In a worst-case scenario for Republicans — and a best-case scenario for Democrats — the GOP would not only lose the White House in November, but also, would lose the U.S. Senate and watch Democrats expand their majority in the U.S. House of Representatives. Journalists Olivia Beavers and Juliegrace Brufke, in an article for The Hill, discuss the possibility of a major blue wave in November and the fears that Republican activists are expressing behind closed doors.
Some Republicans are privately expressing what Beavers and Brufke describe as a “growing sense of doom.” A GOP source, presumably interviewed on condition of anonymity, told The Hill, “If the election were today, we would lose the House, the Senate and the White House.”
Republicans already lost the U.S. House of Representatives in 2018, when Democrats achieved a House majority. That source probably meant to say that Democrats would keep their House majority if the election were held today, and Beavers and Brufke note that in order to retake the House in November, Republicans would need a “net 17 seats.”
A House Republican, quoted anonymously, told The Hill, “This is the problem: (Trump) continues to allow it to be a referendum on himself. You can’t do that in a competitive race.”
Another Republican in the House told The Hill that the GOP’s 2016 playbook isn’t going to work in 2020, when the U.S. is facing the coronavirus pandemic. According to that lawmaker, “People are looking for reassurance…. Chaos worked great in 2016, (but) they don’t want it in 2020. They want to know that we’re trusting science and doctors on the questions here, and they want to know we’re going to get through it. There needs to be more FDR fireside chats and less Jerry Springer knockdowns.”
Some polling released by Quinnipiac University this week shows why some of the Republicans that spoke to The Hill are so pessimistic.
According to Quinnipiac, Democrats are highly competitive in some high-profile Senate races. In deep red South Carolina, Quinnipiac found that incumbent Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham — who has been a fixture in the Senate since the early 2000s — is tied with Democratic challenger Jaime Harrison at 44%. And in Maine, Quinnipiac found that Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican, is trailing Democratic challenger Sara Gideon by 4%. Collins, in the past, was reelected by double digits; now, according to Quinnipiac, she is in danger of being voted out of office.
Quinnipiac found that in Kentucky, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is leading Democrat Amy McGrath by 5%. That poll was much better news for McGrath than a Morning Consult poll released earlier this week; Morning Consult found McConnell ahead of McGrath by 17%. But in South Carolina, Morning Consult found Graham leading Harrison by only 1%.
Of course, poll numbers can change. In 1988’s presidential election, there were summer polls that showed Democrat Mike Dukakis defeating then-Vice President George H.W. Bush — whose poll numbers improved considerably in the fall. And Bush 41 enjoyed a decisive victory over Dukakis that year. But the U.S. was not facing a deadly pandemic in 1988.
Interviewed by The Hill, Rep. Liz Cheney expressed confidence that Trump will defeat Biden in November. But what Republicans say publicly and what they say behind closed doors can vary considerably. And another Republican source, quoted anonymously, told The Hill that Trump isn’t going to win over conservative women by expressing “meanness” or attacking a member of his coronavirus task force like Dr. Deborah Birx.
“Conservative women want to see empathy and compassion and don’t like meanness,” that GOP source argued. “We are doing really poorly with married, white women. I do not at all understand the Deborah Birx attack at all — not politically and not morally.”