As Trump Slumps In Polls, GOP Donors Look To Save The Senate

Senator McConnell in the Oval Office on June 20.Screengrab / Bloomberg QuickTake News / YouTube

PMH

NYT: There is a “wave of Democratic challengers [that] raised more in the second quarter than their Republican rivals.”

The New York Times reports that amid President Donald J. Trump’s “weak poll numbers” and a “flood of Democratic cash flooding key Senate races,” Republican leaders, donors, and strategists are increasingly focusing on shoring up the party’s narrow Senate majority by refocusing money donations on Senate races.

  • Dan K. Eberhart, an energy executive and a major Republican donor, said of the political situation that “The House is gone. And the White House is looking increasingly like an uphill battle.”
  • Because of this, Eberhart said that Republicans must “hold the Senate at all costs.”
  • Henry Barbour, a Republican strategist and Republican National Committee member, said that “people were more confident about the Senate a few months ago.”
  • Recently, several Democratic challengers to Republican-held Senate seats have outraised their incumbent opponents. This has happened in Alaska, Arizona, Kentucky, and South Carolina.
  • For example, Democratic challenger Mark Kelly, husband of former representative Gabby Giffords and a former astronaut, has about $24 million in campaign funds, more than twice that of incumbent Martha McSally (R-AZ), who was appointed to the vacant seat by Governor Ducey after she lost her first senate appointment to Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ).
  • And in South Carolina, Jaime Harrison raised $13.9 million, about $5 million more than his incumbent opponent Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

The Times reports that in response to this, Republican leaders are attempting to galvanize donors. For example, McConnell has

been warning donors in dire terms about permanent and systemic shifts that could come about in a fully Democratic-controlled Washington next year: adding Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C., as states, expanding the Supreme Court, and the end of the legislative filibuster, which has previously served as an institutional brake on congressional majorities, according to people who have heard his pitch.

  • The current Republican majority in the Senate is extremely narrow. If three Democratic senators win with Joe Biden, or four if Trump wins his reelection, Democrats would become the majority party in the Senate.
  • Fred Zeidman, a Republican fund-raiser in Texas, said this: “If we lose the White House, then we’ve lost everything. The Senate has to be the firewall.”
  • However, although Trump retains an “iron grip on the Republican base,” his popularity among traditional donors is less certain.
  • For example, Frank VanderSloot is a major Republican donor who has given more than $800,000 to Republican candidates and committees since 2017. He said that voters and donors alike are turned off by Trump’s “arrogance” and Tweets.
  • Even so, he added that the Senate is a high priority for him. “Somebody’s got to protect the country from foolishness,” he said in reference to Democrats’ agendas. “Our only hope is the Senate.”

However, rising political polarization makes it difficult for candidates to distance themselves from Trump. The Times observes that

The fate of Senate candidates has been increasingly yoked to the top of the ticket. In 2016, every state that elected a Republican senator also voted for Mr. Trump, and every state that elected a Democratic senator voted for Hillary Clinton. And in 2018, all five Senate incumbents who lost were defeated by challengers from the party that carried their state in the 2016 presidential contests.

Strategists in both parties expect that kind of polarization to continue, making it hard for Republicans to distance from Mr. Trump.

But Brad Todd, a Republican strategist working on multiple Senate races, expressed a very simple strategy.

It’s time to wake up and get off the sidelines… What needs to happen is Republican donors need to give more.

Read more.

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