Today this vision has changed drastically.
“In this way, I am very happy that my boss does not participate in the vote in this cycle,” said a high-ranking GOP Senate assistant.
Republican strategists are increasingly concerned that Trump is slated for defeat in November and that he may be dragging other Republicans with him.
Seven GOP agents not directly associated with the President’s reelection campaign have told CNN that Trump’s response to the pandemic and subsequent economic fallout has significantly damaged his offer for a second term – and that the effects are starting to hurt Republicans. more broadly. Some of these agents asked not to be identified to speak more bluntly.
All of this demonstrates how difficult it is to run as a Republican Republican almost anywhere in 2020. Strategists who spoke with CNN fear that Trump has become a responsibility for Republicans who need to expand their coalition beyond the central base of President supporters.
Considering that a few months ago, they were confident of the party’s chances at all levels, many of the strategists who spoke to CNN have lowered their expectations, and now speak in terms of minimizing what they care about it could be a disaster for the GOP. This leaves them hoping for a minor rather than devastating defeat, something akin to Mitt Romney’s close loss in 2012, when Republicans lost two Senate seats, rather than John McCain’s performance four years earlier, when they lost eight.
“Republican candidates need something more like Romney in ’12 and less than McCain in ’08,” said Liam Donovan, a GOP strategist in Washington.
The broadest fear among Republicans is that the election will become a referendum on Trump’s performance during the pandemic. Together with a cratered economy, the effect could be devastating both by depressing the Republican faithful and by turning off voters.
That two-by-two blow could bring down the GOP in Washington – and that’s what strategists hope the President’s reelection team can successfully turn the race into a choice between Trump and an unpleasant Biden.
But that effort has become increasingly difficult against the backdrop of a pandemic that has destroyed many of the economic gains that Republicans had hoped to base their reelection argument on.
“This is the only thing that (Trump) can’t change the subject,” said a Republican strategist. “This is not a political opponent, it is not going in the right direction and has never had to do with something like this.”
Trump’s campaign has claimed that Americans trust the president when it comes to running the economy and will choose him as the person to lead the recovery.
“The economic message resonates strongly, particularly at a time like this,” said Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh. “President Trump is clearly the one who brings us back to that position. He did it once, he will do it again.”
However, the concern for Republicans beyond Trump’s orbit is that if there are no signs of an economy turning the corner by November, this will be an impossible argument for Trump’s campaign.
“In the absence of some sort of V-shaped recovery, many people think he died in the water,” said the Republican strategist.
In the four years since the GOP nomination win, Trump has consolidated his position within the party. This made it more difficult for congressional Republicans to distance themselves from him without opposing his base. This, say Republican agents, risks keeping voters who might consider the GOP but don’t like the president away.
“It’s a very, very difficult environment. If you graduate and live in the suburbs, you don’t want to vote for us,” said a longtime Republican congressional advisor, who added that there is a serious concern about bloody support. by both the elderly and self-described independent men.
The main concern of the party, some of these Republicans say, should be held back by the majority of the Senate. The task requires Senate candidates to appeal to suburban voters who launched themselves against Democrats in the 2018 midterm elections in response to Trump.
But this goal is complicated by the way in which dependent Republican candidates have the highest turnout for the President, even in states where Trump’s campaign does not plan to win. GOP Sens. Cory Gardner in Colorado and Susan Collins in Maine cannot afford a depressed Trump base in their states, even if they play their independent identities to win swing voters.
And concern for Republicans goes beyond endangered incumbents – including Sens. Martha McSally of Arizona and Thom Tillis of North Carolina. There is also the possibility, in a bad year for Trump, that the Senate seats held by the GOP in Georgia and Montana may be in trouble, said Donovan.
Distance from the president
Meanwhile, the crater economy has intensified the need for Republican senators to subtly differentiate themselves from Trump and his predecessors. Scott Reed, political director of the United States Chamber of Commerce and veteran of the Republican campaigns, said that a presidential re-election campaign is “always” a referendum on the incumbent and his party.
Reed says that incumbents should also trump their localized personal achievements and areas where they have been independent of Trump without specifically alienating pro-Trump republicans in their states.
The line aims to combat the most consistent line of criticism from Democrats – which Collins voted in line with the Trump administration on everything from judicial appointments to healthcare to the president’s acquittal on impeachment – without having to deny Trump himself.
Republicans point out that while Democrats and progressive interest groups have already spent millions on television and digital advertisements against incumbents, the GOP and its own allied PACs have yet to fully engage in the air war against democratic challengers.
“The truth is despite having been massively expelled by liberal dark money groups, Republicans are still well positioned to hold the majority of the Senate in the fall,” said Jesse Hunt, a spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
Trump’s campaign downplayed the worries of Republicans who voted for the low, pointing out that a unified GOP offers the best chance of winning across the board in November.
“Any candidate who wants to win will run with the President,” said Erin Perrine, deputy director of communications for the Trump campaign. “It has the energy, enthusiasm and basic infrastructure. If you are a candidate you will want to be part of that movement.”
But what the Republican professionals say would be of great help if the President had followed an encouraging message about bringing the country back from the pandemic.
“When he does it for three consecutive days, it really blows his numbers up,” Reed said. “We need command performance on message discipline.”
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