“The president continues to overshadow and impact the races for the Senate and the House,” said Nathan Gonzales, the editor of Inside Elections, which tracks the campaigns.
Usually, a president at the top of the ticket boosts his party’s chances, but Trump’s slump is shifting the congressional map, strategists said. House Democrats are expected to easily retain the majority, without too many losses. The Senate, now in Republican hands, could almost as easily flip to Democrats.
Together, the congressional races provide a snapshot of an American electorate ahead of a voting season unlike any other. The coronavirus crisis, a shattered economy and a new civil rights era are forcing a reassessment of the way the federal government approaches longstanding problems. In a volatile political climate, health care, jobs and even what the parties are calling the soul of the nation are all on the ballot.
As Democrats gain momentum, Republicans are digging in, echoing Trump’s harsh criticism of the nationwide protests over police violence, particularly against Black people. He sounds dire warnings about the demonstrations happening in some cities. It’s an opening for the GOP, an attempt to win back wary suburban voters, particularly white women, who voted for Trump in 2016 but have since drifted away.
“It’s a winning message,” said Bob Salera, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, the House GOP’s campaign arm.
The NRCC used Trump’s visit to Kenosha, Wisconsin, to unleash a flurry of attacks against vulnerable Democrats, primarily those freshmen who built the House majority in 2018 from districts the president won in 2016. One television ad claimed a Democrat was choosing “criminals over cops.”
The Democratic campaigns are taking an opposite approach. As their calling card to voters, they are offering health care policy — preserving and expanding the coverage under the Affordable Care Act and strategies to end the COVID-19 crisis.
Ten ads released by House Democrats last week targeted Republicans who voted to repeal and replace “Obamacare” or pushed a quick economic reopening despite COVID-19 health risks. Democratic Senate candidates are taking similar cues as they appeal to voters concerned about health care access or costs.
“We’re gonna win back the Senate,” Biden told donors last week on a fundraising call.
The former vice president is eyeing a handful of Senate seats he believes Democrats could wrest from Republicans, with plans to campaign in North Carolina, Georgia, Texas and other states where Republican senators are vulnerable.
Two months before the election, the races are still in flux. Any boost in Trump’s standing could bolster Republican chances, analysts said. Any missteps by Biden could hurt Democrats.
On top of that is the uncertainty of the COVID-19 crisis, which upended campaigning. While many Republicans are following Trump’s lead, holding events and meeting voters in person,…
Read More: Trump looms large over campaigns for control of Congress