Senate Brief: News from the 2018 Campaign for U.S. Senate

Week of Tuesday, September 5

IN BRIEF: Bruised after a terrible August recess, the Senate GOP’s hopes of regaining momentum will come crashing into a September traffic jam. The two most vulnerable Republican Senators, Jeff Flake and Dean Heller, have been eviscerated in recent approval rating polls and have seen their race rankings shift in in the direction of a Democratic win.

Now they face a pressure-cooker September with a number of must-pass bills and important Republican priorities coming up this month that are fraught with political landmines, including extending the debt limit, avoiding a government shutdown, aid for victims of Hurricane Harvey and extending the national flood insurance program, and fixing individual healthcare markets.

Catch up on the damage dealt to Republicans during the long, hot summer:

  • Arizona: With the President and other Republicans continuing to attack Senator Flake, several prognosticators moved the race in the Democrats’ direction. Sabato’s Crystal Ball and  Inside Electionsrecently moved the race toward Democrats, while CNN and The Hill ranked one of the top five most likely seats to flip in 2018. Sen. Flake’s approval rating has fallen to a jaw-dropping 18%,  and only 31% of Arizonans would vote for Flake’s reelection.
  • Nevada: As Senator Heller faces assaults on all sides, the Democrats’ chances have been getting better.Sabato’s Crystal Ball and The Cook Political Report both recently moved Heller from “Leans Republican” to “Toss-up.” CNN and The Hill both ranked Nevada the Senate seat most likely to flip in 2018. Sen. Heller’s approval rating clocks in at a meager 22% according to a recent poll — while 50% prefer a Democrat.
  • Indiana: The bruising Senate primary only got worse over the August recess, with reports that prima donna and private plane-owner Rep. Todd Rokita issued an eight-page memo on how to chauffeur him, and is a nightmare boss, screaming at staffers and docking their pay for minor offenses. Meanwhile, Hoosiers are about to get a reminder that Rep. Luke Messer — 5th in House leadership — is a portrait of the Washington establishment they hate. His knee-jerk partisanship and total lack of ability to get things done will be on stark display in September as the House grapples with a long to-do list.
  • Ohio: This summer, two GOP candidates joined State Treasurer Josh Mandel in the race for Senate, setting up a primary battle that will leave the eventual nominee damaged and with depleted funds. Mandel himself also seemingly can’t stop with the missteps, from promoting himself with millions of taxpayer dollars, to siding with white nationalists, to announcing a faith outreach team made up of only white Christian conservatives.
  • North Dakota: Republican odds in North Dakota are getting even longer, with their field still divided between at least four potential candidates — and one self-funder who has already tossed his hat into the ring. Sabato’s Crystal Ball recently moved the race from “Toss-up” to “Leans Democratic,” and Sen. Heitkamp’s most recent approval rating was 60%, according to a Morning Consult survey.
  • West Virginia: Senator Manchin is the most popular statewide elected official according to a new poll byMetroNews West Virginia, with over half of West Virginians approving of the job he’s doing as Senator.  Another recent poll shows Sen. Manchin beating both Rep. Evan Jenkins and state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey.

THREE TO WATCH:

  • Dean Heller: With a long history of breaking his promises to Nevada’s Hispanic community, and after nine months of clumsy pandering, just how embarrassing will Dean Heller’s inevitable pandering on DACA be?<
  • Lou Barletta: After a summer that exposed him as not ready prime time, Barletta officially joined a crowded, costly primary for Pennsylvania’s Senate seat. After drawing an ethics complaint and criticism from Pennsylvania voters, what banana peel will he step on next?
  • Luke Messer: He’s number 5 in GOP House leadership, with a massive to-do list for September and his party responsible — but can he get a single thing done?

THREE NUMBERS:

  • 5: Number of must-pass bill deadlines coming up in the 17 Senate legislative days in September. There are even fewer House legislative days.
  • 24: Days Hill Republicans and President Trump have to raise the debt ceiling and avert a global financial calamity.
  • 25: Days the Republican Congress and Trump have to avert a catastrophic government shutdown.

ONE FOR THE ROAD: September by Earth, Wind & Fire (1971)

AND HAPPY MONDAY from American Bridge. Follow us at @JoshuaKarp @AllieTexx @EmmaBeckerman1