For the Democrats, the dream of Don Blankenship is over. The Coal Mining Baron and Ex-Con were a nice change – the prospect of another Republican candidate having suffered a break in the movement was exactly the sort of enemy Senator Joe Manchin needed in his tough reelection in West Virginia. But now it's back to the reality of a merciless map that gives little hope to Chuck Schumers dream of becoming a majority leader.
It could be the cruelest irony of the Trump era. During a polling season in which the House seems to be a lost topic for the Republicans and almost every indicator suggests massive democratic gains in November, the prospect of courting the Senate from the GOP remains grim.
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The long list of tipped legal mandates since Donald Trump's election (40 in the last count), the charged Democratic participation in the recent congressional elections, the avalanche of loose change, the geyser of Grass Root Energy none of this changes a Senate landscape in which Democrats defend more seats, in more hostile places than at any other time in memory.
It's hard to overestimate how difficult it is to turn the Senate this year. As Nate Silver notes, it is possible that the Democrats will ever confront the Senate's worst card ̵
About a third of the Senate is elected every two years, but this time The Democrats defend almost three times as many seats as the Republicans: 26-9. While the Democrats just have to get two seats to win back the majority, they have to do it by making a small appeal through the Appalachians and some of the Whites (19659005) First, the party must drive these two Republicans out of a very small herd. Because most of the Republican incumbents are back in states that are almost impregnable this year – think that Nebraska, Utah, Wyoming Democrats must defeat Nevada's Dean Heller and take over Arizona's Jeff Flake retired seat.
Apart from this pair, everything else is a stretch. Rep. Marsha Blackburn seems to be able to blow an open seat in Tennessee for the Republicans, and there is evidence that Senator Ted Cruz is ripe for a takedown from Democrat Beto O'Rourke in Texas, but both of them These races are mostly progressive wishful thinking at this time.
In any case, picking up two seats is the easy part. Democrats must also protect incumbents in 10 states that Trump won in 2016. Five of these senators (Joe Donnelly from Indiana, Claire McCaskill from Missouri, Montanas Jon Tester, Heidi Heitkamp from North Dakota and Manchin) represent states where Hillary Clinton was less than 40 percent of the vote.
The democratic brand is not an advantage in many of these places. Equally important, the President, known for his historically weak approval ratings at the national level, is particularly popular in states such as Montana, North Dakota and West Virginia.
This local strength explains why Trump was able to retaliate so quickly when Tester struck the president calling for the appointment of Ronny Jackson as secretary of the Veterans Administration. After the Senator from Montana played a crucial role in sinking Jackson's nomination, Trump and the White House entered a wild campaign mode. The president characterized testers in a tweet as "very dishonest and ill". In a state in which Trump wore more than 20 percentage points, President Montanans demanded that testers be removed from office. A White House official called a radio station in Montana and said the president could travel there to run for the senator.
Tester is not without his instincts: a few days after the president attacked him, the senator appeared on the front pages of the newspapers across his home state, photographing in a tractor cabin as he prepared to plant seed in the ground. These surviving abilities of the Red State have helped testers gain two terms, but he was also fortunate enough to run in two of the best Democratic election years of the past half-century-2006, a bluster year, as Democrats the House, conquering Senate and In 2012, Barack Obama's re-election machine spurred a win for eight Democrats in the House and a two-seat Senate win.
Now that 2018 seems to be the next wave of Democratic waves, that's possible once again, the tester – and McCaskill's boat, and Manchin and all the rest – are lifted. After all, the Senate has participated in four of the five cases in which the House has changed control since World War II.
But this year there are crucial differences. Perhaps the biggest one is that Trump signaled his intention to use his popularity against the incumbent officials of the Democratic Senate in those states where his approval ratings are strongest. His presidential travel plan has closely overlapped the list of states he led in 2016. Trump might decide to rebel against Tester or another Democrat in the Red State with a derogatory nickname and a torrent of October tweets.
Then the end of Blankenship. The Democrats have been looking forward to Republican freak show contenders in the recent Senate elections. Donnelly and McCaskill both achieved victory in 2012 after their challengers made controversial comments about rape, pregnancy and abortion.
With Blankenship's defeat in West Virginia this week, Manchin was denied this opportunity. Without the coal baron struggling this fall, his re-election campaign – and Schumer's quest to become a majority leader – became infinite, if not insurmountable.