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Moulitsas: 2016 dim for GOP

2016 was never going to be an easy year for Senate Republicans, who are defending 24 of the 34 seats in play this year, including seven in states that President Obama won in 2012. And the outlook just keeps getting bleaker.

Early polling gave Democrats strong pickup opportunities in Wisconsin and Illinois, where incumbent one-term Republicans elected in the 2010 conservative wave have proven themselves to be well outside of their states’ mainstreams. Democratic challengers were also already competitive in Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire and Florida. Those alone would be enough to win the five seats Democrats need for a 51-seat Senate majority. And as we’ve seen the last several cycles, parties don’t tend to split the competitive seats — they all sweep in one direction or the other.

And Republicans appear to be doing everything in their power to throw more seats into the competitive mix. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s refusal to consider Obama’s Supreme Court nominee has put Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley’s seat in play. The longtime senator and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee has had little trouble winning reelection in past years, but refusing to give Judge Merrick Garland even the most cursory examination is eroding his support. 

Grassley isn’t the only Republican suffering from the Senate GOP’s refusal to execute its constitutional duties. Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt, North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr and Arizona Sen. John McCain have all taken serious hits for their intransigence. 

“The Supreme Court issue really could make a difference at the ballot box this fall,” wrote Public Policy Polling’s Tom Jensen, summarizing his firm’s results. “Voters by a 34 point margin in Arizona and Missouri, a 21 point margin in North Carolina, and a 14 point margin in Iowa say that they’re less likely to vote for their Republican Senators this fall if they refuse to confirm a nominee to the Supreme Court no matter who it is.”

But as dysfunctional as the Republican Senate might be, nothing gets Senate Democrats as excited as the prospect of a Donald Trump nomination. Indeed, Democrats believe the billionaire White House hopeful’s high negatives broadly expand the map, even putting states like Indiana in play. 

Consider Arizona, where a fresh Behavior Research Center poll shows Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick leading Latinos 66 percent to McCain’s 19 percent, with the overall race tied at 42 percent each. With Trump topping the ballot, Kirkpatrick’s support among Latinos is likely to boom — both in terms of the number of Latinos voting and her yield. 

According to Latino Decision, a bilingual polling firm specializing in the Hispanic community, 48 percent of Latinos nationwide are more enthusiastic about this year’s elections than in 2012, with half of those saying that stopping Trump is the reason they’re excited to vote. McCain is facing a double whammy of Senate obstruction and Trump toxicity. Moreover, increased Latino performance should lock down the only two contested Democratic seats — Colorado and Nevada — while giving Democrats a boost in Illinois, North Carolina and Florida. 

And let’s not forget Trump’s problems among female voters. Gallup just found that a whopping 70 percent of women have an unfavorable view of the GOP front-runner. Republican Senate candidates will find that winning exclusively on the strength of angry white men will be a tough slog. 

Perhaps that’s why so many Senate hopefuls are planning on skipping July’s Republican National Convention. Not that it’ll do them any good. Trump will be on the ballot with them, right there at the top. 


Moulitsas is the founder and publisher of Daily Kos.

Tags Ann Kirkpatrick Chuck Grassley Donald Trump John McCain Mitch McConnell Richard Burr Roy Blunt

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