How bad are the GOP’s election chances in 2020?

When Republicans are forced to resort to frat-boy, panty-raid antics to distract from impeachment, you know they’re in trouble.

Political prognosticators have been sounding the 2020 doom-and-gloom alarm for the Grandstanding Obsequious Party for a while now. And although any speculation at this point is just that — speculation — there is evidence that Republicans might face trouble up and down the ballot.

One of the traditional barometers for a party’s chances in the next election is to add up how many incumbent senators and representatives are calling it quits. Right now, those numbers stand at four incumbent GOP senators — Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Pat Roberts of Kansas, Johnny Isakson of Georgia, and Mike Enzi of Wyoming — and 18 incumbent GOP representatives bailing out on the chance for another term. Especially in the House of Representatives, being in the minority isn’t much fun. The GOP retirees include six in Texas alone and two of the already minuscule number of 13 GOP women in the House, Susan Brooks of Indiana and Martha Roby of Alabama.

On the Democratic side, the numbers are much smaller: five House Democrats, including California Rep. Katie Hill, who resigned, and one Democratic senator—Tom Udall of New Mexico—are leaving.

One of the planned GOP retirees, 12-term incumbent John Shimkus of Illinois briefly toyed with the idea of reconsidering his decision. The announced retirement of Greg Walden of Oregon would give Shimkus a chance at the top spot on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. “I liken it to a triple-A ballplayer who gets the chance to get called up,” he told Roll Call.

Here’s the trouble for Shimkus, though, which is why he gave up the back-and-forth idea of sticking around. When he thought he was retiring, he was perfectly happy to disown Donald Trump, condemning Trump’s Syria strategy and telling his chief of staff in Washington to “Pull my name off the ‘I support Donald Trump’ list,” as he told an St. Louis-area radio station. Now that he might be back in the race, he’s forced to reboard the Trump train.

In almost the same breath, Shimkus began to walk back some of his recent comments criticizing President Donald Trump, stressing that, while he might have a “policy difference or two” with the president, there are many more issues on which their views align.

The about-face demonstrates the difficulty Republicans in solid red districts have had voicing opposition to Trump. Shimkus’ district, Illinois’ 15th, voted for Trump by 46 points in 2016.

And there’s the problem for Republicans running for reelection: They’ve got a 239-pound (HA!) orange albatross around their necks.

The headlines are chock full of bad predictions for Republicans, up and down the ticket, and Donald Trump is to blame.

From Paul Waldman of The Washington Post: How a small number of GOP defections could doom Trump in 2020. The opinion piece describes possible cracks in the GOP Senate wall. Seven Republicans, including three retirees and two incumbents facing tough reelection fights, refused to sign on to the inane impeachment-is-illegitimate resolution from South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham, Trump’s ass-kisser-in-chief. (Graham’s likely Democratic opponent, Jamie Harrison, is raising enough money so that 2020 might be a real race for the incumbent.)

Here’s why even a few defections matter.

You don’t need a large number of Republicans to oppose Trump to have a profound impact on the 2020 election. All you need is some kind of critical mass, enough to signal to moderate Republican voters that you can still be a Republican and vote for a Democrat in 2020, or vote third party, or not vote at all.

Even if the Senate refuses to remove Trump from office after he’s impeached, any GOP votes to get rid of the Orange Menace would generate “Republicans Divided!” headlines, Walden argues.

The result would be a good-sized collection of Republican candidates opposing Trump all over the country — enough to signal Republicans everywhere that defection from this president is not treason against their party.

And that would almost guarantee Trump’s defeat.

Yeah, that’s wishful thinking. But those predictions are growing.

From Politico: Why Republicans should be worried about their chances of retaking the House. This argument is all about money, and how Democratic incumbents have a lot of it.

Thirty-three of the 44 most vulnerable House Democrats have stashed an impressive $1 million or more in the bank well before the election year even begins. …

“Last cycle, there were a lot of people talking about this massive Democratic online fundraising as if it was somewhat of an aberration,” said Cam Savage, a veteran GOP operative. “I think it’s the new normal.” …

Democrats have undoubtedly amassed a head start in a battle that will be waged in suburban districts that lie in the most expensive media markets in the country.

The story goes on to argue that Republicans are counting on an impeachment backlash. Good luck with that strategy. Here’s the difference in online fundraising for the two parties:

Republicans have been working quickly to launch WinRed, their online donor portal, which raised $30 million last quarter. But operatives admit it could take years or even cycles before it can match ActBlue, which funneled $297 million to Democratic candidates in the third quarter.

From Axios: The GOP’s nightmare scenario. More and more Republicans are afraid of losing the whole trifecta, so goes the logic. The signs show up in polling, fundraising, and dismal approval ratings for Trump. The six Texas retirements are even being described as a “Texodus.”

A growing number of Republicans are privately warning of increasing fears of a total wipeout in 2020: House, Senate, and White House. …

Scott Reed, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce senior political strategist, tells me that third-quarter fundraising reports showing three Republican senators being out-raised by Democratic challengers (in Arizona, Iowa, and Maine) “are a three-alarm fire.” …

“We have to spend early because the climate stinks,” Reed said. “All these incumbent senators have terrible job approvals and terrible favorables.”

From Chris Cillizza of CNN: Here’s how you know Republicans don’t think they are winning back the House in 2020. I know, I know, it’s Chris Cillizza, but he has a good point about Greg Walden’s retirement in Oregon.

There is NO way — short of some sort of medical diagnosis — that if Walden truly believed Republicans were taking back the House in a year, he’d be voluntarily walking away from the chance at being a hugely powerful chairman for the following two years. No way. Just not how Washington works. …

While the economy is perceived as strong and Republicans need a relatively small number of seats to get back the majority (18-seat net gain), Trump’s weak job approval rating and wild unpredictability have combined to create a national political dynamic that appears to favor Democrats.

We’ve still got a year until the 2020 election, and after 2016, we should take any electoral predictions with Mount Everest-size mountains of salt. Republicans in many states are still trying to put up voter suppression roadblocks such as closing polling places in predominantly Democratic districts, trying new gerrymandering strategies, shortening early voting days, and removing voters from voting rolls.

Still, FiveThirtyEight’s generic congressional ballot tracker has consistently given Democrats about a six-point advantage. Trump’s approval ratings have been underwater forever, and in current match-ups, he loses to several Democratic contenders. If the 2018 midterm election results are any indication, there are an awful lot of Democratic voters itching to cast their ballots for Team Blue.

But voters in both parties are showing high levels of enthusiasm about 2020. There is an equal level of enthusiasm in voters itching to vote for and against Trump. Races will be close, and many races seen as cut and dry could turn into nail-biters.

So the usual caveats are more important than ever: Register new voters. Make sure your friends, coworkers, and relatives vote. Help out campaigns by donating and volunteering. Knock on doors, write postcards, and make phone calls. And VOTE.

Originally posted on Daily Kos on Nov. 3, 2019.

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