and dangerous personality.”
The group, whose primary role is to help elect and re-elect Democrats to the upper chamber, has targeted five Senate Republicans seeking re-election: New Hampshire’s Kelly Ayotte, Wisconsin’s Ron Johnson, Illinois’ Mark Kirk, Ohio’s Rob Portman, and Pennsylvania’s Pat Toomey.
All five have essentially said they would support the Republican nominee, without naming names or pledging an endorsement.
But the DSCC first turned its attention on Ayotte – considering New Hampshire tilts Democratic in presidential years and polling shows Trump is deeply unpopular among New Hampshire voters, including the independents Ayotte desperately needs to support her.
“Ayotte would let the man who wants to ban Muslims from entering the country, called Mexican immigrants ‘rapists,’ and said women should be punished for having an abortion nominate someone to a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court,” the group said last Wednesday.
The first-term senator’s race against challenger Maggie Hassan is considered a toss-up according to most political handicappers.
“While Democrat Senate candidates are all too eager to campaign on what they are against, Republicans will continue to lay out their visions to help our country recover from eight years of the Obama economy and get people back to work,” said National Republican Senatorial Committee spokeswoman Alleigh Marre. “There is a reason Democrats aren’t lining up to campaign with Hillary Clinton. She is a toxic candidate whose failed leadership has put the security of our country at risk.”
Republicans have a huge task ahead, in their efforts to keep control of the Senate. They must defend 24 seats this year, compared to just 10 for the Democrats. And seven of the seats the GOP must defend are in states President Obama won twice – Florida, Ohio, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Iowa.
Can the Republicans hold the Senate in 2016? Yes, but it won’t be easy. In nominating Donald Trump for president, they are propping up the easiest target the Democrats have had to shoot at in decades.