“Hope for the best, plan for the worst,” is an adage Republicans are taking to heart this year. It’s a fact that Donald Trump trails in the polls. Political reality dictates that Republicans will be unlikely to retake the House of Representatives. We all know about the efficacy and accuracy of polls — especially when it comes to Trump. And House Republicans may yet pull off a minor miracle and wrest control of that body from Democrats.
But suppose Trump loses and GOP efforts to take back the House fail? What then?
That leaves only a Republican Senate to bar the way to a nightmare of Green New Deals, Medicare for All, and a nuclear explosion of federal spending that would change the face and character of America forever.
The leadership is well aware of this and are ready to pour resources and personnel into battleground states to make sure the party’s 53-47 majority is secure.
Senate Republicans have relished their power to sideline major Democratic bills passed by the House, including sweeping election reform and gun legislation.
They argue that maintaining a GOP majority in the Senate is a crucial failsafe against “socialist” policies — the Green New Deal and “Medicare for All” — that could be pursued by a Democrat in the Oval Office coupled with a Democratic-controlled House.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the self-declared “Grim Reaper” for progressive legislation, has urged GOP incumbents to position themselves as a “firewall” against ideas being pitched by the field of Democratic presidential candidates.
“If I’m still the majority leader in the Senate think of me as the Grim Reaper … I guarantee you that if I’m the last man standing and I’m still the majority leader, it ain’t happening. I can promise you,” McConnell said during a stop in Kentucky earlier this year.
The mild-mannered Kentucky senator as “Grim Reaper”? Miscast, to be sure, but you play the hand you’re dealt.
Meanwhile, Democrats are helping the GOP cause more than they know.
“The socialism charge in particular works well with some of the soft Republican voters, suburban voters that Republicans have struggled with in the Trump era … so I think you’ll see a lot of Republican candidates talk about the Senate being the last firewall,” said a national GOP strategist watching the Senate races.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), who is up for reelection next year, referred to the Senate as a “graveyard” for “disastrous socialist policies.” And at a campaign event for Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) last week, former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley said the country would “see socialism take over” if the Gardner loses his reelection bid in 2020.
The prospect of being hung — or adopting socialist policies — concentrates the mind wonderfully.
The GOP has lucked out this election cycle. Even though they must defend 22 seats to the Democrats’ 12, all but a small handful of races are not in deep-red states. The most competitive races will be in Arizona, Colorado, Maine, and North Carolina, where GOP Sens. Martha McSally, Cory Gardner, Susan Collins, and Thom Tillis will be on the ballot. Tillis might have the easiest road to re-election but the others will have their hands full. The #1 target for Democrats is Collins, who is unpopular in her own party and enraged liberals with her support of Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court.
To be safe, Republicans can afford to lose two seats out of the four. The GOP’s 53-47 edge would be assured even if Trump were to lose. If Trump wins re-election, a 50-50 split would give Vice President Pence (or whoever it might be) the deciding vote.
The odds are certainly against Democrats. But the 2020 election is still more than a year away and no one is betting the house on the outcome.