- - Sunday, July 16, 2017


If anybody can blow a sure thing, the Republicans can, but 2018 is not shaping up yet as an opportunity for the Democrats to regain control of the U.S. Senate. Democratic candidates are raising money by the barrel, but more in partisan hope than realistic expectation.

Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York needs “only” three additional seats to regain the use of a Senate limousine with driver, but he and the party chiefs are sorely perplexed when they study the map to see where they might find those seats.

Nine seats now held by Republicans will be up for the taking, but 15 Democratic seats are at risk, and six of those Democratic senators will be running in states where Donald Trump’s victory margins were “uuuuuge,” ranging from 8 percent in Ohio, where Sherrod Brown is the incumbent, to West Virginia, where Joe Manchin will be running in a state that Mr. Trump carried by as astonishing 42 points.

The president won by 36 points in North Dakota (Heidi Heitkamp is the incumbent), 20 points in Montana (Jon Tester) and by 19 points in Indiana (Joe Donnelly) and Missouri (Claire McCaskill). Four other Democrats — Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Tammy Baldwin in Wisconsin and Bill Nelson of Florida — will be running in states Mr. Trump carried by margins ranging from .02 percent to 1.2 percent. They can’t take anything for granted, either.

Two shafts of Democratic sunshine might be observable, where the skies are only partly cloudy all day, in Arizona and Nevada. The Republican incumbents, Jeff Flake and Dean Heller, are running scared, and should be.

“Since several of these Democrats are better-than-average campaigners,” says Karl Rove, once described as “George Bush’s brain” and a sometime Republican consultant, “and Republicans must also recruit strong challengers. The GOP can’t beat something without something better. Screaming ‘liberal, liberal, liberal’ won’t work, either. Republicans must show voters that these Democrats say one thing during election [campaigns] and something else between.”

He writes in The Wall Street Journal that the key to Republican success is getting things done in Congress, where the fractured Senate is stalled, with senators running in several directions — some in circles, some just looking for an exit and a shady place, and some with a message that might have been fashioned atop the tower of Babel. If the Republicans can’t repeal and replace Obamacare, as promised at high decibel for nearly a decade, and enact tax reform, there will be dismay and disillusion in the grass-roots, donors will shut their pocketbooks and Republicans will lose, lose, lose.

That would take some doing, of course, but the Republican campaign mantra — “vote for us, we’re not as bad as you think” — is wearing exceedingly thin, and the party would be back to the grim days of yesteryear, when the forlorn battle cry was “wait ‘til next year.”

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