Election Day 2018 is a year and a few days away. By this time next year we will be well into early voting in the states that allow it and the picture will be much clearer. Many believe control of the Senate will be up for grabs with 25 seats currently held by Democrats or the independents that caucus with them along with only 8 held by Republicans. Early this year I said that despite what I expected to be a bad political climate for Republicans I expected them to keep their two seat margin in the upper chamber if not expand on it a bit. I’m not ready for any final prediction. As an opinion writer my clock runs slower than a sitting member of the Senate up in 2018. Dianne Feinstein is one of the savviest of the 33 and she did something a few weeks back that made me want to take another look. Let’s explore.
On Monday October 9th California Democrat Dianne Feinstein announced she would seek reelection in 2018. Feinstein will be 85 on Election Day 2018. She is a wealthy woman with decades of political success which begs the question: Why would she run again? I feel the only logical answer is that she feels the Democrats will be in the majority in the next Senate. Personally she doesn’t need the seat. If she would have decided not to run the seat would have remained blue so she didn’t do it to defend her Party or political philosophy. She is currently the ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee and will most likely be named the Chair if the Democrats take back the majority.
The Republicans currently hold a two seat majority in the Senate meaning the Democrats need to flip three seats in 2018 to take over. At 25-8 the defensive number alone makes it an almost impossible task. If the Democrats successfully defend all 25 seats – far from an easy task or sure thing – they still would have to defeat three of eight Republicans. In the interest of brevity, today I want to concentrate on just those eight seats.
The Republican seats up in 2018 are those of John Barrasso in Wyoming, Bob Corker in Tennessee, Ted Cruz in Texas, Deb Fischer in Nebraska, Jeff Flake in Arizona, Orrin Hatch in Utah, Dean Heller in Nevada and Roger Wicker in Mississippi. As of this writing Corker has announce he will not seek reelection and many eyes are on Hatch.
Two events made defending these seats more difficult. Roy Moore won the Republican primary in Alabama (and presumably will win the December 12th special election to serve out the remainder of Jeff Sessions’ unexpired term). Moore is a far right extremist who was vigorously backed by Steve Bannon. Shortly thereafter Bannon announced he would be backing challengers to all the remaining 2018 Senate Republicans with the exception of Ted Cruz. Cruz is the most hated sitting Senator including by his fellow Republicans.
Bannon has already announced he is backing Marsha Blackburn for Corker’s open seat as well as Matt Rosendale in Montana (vs. Democrat Jon Tester) and Patrick Morrisey in West Virginia (vs. Democrat Joe Manchin). Blackburn is a right wing extremist and I expect all of Bannon’s other picks to be cut from the same cloth. Her first campaign ad was taken down because it contained a blatant lie. One of Bannon’s targets is current Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Bannon is said to be extracting a commitment from those seeking his endorsement that if elected they will not support McConnell for reelection to the leadership post. What many (apparently including Feinstein) are betting on is that if Bannon is successful the Republicans will no longer be in the majority.
In a kind of convoluted way Bannon is pitching his candidates as pro-Trump and sitting Republican Senators as anti-Trump. (If I were Trump I’d be concerned that Bannon is only playing the role of being pro-Trump. Trump is just a means to an end to Bannon. Unlike Trump, Bannon has a political philosophy.)
Under normal circumstances the only two legitimate targets for the Democrats would be Flake and Heller. Both Arizona and Nevada are purple states. In 2012 Flake won by three points and Heller by only one. Heller may well have ridden Mitt Romney’s coattails who won Arizona by 10. Looking at a more recent indicator Trump only took Arizona by 4 and lost Nevada by 2. Even if the Democrats successfully defended all 25 seats and took these two the Senate would be deadlocked at 50-50 effectively giving the Republicans control. Where does the other seat come from?
Do you remember names like Sharon Angle, Christine O’Donnell and Todd Akin? They are all extremist candidates the Republicans have recently run for the Senate that lost winnable seats to Democrats; that is what Feinstein is betting will happen again. Also, nutcase candidates will be easier to for the “25” to beat than legitimate Republican challengers would be.
Barrasso won by 26 points in 2012 in a state Trump took by 48. Fischer won by 16 in 2012 in a state trump won by 26. Orrin Hatch won by 31 in 2012. Wicker won by 16 in 2012 while Trump took Mississippi by 18. Why would a Republican want to challenge any of them?
It looks like the inmates (Tea Party) are making their boldest attempt to take over the insane asylum (Republican Party). Let’s hope it ends up being a mass suicide mission! Many Democrats are betting a tall task just got a bit shorter.
This article was written well in advance of publishing to accommodate my travel schedule,
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