Senate Democrats are looking like winners in Arizona, Colorado, Maine, and North Carolina. Their leads are so large at this point that it’s hard to see, absent scandal, how they won’t win. Democrats are also looking good in the next tier of races, tied or leading in Iowa, both Georgia seats, and Montana. Kansas and Texas are in the third tier, which is lean or likely Republican, but within the realm of possibility.
And then there are the fourth-tier races—those that are “likely or safe Republican.” While some early polling looks encouraging, it would be really tough for Democrats to pick up absent a massive Democratic wave. And here, I’m mostly talking about challenges in Kentucky and South Carolina, and our incumbent senator in Alabama. And yet, Trump’s national polling collapse threatens Republican holds on these seats even if they remain safely red in the presidential race.
Alabama has been considered a lost cause almost from the moment that Democratic incumbent Doug Jones won the seat in a 2017 special election 50-48.3—a margin of just 22,000 votes—against a child predator, someone who even admitted approaching teenage girls while he was in his 30s. It has seemed inconceivable that Democrats would ever hold that seat during a presidential year in a state that gave Trump a 61-34 victory in 2016.
And certainly Civiqs’ daily tracker of Trump’s job approvals in Alabama shows his job approval rating hovering in the 60-40 range for the last three years. But look what suddenly happened:
That’s a fall from +20 net approvals during impeachment to single digits +9 today, or a net 11-point drop. That outpaces the drops we’ve seen nationally (around a net 5-point drop).
The drop is even bigger in Kentucky, the third most pro-Trump state after Wyoming and West Virginia.
That’s a drop from his high-water mark of around +25 net approvals (60-35) to +13 today (54-41), or a net 12-point drop.
The last of these three tough fourth-tier Senate states is South Carolina:
The drop here is actually in line with national results: a 5-point drop from +8 net approvals to +3 (50-47).
Now, Trump will win all three of these states. And he’ll win them all easily. That’s not the point here.
The point is that for Democrats to have any chance, they’ll need ticket splitters or voters who don’t fill the ballot past the presidential contest. The stronger the pro-Trump vote is, the tougher that task becomes.
In 2008, incumbent Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who is the current Republican leader in the Senate, won his election race 53-47. That same year, on the same ballot, John McCain defeated Barack Obama 57-41. McConnell ran 10 points behind the top of the ticket.
So yeah, if Trump wins Kentucky along the same lines as his 63-33 victory in 2016, then the Democrats won’t defeat McConnell, period. But as we’ve seen in recent polling, Trump’s share of the Biden versus Trump vote is closely correlated to his personal ratings. If Trump’s popularity continues to falter in the state (and the pandemic and job losses aren’t going anywhere any time soon), that presidential race could tighten, and that hill Democrats must climb gets easier and easier. Same goes for Alabama, South Carolina, and pretty much every single other state.
Can Democrats win these three states? If the election were today, they wouldn’t. But given Trump’s inability to show anything akin to leadership in these critical times, the more he falls, the better our chances.
You want to chip in and help? It wouldn’t be a bad idea, so here you go!