Despite approval ratings that seldom break 40% nationally, Republicans are banking on President Trump to help preserve the party’s majority in the U.S. Senate.
In fact, in states like Missouri, they’re counting on him to help GOP candidates defeat incumbent Democrats. Colorado Senator Cory Gardner, the chairman of the Senate Republicans’ campaign arm, recently told Politico that Trump would play a key role in state’s he carried on the way to the White House.
“If you look at a race in a state like Missouri or North Dakota — or any of these states — he’ll be very involved,” said Gardner. “He’ll be actively campaigning for a Senate majority. Absolutely.”
Trump won Missouri by 19 points in 2016. Political Science Professor Terry Smith of mid-Missouri’s Columbia College thinks the GOP is smart to play to their strength.
“I think that the Republicans are onto something when (they have) a combination of a base that simply shows absolutely no evidence of stepping away and saying, ‘We made a mistake and we don’t support Trump anymore’,” said Smith. “There’s no evidence of that.”
Recently, the campaign of Missouri’s Republican front-runner in the Senate campaign, state Attorney General Josh Hawley, attempted to link incumbent Democrat Claire McCaskill to perceived disparaging comments by Hillary Clinton.
At a conference in India, Clinton appeared to refer to red states in the middle of the country that voted for Trump as “looking backward”. McCaskill quickly tried to distance herself from the comments shortly after Clinton made them, saying “Those are kind of fighting words for me because I’m partial to Missouri voters.”
Moving forward, Republicans operatives say they plan to look to Trump for help in five conservative states where the president handily won: West Virginia, North Dakota, Indiana, Missouri, and Montana.
Recent polling reflects a tight race in Missouri between Hawley and McCaskill. A Gravis poll released March 12 had McCaskill up 2 points over Hawley, while Hawley lead by 8 points in an Axios–Survey Monkey poll released the week before.
Smith places limited importance in polls this early in the race. “Right now, it’s a too close to call race with, like 350 years left before the election (laugh). It’s just so far out from the election.”
In recent weeks, the Missouri Democratic Party has been trying to hinge Hawley to scandal-riddled Republican Governor Eric Greitens.
Greitens has been indicted on a charge of felony invasion of privacy related to an affair, has been investigated for his use of an app that erases text messages and is now being probed by Hawley’s office for misuse of resources of his former nonprofit The Mission Continues.
Smith thinks Democrats face a big hurdle in getting their messaging out because Republicans will always spend more money.
“The reason I am saying with some confidence about all the money that’s going to be available to Republican and conservative candidates is because it is,” Smith said. “They’re going to spend whatever they want. Silicon Valley and Hollywood, the liberals on Wall Street, they can’t begin to match it.”
Smith credits the book “Dark Money” by journalist Jane Mayer of the New Yorker magazine for shedding light on the predominance of money being spent on the right by billionaires such as the Koch Brothers.
Although Republicans increasingly like their chances to continue controlling the Senate, the outlook for the U.S. House is starkly different, where Democrats and some Republicans believe the chamber will flip to Democratic control.