Newspaper article Roll Call

Democrats Prepare for the Unlikely in Senate Races

Newspaper article Roll Call

Democrats Prepare for the Unlikely in Senate Races

Article excerpt

Arizona, Arkansas and Missouri look like unlikely pickups for Democratic Senate candidates to win in 2016. But Democrats are preparing for the unlikely.

You don't need to look any further back than 2012, when despite a favorable GOP climate, mistakes by two favored Republican candidates kept the party from winning control of the Senate.

Last week, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee recruited former U.S. Attorney Conner Eldridge to take on Republican Sen. John Boozman in Arkansas -- a state where Democrats lost the past two Senate races. But Democrats say Eldridge has the kind of background that could appeal to voters in the deep red state in the case of an opening, and say his entrance into the race could expand the map as the party seeks to win the majority next November.

Eldridge joins two other Democratic recruits who could forge paths to victory in the right political environment: Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick in Arizona and Secretary of State Jason Kander in Missouri. Both are adept politicians who face strong GOP incumbents in states that lean Republican in presidential years, but could swing the Democrats' way in the event of unforced Republican errors.

"It doesn't always work, but if you put the pieces together and put the race on the map, only good things can happen," said Ben Ray, a Democratic operative who helped Sen. Joe Donnelly to victory in Indiana in 2012, when Republican Richard Mourdock's ill-advised comments about rape helped Donnelly win an otherwise dark red state.

Republicans scoffed at the Democrats' strategy.

"The DSCC is clearly grasping at straws and trying to deflect attention from the fact that they have struggled to recruit in Obama states and they have several competitive primaries that are going to make their general election chances a lot harder," said Andrea Bozek, communications director for the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

But Adrianne Marsh, a Democratic strategist who worked on Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill's 2006 and 2012 campaigns, said McCaskill benefited from the outrage caused by her opponent Todd Akin's "legitimate rape" comment. In the same year, Donnelly capitalized on similarly insensitive remarks from Mourdock.

An unpalatable GOP presidential nominee could also shift the tide towards Democrats, giving them an opening down the ballot. With businessman Donald Trump -- who has broken nearly every convention in running a presidential campaign as he's offended significant segments of the electorate -- as the Republican front-runner, there's a chance that could happen.

"If it's Trump, you're going to get a lot of people who are very upset about his candidacy. If they go with someone more mundane, the disappointment for others could very well carry into the general election," Marsh said.

In other cases, Democrats might be able to benefit from slowly "chipping away" at an otherwise popular Republican's credibility by tying them to Washington and a Congress which has been repeatedly panned by the public -- a strategy already embraced by D. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.