The worse Trump does, the more pathetic Senate Republicans’ blind fealty to him looks

Republican lawmakers are twisting themselves into pretzels trying to figure out how to save their own hides without attracting the rage and fury of Donald Trump.

Four of the most vulnerable Senate Republicans have already disappeared Trump from their TV ads as if the bloviator in chief doesn't actually exist. In essence: Trump? Yeah, never heard of him, except that one time I voted to clear him of all impeachment charges without ever hearing from a single witness.

That would be Sens. Martha McSally of Arizona, Cory Gardner of Colorado, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, and Susan Collins of Maine. All of those Republicans, while trying to dodge Trump's ire, have figured out there's no upside to overtly aligning themselves with a guy whose approvals are cratering as he blows it on the nation's two biggest crises. 

But stuck in the middle are GOP senators like Joni Ernst of Iowa, John Cornyn of Texas, and David Perdue of Georgia—who haven't yet reached the point of no return where they realize Trump is clearly dooming them. 

Perdue, for instance, wasn't willing to answer reporter questions on Trump spinning conspiracy theories about a 75-year-old activist who was shoved to the ground by Buffalo police officers. But asked about attacks on Perdue's fealty to Trump, his spokesperson offered: "Bring it on," according to the AP.

Anti-Trumper and GOP strategist Tim Miller calls Republicans "hostages" but is still mystified that they couldn't find the basic resolve to separate themselves from Trump's insane attack on an elderly protester. 

“I’m not asking them to become Twitter trolls,” Miller said. “But I don’t see why they don’t take opportunities to put a little distance between themselves and the president.”

Of course, that's how we arrived here in the first place. Republicans are truly spineless—they haven't shown a lick of integrity or concern for their oaths of office since the day Trump took office. Just reckless acquiescence to a man who is clearly physically and mentally not well. So the idea that they might show a bit of dignity or put country first at risk of drawing a mean tweet from Trump is just unthinkable to them.

What remains to be seen is how many Senate Republicans running for reelection this November are willing to get on a stage with Trump. Remember, the last GOP politicians in tough races to do some high-profile campaigning with Trump were 2019 GOP gubernatorial candidates Matt Bevin in Kentucky and Eddie Rispone in Louisiana. They both lost.

Trump mysteriously disappears from Senate Republican campaign ads

In early February, all but one Republican senator outright voted to acquit Donald Trump of impeachment charges without so much as hearing from one single witness. But judging by Senate Republican campaign ads four months later, you'd be forgiven if you thought Trump had been convicted and booted from office.  

In 15 campaign ads released since March by Senate Republicans in competitive races, pictures of Trump were nowhere to be found in any of them, according to a review by the Daily Beast. Trump managed to get a single mention in a late April ad by North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis bragging that the senator had been appointed to the now irrelevant White House coronavirus task force. That ad has likely already been benched since Trump's all but tweeted “uncle” at the virus. 

Tillis, who has voted with Trump more than 93% of the time, has gone through quite the transformation in the last several months. When Senate Republicans voted to save Trump's presidency, Tillis released a Trump-centric ad defending that vote, touting Trump's trade deals, and reminding voters that Trump would indeed be on the ballot in November. Oops.  

In a do-over this week, Tillis sympathizes with the economic difficulties many residents in his state are facing while entirely abandoning Trump and his happy talk about jumpstarting the economy and "TRANSITIONING TO GREATNESS."

A similar erasure of Trump is happening in ads from GOP incumbents in Maine, Arizona, Colorado, and Montana. Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner, who's voted with Trump 89% of the time, skips over Trump completely while hyping his bipartisan work with Democratic Gov. Jared Polis to confront the coronavirus. Maine Sen. Susan Collins appears to have switched parties in one ad featuring her alongside Democratic senators Tim Kaine of Virginia and Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

Looks like GOP senators took to heart that memo released by the National Republican Senatorial Committee advising against defending Trump. None of these senators are trying to defend the indefensible, even after they voted to keep his presidency alive. Instead, many have taken the memo's advice to scapegoat China for Trump's failures at every turn.

Even Arizona Sen. Martha McSally—who has voted with Trump 95% of the time—moved away from ads earlier this year skewering her Democratic challenger for supporting Trump’s impeachment and removal. Now, McSally's busy playing up the business ties of Democrat Mark Kelly, who's trouncing her in the polls, to China. 

Sure, Senate Republicans are fundraising off Trump in targeted emails, but they're not touching him with a 10-foot pole in their large-scale ads. Expect to see more of the mysteriously disappearing Trump since more GOP Senate seats are in play by the week, it seems. Trump's simply too toxic to touch—too bad all the Senate Republicans up for reelection this cycle put their personal stamp of approval on Trump with their acquittal votes.

Below are several examples of recent ads.

Sen. Cory Gardner

Sen. Martha McSally

Sen. Susan Collins

Prospects for Senate Republicans in November just keep getting worse, worse, and worse

Senate Republicans just can't put out the fires Donald Trump keeps setting fast enough. At first, their effort to maintain their majority in November centered around defending four main seats in Maine, Arizona, Colorado, and North Carolina while hoping for a pickup of Sen. Doug Jones' seat in Alabama.

But Trump's cratering approvals and his spectacularly horrible leadership skills in a crisis just keep sucking more states into play.  

Are you just plain sick of Senate Republicans? Do something about it! Give $2 right now to the effort to kick Mitch McConnell and his GOP majority to the curb. 

For starters, Trump's approvals keep sinking. Gallup just put him at 39% in a poll taken from May 28 to June 4, slipping 10 points from 49% in late March. Notably, only 47% of Americans approve of Trump's handling of the economy according to Gallup's latest survey, which is a steep tumble from 63% approval in January. The economy has always been Trump's strongest issue area.

Bloomberg News reports that Trump huddled with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell Wednesday, the same day Gallup's new poll was released. Neither one of them disclosed their private conversation, but it hardly matters—Republicans are irrevocably tied to Trump at this point. Not only have they simply surrendered like a bunch of lemmings, they built him into the lawless monster he's become and then voted to save his presidency without even fielding a proper impeachment trial.

What that means is that Democrats' pickup opportunities in the Senate just keep expanding beyond those seats held by Sens. Susan Collins, Cory Gardner, Martha McSally, and Thom Tillis. Overall, Republicans are defending 23 Senate seats to just 12 for Democrats. The new states that Democrats are eyeing include Iowa, Montana, and Georgia. Here are some basic data points for each:

Iowa: The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee put $7.3 million into TV/digital ads targeting Sen. Joni Ernst's seat, with two recent polls showing Ernst's Democratic challenger, Theresa Greenfield, up by several points. 

Montana: The DSCC also directed $5.2 million to Montana to help Democrat Steve Bullock, the state's current governor, topple incumbent GOP Sen. Steve Daines.

Georgia: No DSCC action here yet, but Cook Political Report recently re-rated incumbent Sen. David Perdue's seat to "Lean R," making it more competitive. Ernst's and Daines' seats are also in the Lean Republican category, as is the seat of the other Georgia GOP senator, Kelly Loeffler. 

Other possibilities remain, such as in Kansas, where GOP right-winger Kris Kobach—who lost his 2018 gubernatorial bid—could become the Republican nominee to replace retiring Sen. Pat Roberts. 

Republicans are also putting money into defending states beyond the original four. The Senate Leadership Fund, a McConnell-aligned super PAC, reserved $10.1 million in radio/TV space this month in Montana, and Iowa was part of the PAC's $67.1 million ad buy in March. That buy also included Arizona, Colorado, Maine, North Carolina, and Kentucky (McConnell's seat!).

A spokesperson for the National Republican Senatorial Committee made the laughable argument that once more money was spent defining these Democratic challengers, they wouldn't look so hot.

“A lot of these Democrats haven’t had much money spent against them yet and once their records are litigated voter opinion will turn against them,” Jesse Hunt told Bloomberg.

The idea that any of these Democrats' records could be worse than voting to save Trump's presidency just in time for him to screw up a pandemic response and a national reckoning on race is sheer folly. Senate Republicans can spend all the money they want—they will rise and fall with Donald Trump. He is their fate.