GOP Senate Aspirations Threatened By Lagging Incumbents

A series of surveys released this week bode difficulties for incumbent Republicans in challenged Senate contests this fall, as the GOP confronts a hazardous route to restoring a majority.

For months, it looked like Republicans had a modest lead as President Biden’s dismal popularity ratings and a faltering economy placed Democrats on the defensive.

Polls and Switching Results

Back-to-back surveys in Florida and Wisconsin caution Republicans as they try to gain a Senate seat. A survey released Tuesday in Florida shows Sen. Marco Rubio vulnerable as he pursues a third term.

The Cook Political Report classified his campaign as “lean Republican.”

Though a new poll conducted by the University of North Florida’s Public Opinion Research Lab shows his potential Democratic opponent, Rep. Val Demings, is ahead in the poll by a margin of 48% to 44%.

In recent months, a lack of neutral polls made Rubio’s lead uncertain. Rubio’s campaign recognized a close race, but predicted victory in November.

Wednesday’s survey from Marquette University’s School of Law showed incumbent Republican Senator Ron Johnson in Wisconsin losing to Democratic challenger Mandela Barnes by seven points, making the situation even direr for the GOP.

Johnson portrayed himself as a Washington outsider, but his approval ratings have dropped since 2019, due to his backing of former President Trump and controversial statements concerning COVID-19.

Barnes leads Johnson by four points in a Fox News survey released Thursday.

Johnson is no stranger to overcoming adversity. In August 2016, he trailed Russ Feingold by 11 points in a Marquette Law survey. In the November election, Johnson prevailed by a narrow margin of three points.

The polls must be troubling for the GOP, struggling to win open seats in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and North Carolina.

Dr. Mehmet Oz has struggled to find traction in the race to succeed retiring Sen. Pat Toomey (R) in Pennsylvania.

He trails Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (D) by even more than 11 points, on average, in recent polls, causing the Cook Political Report to modify the race’s classification from “toss-up” to “lean Democrat.”

Republican Senate contender J.D. Vance is in a surprisingly close fight with Democratic competitor Tim Ryan in Ohio. He has come under criticism from inside his own party for his electoral strategy and fundraising numbers.

Emerson College had Vance leading Ryan 45% to 42%, while Gov. Mike DeWine (R-OH) led his Democratic rival, Nan Whaley, 49% to 33%.

Outgoing Senator Rob Portman will be replaced by the Senate election winner.

The Candidates Are Important

Some Republican officials and strategists attribute this crisis in part to the candidates. Doug Heye, a Republican strategist, said the Senate was never a slam dunk like the House.

Mitch McConnell (R-KY) told reporters last week, “I think there’s a higher chance the House switches than the Senate.”

“Candidate quality affects results,” McConnell said. He added that it is whoever wins primaries that influences the general election.

The news has not been lost on election experts. FiveThirtyEight’s “deluxe” projection model gives Democrats a 60% chance of keeping the Senate in 2022. Similar chances were given to Republicans last month.

This article appeared in The Record Daily and has been published here with permission.