Democrats’ Dread Deja Vu: Another 50-50 Senate

Tightening races and fears of a narrow GOP takeover lead to finger pointing at the performance of the Senate Democratic super PAC, especially in key potential recovery states.

Asked about the possibility of another Senate locked at 50-50, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) saying.

“Lord…obviously, we’d rather it had less.” But we’ll feel like it’s the myth of Sisyphus or something,” he said, referring to the Greek mythological tale of a man doomed to push the same stone. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, he added, will feel like “I tried to roll a rock down the hill, and it fell back on me.”

In a statement to POLITICO, Schumer said, “This 50/50 Senate has been one of the most productive the Senate has ever seen, so if that’s the case again in the next Congress, we will aspire to the same. “

The New York Democrat has indeed managed to secure bipartisan victories on infrastructure, gun safety and microchips in addition to two major party line victories. And he transferred from his war chest $1 million each to Barnes and Fetterman. But some party operatives see the Senate Majority PAC, the caucus’ main outside group, as contributing to its candidates’ recent stumbles.

The super PAC was overtaken by its GOP counterpart, the Mitch McConnell-affiliated Senate leadership fund, in the home stretch. That negated some Democratic fundraising advantages and raised eyebrows within the party over the Senate Majority PAC strategy. Some Democrats have also complained that the group hasn’t played the jugular enough.

“I think the current poll speaks for itself,” said Irene Lin, a Democratic strategist who led Wisconsin Senate hopeful Tom Nelson’s campaign in the state’s 2022 primary. Lin added that the Senate Democratic super PAC was not solely responsible for Barnes not having adequate air coverage, but argued that his ads “clearly did not penetrate the message.”

She recounted hearing Barnes supporters “seeing ad after ad against Mandela about crime and his taxes, and begging for a response from the Dems, and saying they saw none”, observing that Johnson “started as the second most unpopular senator in America, and his approvals have gone up!

PAC Senate Majority Spokeswoman Veronica Yoo said in a statement, “We have 23 days left to elect John Fetterman and Mandela Barnes and defend our Democratic Senate majority — that’s what we’re on. focus and encourage our fellow Democrats to do the same. ”

In Pennsylvania, the Democrats’ best pick-up opportunity, a person with knowledge of the inner workings of the Fetterman campaign said there had been “widespread disappointment” and “bewilderment” about the efforts of the Senate majority PAC in the campaign. ‘State. A second person in the same situation described “frustration” while a third person close to Fetterman’s camp said “we felt a bit exposed in September and were really holding our breath, and things are looking better on the ground now”.

Fetterman’s adviser, Rebecca Katz, said in a statement that “they have smart people and we have smart people. We are all focused on winning.

Doc Sweitzer, a Democratic media consultant from Pennsylvania, said the Senate Majority PAC initially failed to keep its foot on the gas after Oz won the May primary.

“If you’re fighting someone, you can’t let them get off the ground. And they let them take off, and they’re paying for it now,” Sweitzer said of the party’s efforts to defeat the Trump-approved TV doctor. “By normal standards, a guy who’s 60% negative – which Oz has – can’t be elected.”

Sweitzer, however, says he still sees Fetterman winning and things have improved recently. Although Republicans were spending more than Democrats — and running more ads — in states like Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, that has changed in recent weeks, according to media tracking sources. Democrats are now ahead or tied with Republicans.

Much of that catch-up came from the Senate PAC majority bolstering its presence: The super PAC increased Pennsylvania spending from $9 million in September to $22 million in October, including future reservations , with Wisconsin investment jumping from nearly $7 million to $10 million over the same period, according to ad tracking firm AdImpact. Senate GOP super PAC spending in the two states, meanwhile, has remained largely the same.

POLITICO currently lists Nevada, Georgia, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin as Senate draws. If Cortez Masto loses in Nevada and Fetterman takes Pennsylvania, but party control of all other tosses remains the same, it’s a 50-50 Senate again.

In Georgia, the race between Sen. Raphael Warnock and former soccer star Herschel Walker remains close, even after Walker’s anti-abortion struggles to explain a report he paid for an abortion. An Emerson College poll released this week found Warnock with 48% support and Walker at 46%.

If neither senator tops 50% on Election Day, the race will go to another runoff in December — a repeat of the 2020 election that gave the current Senate 50-50.

And in Wisconsin, the latest Marquette Law School poll released Wednesday shows that 52% of likely voters support Johnson, with 46% for Barnes. In the battleground states of Arizona and New Hampshire, where Republicans have recently cut ad buys, Sens. Mark Kelly (D-Arizona) and Maggie Hassan (DN.H.) are leading the polls.

“Democrats have put Republicans on defense all over the Senate map – our incumbents are well positioned for victory and we have multiple pick-up opportunities that remain strongly in play,” said David Bergstein, spokesman for the Senate Committee. Democratic Senate campaign. “We are focused on the work we need to protect and expand the Democratic majority in the Senate, and all other Democrats who want to win should do the same.”

Another equally divided Senate would continue to leave Democrats no room for error, especially on President Joe Biden’s nominee confirmations. It would kill progressive hopes of throwing out the filibuster, even as Barnes and Fetterman campaign to be the 51st and 52nd votes to do so. With the survival of the filibuster, the Democratic dream of codifying Roe vs. Wade would be out the window.

And of course, with Republicans likely to win the House next year, the dynamics in Congress would compel Schumer to work with a president. Kevin McCarthy. The bipartisan legislative achievements Democrats have highlighted this year have received little support from House Republicans, and the looming 2024 presidential election will make legislation under a divided government all the more difficult.

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) predicted that if Congress is split next year, “it will be a struggle,” adding that he hopes “it won’t lead to a stalemate.” As for another 50-50 Senate, Durbin replied, “I would like to see a clear majority, I think we could do a lot more.”

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