The Senate: Disinterested Democrats
“Senate Democrats’ bid to take back the majority is running into a big roadblock,” said James Arkin and Burgess Everett in Politico.com. “Some of their most coveted recruiting targets are refusing to run.” Rising star Stacey Abrams, who fell just shy of Georgia’s governorship in 2018, declined despite “a sustained and public recruitment” by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). Iowa Rep. Cindy Axne and Texas Rep. Joaquin Castro both rejected opportunities to challenge the GOP’s Senate incumbent. Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, and Montana Gov. Steve Bullock all spurned their party’s calls to make Senate runs, and are running for president instead. “We really need to get some good recruits,” fretted one Democratic strategist.
You really can’t blame high-profile Democrats for their lack of interest, said Eleanor Clift in TheDailyBeast.com. Once the world’s most exclusive club, the Senate is “mired in gridlock” and “not the stepping-stone to the presidency it once was.” In this bitterly partisan era, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell “has stripped away many of the rules and traditions that made the Senate a club politicians wanted to join.” It’s also a smart career move to skip the Senate, said Ed Kilgore in NYMag.com—especially for Democrats from red states, like Abrams and O’Rourke. Senate races have become so overshadowed by national political polarization that ticket splitting has become rare. “In 2016, all 34 races were won by the party that won the state in question in the presidential contest. That’s never happened before.” Given that Trump is popular in their states, it’s not hard to see why Bullock and O’Rourke don’t want to run for the Senate.
Nonetheless, the stakes for controlling the Senate are high, said Paul Waldman in The Washington Post. If the Democrats win the White House, but not the three seats necessary to seize the Senate, they “could face an opposition party that acts as though the president has no legitimacy whatsoever.” Remember, Republicans tried to do this when Barack Obama was in office, and Trump has only emboldened the party to adopt more outrageously partisan antics. If a Democrat became president, McConnell could refuse to fill Supreme Court vacancies until 2024. “Cabinet confirmations? Sorry, we’re not going to let a bunch of socialists govern.” And if you think “Republicans would never go that far, you haven’t been living on this planet for the past decade or two.”