The Rundown from PBS, Nov. 11, 2016: Several Democrats facing 2018 re-election are from states Trump carried

WASHINGTON — A long list of Senate Democrats who face re-election in 2018 are from states Donald Trump won or nearly won on Election Day. That could mean a politically excruciating next two years for many of them, and for party leaders trying to chart a legislative path as the new age of Trump.

The election two years from now had already looked difficult for Senate Democrats, who must defend 25 seats compared to just eight held by Republicans. The Democrats’ list includes two independents, Vermont’s Bernie Sanders and Maine’s Angus King, who align with them.

Of those 25 senators, 13 are from states Trump captured or narrowly lost. Among those are Maine, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, which hadn’t backed a GOP presidential candidate since the 1980s, leaving both parties trying to discern how much Tuesday may have reordered the lineup of blue, red and swing states.

Five Democrats are from states Trump easily carried, by 19 percentage points or more — Indiana, North Dakota, West Virginia, Missouri and Montana.

“They should be terrified,” Ward Baker, executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the Senate GOP’s political organization, said of the Democrats.

Republicans are expected to control the Senate next year 52-48, including a Louisiana runoff in December the GOP is expected to win. With Democrats able to use filibusters to force the GOP to secure 60 votes on major issues, likely new Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., should often be able to block Republicans, especially on issues Democrats broadly support such as consumer protection and curbs on Wall Street.

But it will probably be harder for Schumer to keep Democrats together on issues crucial to conservative voters including the Supreme Court, abortion, guns and weakening the Environmental Protection Agency. Some Democratic senators could also be drawn to Trump’s efforts to revamp portions of President Barack Obama’s health care law and tighten curbs on immigrants in the U.S. illegally.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told reporters in Louisville on Friday that he believes Democratic senators from deeply Republican states are “going to want to be cooperative with us on a variety of things.”

Sen. Richard Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Democratic leader, said that as his party’s vote counter he’s long listened to concerns of senators from Republican-leaning states.

“I know a half-dozen people, I think that list will get a little longer now, that I go to first to find out where senators are on issues,” he said.

At the same time, Schumer must try to satisfy his party’s liberals, who include Sanders and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

On some issues, perhaps efforts to expand coal use, Schumer could see up to seven Democrats defect to the GOP and still keep Republicans short of the 60 votes needed to prevail.

“I’d probably line up more with Donald Trump’s economic package,” said Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, seeking re-election next year from West Virginia. “I sure don’t adhere to his social rhetoric.”

In some ways, Clinton’s defeat made political decisions easier for senators facing 2018 re-election.

That’s because midterm elections, when a president is not on the ballot, are often cruel to the president’s party in Congress. Democrats lost nine Senate seats in 2014 and six others in 2010 under Obama, and presidents’ parties have gained Senate seats just once in the past eight midterm contests.

Democrats had already been privately fretting over how to persuade some of their senators to back Clinton initiatives that could have been unpopular in GOP-leaning states. The Trump victory and retention of congressional control makes it easier for Democrats to blame the GOP for problems.

“The onus is on Donald Trump and Republicans, who now own all of the federal government,” said Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., whose term is up in 2018. Her state’s presidential vote remained too close to call Friday.

All of that — plus voters’ disgust with the Washington establishment — could put pressure on congressional Republicans for achievements, which may require them to cut deals with Schumer or with Democrats they hope to pick off from Trump states.

“I think everybody is saying, ‘We have to put something on the board here to restore some of our credibility,’” said Patrick Griffin, a former Senate Democrat aide and White House official under President Bill Clinton.

But in the 2018 campaigns, Republicans are sure to come after Democrats from states Trump won, using votes they take over these next two years that might displease conservative voters.

In one indication of hardball politics, Baker — the chief of the Senate GOP political committee — told reporters this week that “We’re not done yet with Evan Bayh,” the former Democratic Indiana senator who lost a bid this week to return to the chamber. Baker offered no specifics but said Republicans had more research material on Bayh that they still wanted to use.

The General Election was Nov. 8th- What do we need to do in the coming season?


What Democrats Need to Do

Donald Trump’s victory is a political shock like no other that most Americans have experienced.

The causes of the shock — that is, why the polls were wrong — won’t be clear until analysts have been able to sort through the returns. There are a few likely suspects: Trump supporters who didn’t admit it to pollsters; a late break of undecided voters moving his way; lower-than-expected turnout among Democrats, both white and non-white; and higher turnout among conservative working-class whites.

In a strange way, the immediate future is clearer than the immediate past: All signs point to a radical shift in federal policy.

Republicans now control the presidency, the Senate, the House and will likely soon control the Supreme Court. Even more important, a radicalized version of Republicanism will likely dominate those institutions.

It’s true that the Senate does not have a 60-vote, filibuster-proof majority. But Senate rules allow a simple majority to pass budget bills, and Republican leaders may weaken the filibuster anyway.

What can the Democrats do about all this? First, they can show the same unity and discipline that Senate Republicans had during the Obama years, albeit to a different end. They can offer to work with Republicans on sensible compromises, especially with Trump, given his uncertain allegiances — and Democrats can outright oppose any partisan bill that hurts ordinary Americans.Some shrewd observers expect Republicans to have little interest in compromise. The Republican agenda “is going to happen,” Theda Skocpol, a Harvard professor, told me, “and there is nothing Democrats can do to stop it.”

Democrats would then have only one good option: describing what was really happening, clearly and repeatedly.

“Repealing Obamacare” will mean taking health insurance — and, by extension, medical care — from millions of people (including many lower- and middle-income whites). Trump’s proposed tax cut will bestow an average $1.1 million tax cut on the top 0.1 percent of earners. The resulting lack of government funds will rob schools and promising medical research of funding. Rolling back environmental regulations will increase pollution and its adverse effects on health and, most worrisomely, the damage from climate change.

Democrats can’t simply foment during press conferences in the halls of Congress. They need an outside game too, one based in individual states, that provides tangible examples of how these policies will change people’s lives.

A frequent question I heard on Wednesday was, “Are we going to be O.K.?” My simple answer is yes. The country has survived worse. But I don’t want to sugarcoat reality. The immediate future will include a lot of changes that will make life harder for many Americans.

Building the support to reverse those reversals starts now.