The Senate: Democrats strive for five

The Senate: Democrats strive for five

By Hastings Wyman –




With the turmoil in the GOP presidential race conceivably resulting in massive defections or non-voting among either supporters of frontrunner Donald Trump or ideologically strict Ted Cruz, Democrats have an excellent chance at winning a majority in the US Senate. US Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS), who chairs the National Republican Senatorial Committee told GOP candidates in tight races to consider avoiding the party’s national convention. “If there’s going to be a brouhaha,” Wicker told The Hill, “I’m advising candidates to be present for more unifying events.”

The current Senate line-up is 54R-45D, plus independent Bernie Sanders, who caucuses with the Democrats. Thus, Democrats need to switch five seats from R to D. There are 34 seats up for election this year, 10 held by Democrats and 24 by Republicans. This puts more than twice as many GOP seats at risk than Democratic seats, further stoking Democratic hopes for a Senate majority.

The South will be a major battleground in this fight for control. While the 1st Quarter Federal Election Commission (FEC) reports show Dixie’s Republicans are on average raising more money than the Democrats, the “average” conceals several well funded Democratic campaigns. Moreover, given the right circumstances this fall, Democrats could win other seats as well, even those – such as in North Carolina – where the current money totals favor the Republicans.

Nine of the Republican seats up for election are in the South. Four of these are overwhelming favorites in November and present no opportunity for switching to the Democratic column. But the other five are likely to be competitive. In a “normal” presidential year, at least four of the five could be expected to go Republican, all except Florida, which could go either way. But this year, given the divisions in the Republican Party, Democrats may end up competitive, and potentially victorious, in all five races.

The four senators in the “safe” category for Republicans have major war chests, which has contributed to their strong-as-onions reputations and lack of serious Democratic opposition.

Richard Shelby (AL) finished the 1st Quarter with $9,686,000 cash-on-hand, according to the, giving him the most money of any of the South’s US Senate candidates this year. Johnny Isakson (GA) was in second place in the money chase, with $5,933,000 on hand as of March 31. Tim Scott (SC), another prohibitive favorite for reelection, had $4,953,000 on hand. And US Sen. James Lankford (R) had $919,000 cash on hand.

In the competitive Senate races, Republicans as a group have far more cash on hand than the Democratic contenders – $18,970,000 (R) to $7,121,000. But in two states, Democrats are better financed.

In Florida, US Rep. Patrick Murphy (D) had $4,309,000 on hand, more than any other Sunshine State contender in either party. This is the most likely Senate in the South to switch from Republican to Democratic. The seat is now held by Marco Rubio.

And in Kentucky, thanks to a generous loan to his campaign, Lexington Mayor Jim Gray (D), with $1,530,000, has a bigger war chest than ex-presidential candidate Rand Paul (R), with $1,229,000.

1st Quarter FEC reports in key Southern Senate races

                               Total receipts           Cash-on-hand

Arkansas

John Boozman/R       $2,673,000             $1,765,000

Connor Eldridge/D     1027,000                   372,000

Florida

David Jolly/R             1,322,000                563,000

Carlos Lopez/R         1,035,000                389,000

Ron DeSantis/R        4,058,000                3,222,000

Todd Wilcox/R           1,439,000                1,083,000

Alan Grayson/D         2,665,000               430,000

Patrick Murphy/D       7,711,000               5,605,000

Kentucky

Rand Paul/R             1,835,000                1,508,000

Jim Gray/D               1,758,000                1,530,000

Louisiana

Charles Boustany/R 3,238,000                1,911,000

John Fleming/R        2,665,000                2,296,000

John Kennedy/R       818,000                  698,000

Rob Maness/R         320,000                   213,000

Foster Campbell/D   250,000                  250,000

Caroline Fayard/D    344,000                  251,000

Josh Pellerin/D         8,000                      100

North Carolina

Richard Burr/R        6,732,000                5,824,000

Deborah Ross/D     1,877,000                   849,000