OPINION: Republican 2020 Senate Prospects Are Looking Bright Thanks To Nancy Pelosi

Photo credit should read JOSE LUIS MAGANA/AFP/Getty Images

Ben Whedon Associate Editor
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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s resolution against President Trump’s national emergency declaration may backfire by allowing Senate Republicans facing tough re-elections the chance to appear more moderate in voting it down without any real political consequences.

It doesn’t matter if the Senate upholds Pelosi’s resolution, since Trump will just veto it. With 53 Republicans to the 45 Democrats and two independents in the Senate, Democrats would need a minimum of 20 Republicans to defect in order to override a veto. Moreover, the House voted 245-182 against the president’s declaration and would need more than 40 additional Republicans to override a veto. Neither are likely scenarios.

There are 22 Republican seats up for re-election in 2020 and only 12 for the Democrats. Most of the Republican seats are in relatively safe states that vote red by wide margins reliably, but several are in battleground states and two are in states Trump lost in 2016.

North Carolina Republican Sen. Thom Tillis, Georgia Republican Sen. David Perdue and Arizona Republican Sen. Martha McSally will all have a tough time. However, Colorado Republican Sen. Cory Gardner and Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins will have the worst of it, running in states that went for Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Gardner, Perdue and McSally have stayed relatively quiet on the vote while Collins and Tillis have both declared their intent to vote down Trump’s emergency declaration already. They join Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul and Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski in opposition. Paul has estimated that at least 10 Republicans will vote against the president. If this plays true, it is reasonable to expect that Gardner will be among them.

Clinton won Colorado by almost five percentage points in 2016. Gardner, now in his first term, took 48 percent of the vote in 2014, defeating his Democratic opponent by 2 percent, though a Libertarian and several Independent candidates all took some of the vote. Events may not play to Gardner’s advantage this time. He has generally portrayed himself moderately and a vote against Trump’s emergency would lend some credibility to that image, potentially keeping him afloat in a state that is almost certain to break for the Democrats in the national election.

Collins, however, is a four-term incumbent, and has consistently won re-election in a state that hasn’t gone red in decades. She did, however, draw considerable criticism for her support of Brett Kavanaugh during his confirmation to the Supreme Court. Her opposition to Trump in what might be his most controversial move to date, may yet redeem her in the eyes of her own constituents and allow her electoral streak to continue.

Tillis has already announced his intent to vote against the emergency, but has also said he won’t vote to override to a veto. Trump won North Carolina comfortably in 2016 whereas Tillis pulled off a narrow upset in 2014. His defiance of the president may help him, but may not even be necessary. Perdue and McSally are in similar situations in Georgia and Arizona respectively, though both states went for Trump and elected (or re-elected) Republican governors in the 2018 midterms. A vote against the president may help them if their races are close, but may not be necessary either.

The only likely Republican pickup will be in Alabama where Democrat Doug Jones holds the seat by virtue of a special election against a scandalized opponent. Shy of the Republicans nominating another toxic candidate, Jones is pretty much doomed. Republicans have a shot in Michigan, New Hampshire and Minnesota, but they are still unlikely pickups at best. Even so, the reclamation of Alabama would allow Republicans to lose three seats in 2020 while keeping the 51-seat majority necessary to control the chamber should they lose the presidency.

Some will, of course, see this vote as a rebuke of Trump. It may very well be that, but it’s little more than a toothless snarl without a real override threat. The Democrats will gain very little save a fleeting applause from the liberal media. One could argue that the vote will force Trump’s first veto and deprive him of a talking point for the campaign. However, the claim that Trump never issued a veto in his term is unlikely to placate any critics of his use of executive power. In truth, he probably wouldn’t have touted it to any great degree during the campaign anyway. It’s not his style.

Ben Whedon (@BenWhedon) is an editor for the Daily Caller News Foundation.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.