Posted 32 days ago
Senate Republicans are feeling high anxiety over President Trump's aggressive response to nationwide civil unrest, which they fear is alienating middle-of-the-road voters who are crucial to keeping their majority after Nov. 3.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) declared at the beginning of the election cycle that winning over college graduates and women in the suburbs would be key to retaining the Senate majority in 2020.
With the election five months away, Senate Republicans worry that Trump is blowing up that strategy with his laser-like focus on his base instead of swing voters.
“The last week and a half has certainly raised the level of angst over the politics of the presidential race and consequences on the Senate. I think it’s just kind of become one thing after another. Initially the handling of COVID and now this,” said a Republican senator who requested anonymity to discuss conversations with GOP colleagues.
GOP senators were already nervous about keeping their majority because of the administration’s slow response to the coronavirus crisis and several Trump gaffes, including his advice that ingesting disinfectant could treat COVID-19.
“There are a lot of people in the middle that are looking for calmness,” said a second GOP senator who asked for anonymity to voice concerns about Trump’s recent performance. “It’s the tone and the words he’s using that I think might harm us back home.”
The first GOP lawmaker said concerns about Trump’s performance are never raised in conference-wide meetings but that senators do talk about it in one-on-one conversations.
“The things that have happened in the past week seems like they’ve really captured not just people’s attention but their emotion, their sense of wellbeing,” added the senator, who also noted an opinion piece this week by the conservative writer George Will.
Will, a Washington Post columnist, wrote that Trump “must be removed” and “voters must dispatch his congressional enablers, especially the senators who gambol around his ankles with a canine hunger for petting.”
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) on Thursday sharply rebuked the president by praising an excoriating critique of his leadership by former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis as "true and honest and necessary and overdue."
She suggested it might give other Republicans courage to break with the president and call out his controversial behavior.
“Perhaps we're getting to the point where we can be more honest with the concerns we might hold internally and have the courage of our convictions to speak up,” she said.
Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) acknowledged there is anxiety about the upcoming election among fellow Republican senators.
“Any type of major crises like these probably never create great opportunities for incumbents,” he said of the coronavirus pandemic and the wave of protests and riots.
“There’s a lot of anxiety as people get closer to an election. It’s an election where the numbers don’t add up great for Republicans,” he said, noting that Senate Republicans have to defend 23 seats while Democrats only have to protect 12.
A Reuters/Ipsos poll of 1,113 adults conducted Monday and Tuesday showed that 55 percent of Americans disapproved of Trump’s handling of the protests while independents also voiced majority disapproval of his response.
But Cramer said it’s not likely that Trump is going to change his style between now and the election.
“It’s hard to not be who you are. He’s being who he is. It’s got him there, it’s what got him to this point,” he said. “He has defied [polls] historically."
State battleground polls are showing some alarming developments for Republicans.
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