Democrats in tough races throw their party under the bus

Democrats in tough Senate races around the country are throwing their party under the bus as they seek to pull out victories in red states won just two years ago by President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump's newest Russia adviser, Andrew Peek, leaves post: report Hawley expects McConnell's final impeachment resolution to give White House defense ability to motion to dismiss Trump rips New York City sea wall: 'Costly, foolish' and 'environmentally unfriendly idea' MORE

In Missouri, Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillThe most expensive congressional races of the last decade McCaskill: 'Mitch McConnell has presided over absolutely destroying Senate norms' Claire McCaskill: Young girls 'are now aspiring' to be like Warren, Klobuchar after debate MORE (D) has a radio ad declaring she’s “not one of those crazy Democrats.” She’s in a razor-tight race against Josh Hawley, the state’s attorney general.

In Montana, Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterPelosi set to send impeachment articles to the Senate next week Pelosi says she'll send articles of impeachment to Senate 'soon' Pressure building on Pelosi over articles of impeachment MORE (D), whose race against Republican Matt Rosendale has tightened considerably, told The Hill that Democrats “botched” the debate over Supreme Court Justice Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughDemocratic group plans mobile billboard targeting Collins on impeachment January reminds us why courts matter — and the dangers of 'Trump judges' Planned Parenthood launches M campaign to back Democrats in 2020 MORE

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He also criticized Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenThe Memo: Sanders-Warren battle could reshape Democratic primary Environmental activists interrupt Buttigieg in New Hampshire Pence to visit Iowa days before caucuses MORE’s (D) use of DNA results to claim Native American heritage, saying it doesn’t “pass the test.” 

In Tennessee and Arizona, former Gov. Phil Bredesen (D) and Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D), respectively, are telling voters that they will not back Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerTrump administration installs plaque marking finish of 100 miles of border wall Sanders defends vote against USMCA: 'Not a single damn mention' of climate change Schumer votes against USMCA, citing climate implications MORE (N.Y.) for Senate Democratic leader. Trump won both of those states in 2016, too.

In West Virginia, Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinTrump's trial a major test for McConnell, Schumer Poll: West Virginia voters would view Manchin negatively if he votes to convict Trump Pelosi set to send impeachment articles to the Senate next week MORE (W.Va.) broke with his party and backed Kavanaugh's confirmation.

In Indiana, Sen. Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyGinsburg health scare raises prospect of election year Supreme Court battle Watchdog accuses pro-Kavanaugh group of sending illegal robotexts in 2018 Lobbying world MORE (D) has a television ad warning of “socialists” who “want to turn health care over to the government" and of the “radical left” wanting to eliminate U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement. 

The efforts by these candidates make sense given the plight that the Senate Democrats have found themselves in.

Republicans have a narrow 51-49 majority, but they have chances across the country to build on it despite a political climate in which Democrats are favored to win back the House majority.

The Senate battle is different from the House largely because of the territory.

McCaskill and Tester are running for reelection in states that Trump won by double digits in the 2016 election against Democratic nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham Clinton Democrats plot new approach to win over rural voters The Memo: Sanders-Warren battle could reshape Democratic primary Rosenstein says he authorized release of Strzok-Page texts MORE. He won Montana by more than 20 percentage points and Missouri by 18 percentage points.

In North Dakota, Democratic Sen. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampSusan Collins set to play pivotal role in impeachment drama Pro-trade group launches media buy as Trump and Democrats near deal on new NAFTA The Hill's Morning Report — Biden steadies in third debate as top tier remains the same MORE is now an underdog against Rep. Kevin CramerKevin John CramerSenate GOP mulls speeding up Trump impeachment trial The Hill's Morning Report — President Trump on trial GOP threatens to weaponize impeachment witnesses amid standoff MORE (R). Trump won North Dakota by 35 percentage points. 

Heitkamp, like the other Democrats, has sought to separate herself from her party. She slammed Clinton for saying that Democrats can’t be civil with Republicans until they are back in control of Congress.  “That’s ridiculous,” Heitkamp responded. “I can’t imagine how you get anything done if you don’t bring civility back into politics.” 

The trend is evident even in the few states Trump lost that are home to competitive Senate elections this year. 

In Nevada, a state Clinton won in 2016, Rep. Jacky RosenJacklyn (Jacky) Sheryl RosenSenate confirms Trump's 50th circuit judge, despite 'not qualified' rating Hillicon Valley: Facebook to remove mentions of potential whistleblower's name | House Dems demand FCC action over leak of location data | Dem presses regulators to secure health care data Senators introduce bill to create 'parity' among broadband programs MORE (D) has an ad touting her clash with House Democratic Leader Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiREAD: House impeachment managers' trial brief Desperate Democrats badmouth economy even as it booms Pelosi offers message to Trump on Bill Maher show: 'You are impeached forever' MORE (Calif.) to reform the Veterans Affairs Department. 

“Jacky stood up to Nancy Pelosi to reform the VA,” a veteran tells viewers. 

Rosen is in a tight race against Sen. Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerLobbying World Democrats spend big to put Senate in play This week: Barr back in hot seat over Mueller report MORE (R-Nev.).

Democratic strategists say it’s a smart tactic because most of these candidates — with the exception of Rosen — are running in states that Trump overwhelmingly won, and Republicans are doing everything they can to tie them to the most liberal members of their party. 

“You’re talking about senators that are running for reelection that [Trump] won their states by double digits. The Republican brand is strong in those states and the fact is that for these moderates to succeed, they need to reach out to not only their base but also to independents and Republicans who will put policy over partisanship,” said Rodell Mollineau, a Democratic strategist. 

This is true of Tester, who will need moderate Republicans and independents to win, according to a recent survey by the Montana Television Network and Montana State University that showed Tester with 15 percent support among voters who approve of Trump. 

Republicans have also been turning the screws on red-state Democrats.

At rallies in Montana over the weekend, Donald Trump Jr.Donald (Don) John TrumpComedians post fake Army recruitment posters featuring Trump Jr. Trump Jr., Ivanka garner support in hypothetical 2024 poll FWS: There's 'no basis' to investigate Trump Jr.'s Mongolian hunting trip MORE and his girlfriend, former Fox News host Kimberly Guilfoyle, warned voters that a vote for Tester would be a vote to make Schumer the Senate majority leader and Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersBiden alleges Sanders campaign 'doctored video' to attack him on Social Security record Sanders campaign responds to Biden doctored video claims: Biden should 'stop trying to doctor' public record The Memo: Sanders-Warren battle could reshape Democratic primary MORE (I-Vt.) the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee. 

Guilfoyle also took a shot at Warren, who has touted DNA results showing she is between 0.1 percent and 1.6 percent Native American. 

“I’m actually the real Pocahontas, 6.1 percent Native American,” she said. 

Tester is bracing for the president's trip to Montana Saturday, his fourth, where he will no doubt try to portray the incumbent Democrat as one of Schumer’s loyal soldiers.

“The Democrat Party has gone so far left that no one knows what to do. It’s become radical resistance,” Trump said at a rally in Missoula two weeks ago.  

McCaskill distanced herself from liberal activists shortly before Trump was scheduled to visit her state on Thursday. 

McCaskill later explained that when she referred to “crazy Democrats” she was thinking of the activists who have confronted Republican colleagues such as Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzSunday shows preview: Lawmakers gear up for Senate impeachment trial Senate GOP mulls speeding up Trump impeachment trial The Hill's Morning Report — President Trump on trial MORE (R-Texas) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellHawley expects McConnell's final impeachment resolution to give White House defense ability to motion to dismiss Democrats file brief against Trump, 'the Framers' worst nightmare' Iran resolution supporters fear impeachment will put it on back burner MORE (R-Ky.) at restaurants during the Kavanaugh debate.  

She also made a pointed effort to distance herself from Warren and Sanders during a Fox News interview, noting that Warren “sure went after me” after McCaskill proposed rolling back some banking regulations and that “I certainly disagree with Bernie Sanders on a bunch of stuff.” 

Steven S. Smith, a professor of political science at Washington University in St. Louis, said Republicans have been working overtime to paint that Democratic Party as a bunch of wild-eyed radicals. 

“The Republicans have been working hard to say that the Democrats have become radicalized and revolutionary and socialistic,” he said. “She’s clearly trying to respond to an element of criticism of the Democrats.

“She knows that pivotal voters in Missouri are getting that from the Republican side so she wants to deal with it,” he added of McCaskill. “If she’s worried that some middle-of-the-road voters are thinking that it’s the Democrats who are the radicals, then she needs to distance herself from them."

Smith said he’s not sure “it’s an effective strategy” before adding that “at this stage of the game it’s not possible for her to do much else.”

In states with strong Democratic bases, especially states with strong labor unions and large blocs of minority voters, appealing to moderates by criticizing liberals is a tricky task.  

Even though Donnelly talks like a conservative in some of his ads, blasting “socialists” and the “radical left,” he will attend a rally with former President Obama in Gary, Ind., an old steel town with a history of labor organizing and a large African-American community. 

A Democratic strategist argued that Obama can help mobilize the black vote in Gary and noted that he carried the state over the late Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainMartha McSally fundraises off 'liberal hack' remark to CNN reporter Meghan McCain blasts NY Times: 'Everyone already knows how much you despise' conservative women GOP senator calls CNN reporter a 'liberal hack' when asked about Parnas materials MORE (R-Ariz.) in the 2008 presidential election. 

Donnelly’s Republican opponent, Mike Braun, however, is pouncing on Obama’s visit to go on the attack by linking Donnelly to the former president. 

“Joe Donnelly is so desperate for enthusiasm he's calling in Barack Obama to remind Hoosiers he supports the collapsing Obamacare [and] Obama’s dangerous Iran deal,” said Braun spokesman Josh Kelley.