The question we should be asking 2020 Democratic Presidential candidates is not “Are you the best candidate to defeat Donald Trump?” but “Are you the best candidate to help us take back the Senate?” Let me explain.
I’m confident that the Democrats will nominate a candidate who will defeat Trump. It might not be easy (we may nominate someone who will make it not easy), but we will get it done. Trump has done nothing to expand his base. If you are not part of his base, you understand what a terrible president he is. Taking back the Senate will be much more difficult, but equally important. We cannot pass our agenda and nominate intelligent judges until we take control of that body.
Currently, the Senate is controlled by Republicans 53-47, so Democrats need to flip three seats to win control if they also win the presidency.
Of 34 Senate seats up for election in 2020, 22 are currently held by Republicans and 12 by Democrats. At first glance, that appears to give Democrats an advantage. But, as shown in this analysis by FiveThirtyEight, most of the Republican Senators represent heavily Republican states.
Eighteen of those states have a partisan lean in the double digits (Partisan lean is the average difference between how a state voted and how the country voted). Democrats have two Senators in Republican-leaning states – Doug Jones in Alabama and Jeanne Shaheen in New Hampshire. The four single-digit-leaning Republican states are Arizona, Iowa, North Carolina, and New Hampshire. Two Republicans represent Democratic-leaning states: Cory Gardner in Colorado and Susan Collins in Maine. Let’s also include Georgia in the discussion because it has a partisan leaning of just 11.8 and we can be encouraged by Stacey Abrams’s competitive race for governor in 2018.
Five of the Democratic-leaning states with Democratic Senators have a partisan leaning in single digits: Virginia, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, and Oregon. These will all be battlegrounds in 2020.
As nice as it would be to defeat Lindsey Graham in South Carolina (17.2 partisan lean), Mitch McDonnell in Kentucky (23.3), and Tom Cotton in Arkansas (24.4), I doubt that will happen.
We need a presidential candidate who will help us win in Georgia, Maine, Colorado, Arizona, Iowa, and North Carolina and protect our senators in Alabama (good luck!), New Hampshire, Virginia, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, and Oregon. That is 12 states.
Fair or unfair, the presidential candidate becomes the face and spokesperson of the party. Thanks to the toxic Donald Trump, the Democratic party has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to change the political landscape of this nation. With the right presidential candidate, we can convince moderate Republicans to leave the GOP to join the Democratic Party in states like Georgia, Alabama, Iowa, North Carolina, Arizona and maybe in Tennessee, Arkansas and South Carolina.
So, which presidential candidate will help us win the Senate? That question quickly leads to the fundamental strategic question for the Democratic party. Will we be more successful with a fire-breathing liberal who will energize more Democrats to vote or with a moderate candidate who attracts independents and dissatisfied Republicans to vote for a Democratic candidate? In other words: Sanders/Warren/O’Rourke/Buttigieg or Biden/Klobuchar/Hickenlooper.
I am sure how I answer the question. We need Amy Klobuchar. I can give you lots of reasons, but let me provide two paragraphs from an article in the April 22 issue of the New York Times:
Ms. Klobuchar is prompting a fresh round of soul-searching about whether embracing policies like the Green New Deal and “Medicare for all” could backfire in a general election, alienating the suburban voters who helped lead the party to victory in the midterms.
Ms. Klobuchar believes her understanding of Midwestern voters and ability to win Republican areas is key to her success.
Amy is the anti-Trump. She is experienced, professional, successful in passing legislation, moderate in temperament, and progressive in politics. She is the best presidential candidate to help the Democrats take back the United States Senate.