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
John Boozman/R $2,673,000 $1,765,000
Connor Eldridge/D 1027,000 372,000
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
Rand Paul/R 1,835,000 1,508,000
Jim Gray/D 1,758,000 1,530,000
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
Richard Burr/R 6,732,000 5,824,000
Deborah Ross/D 1,877,000 849,000