Obviously it is very important to Democrats to take back the U.S. Senate in 2020. The House will likely remain Democratic, but with a Republican Senate, almost all bills passed in the House would still never reach the Senate floor with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in control of the agenda. Additionally, if Donald Trump wins again, a Democratic Senate could halt the confirmation of judges and other administration nominees they don’t support.

Though winning the Senate has various advantages, a Trump re-election means he would retain veto power over legislation. However, a Democratic Senate win resulting from the below strategy would bode well for a Democrat’s taking the White House as well.

Beyond the specifics of any individual Senate race, a successful general appeal might be this: For reasons above, Democratic and independent voters need to vote Democratic to make sure there is a Democratic Senate – even if they like the Republican nominee to some extent. This is feasible given that independents have broken against Trump and will see this as a check on him. As happened in 2018, Democrats are again ahead in the congressional generic ballot, a circumstance that foreshadowed success in the midterms, and the suburban revolt remains. So an appeal to vote Democratic for the higher cause could work if these trends continue.

Among other possibilities, states like Maine, Colorado, North Carolina and Arizona fit this scenario, where Democrats and independents combined could elect the Democratic nominee. However, in a state like Montana, with heavy Republican leanings, this strategy would not work.

To take one case as an example, Maine Sen. Susan Collins has engaged in bipartisan efforts that have helped her electorally. A general appeal would be that it is important that Democrats win the Senate overall, so it is better to vote her out, regardless of her efforts at bipartisanship. Though she already has some political baggage that could hurt her chances, Collins may still be the slight favorite given her incumbency and finances. But her likely opponent, Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon, is a good campaigner and raised more money than Collins did in the last quarter.

The election may turn on two factors: how Justice Brett Kavanagh decides in at least one prominent abortion case (Collins says she got a promise from Kavanaugh about not overturning Roe v. Wade) and whether Collins shows at least moderate support for impeachment efforts, given strong anti-Trump sentiment in Maine. However, instead of focusing just on how Collins may come down on one or two issues, Gideon could make the case that defeating Collins as part of a Democratic takeover of the Senate would lead to more favorable outcomes in general.

Even with this strategy, the individual positives of the candidates themselves cannot be overlooked, especially in states where this tactic will not work. One powerful example would be this: Democratic presidential candidates Gov. Steve Bullock and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro are not likely to overcome all front-runners given their polling numbers – yet they are well known in their own states. They could announce that they are retiring from their presidential bids and running for the Senate in their respective states of Montana and Texas, as did John Hickenlooper in Colorado.

They should do so within the coming weeks and say it is because their best shot did not work, they hope that others with low polling will do the same so that attention and donated money will be focused on the front-runners, and they now want to do the best for their home states. If they could make a joint announcement such as this, it would really get the ball rolling for this “Take Back the Senate” effort.


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