Trump slams 'rogue' Sasse after criticism of executive actions
Democratic senators quietly hope Biden wins over rivals
There's a growing sense among members of the Senate Democratic Conference that life would be easier if Joe Biden wins the party's presidential nomination instead of his two closest competitors, Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).
Most Democratic senators are staying neutral in a presidential race that includes six sitting senators along with Biden, who served for decades in the Senate before becoming former President Obama's vice president.
Many don't want to take sides in a battle that is pitting colleagues against one another, and senators obviously don't want to create bad blood with any contenders - who will either return to the Senate or end up at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
Yet a number of Democrats privately acknowledge that if Warren or Sanders wins the nomination, it will create immediate tension within the party.
The two progressives are to the left of many of their colleagues, and some of their best-known proposals, such as "Medicare for All" and free college education, do not have widespread support within the Democratic caucus.
If Warren or Sanders wins the party's presidential nomination, there will be pressure in the Senate to adopt their proposals. And there could be tensions between a nominee and senators who do not back their proposals.
Another factor is the race for the Senate. Some Democrats think it will be easier to win races in conservative-leaning states such as Alabama, North Carolina and Georgia if Biden is their nominee and not Warren or Sanders.
One Democratic senator who requested anonymity to discuss the race said a number of senators neutral in the race are more aligned with Biden.
"Ideologically, they're definitely more with Biden," said the Democratic senator, who described colleagues as having doubts about Warren's and Sanders's boldest proposals.
"Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, the wealth tax - the list is long," the senator said.
A second Democratic senator who requested anonymity predicted that if Warren or Sanders is elected president, they will likely face opposition from fellow Democrats to some of their biggest proposals.
"The senators have a great confidence in their own ability with a friendly White House to say, 'We like a lot of that, but we don't like all of it,' " the senator said. "We're not going to just do what they ask because they ask."
The support for Biden is clear just from the list of senators who have endorsed candidates in the race.
Five Democratic senators are publicly backing Biden, while no other candidate has more than a single endorsement from a senator.
Supporters of Biden aren't afraid to bolster the suggestion that the Senate Democratic Conference is more in tune with Biden than Sanders or Warren. In fact, they are seeking to use it to their advantage.
"Most currently serving senators are attracted to the pragmatic, progressive vision that Joe Biden has laid out," said Sen. Christopher Coons (D-Del.), who represents Biden's home state and has endorsed the longtime Delaware senator.
Coons makes the electability argument for Biden in both the White House and the Senate.
"I think having Joe Biden as our nominee will not only make it more likely that we will defeat Trump in 2020 but also make it more likely that we will have a Democratic majority in the Senate," he said, adding that he's heard the same arguments from fellow Democratic senators.
Sen. Doug Jones (Ala.), the most vulnerable Senate Democratic incumbent up for reelection next year, says he endorsed Biden in large part because he thinks it will help him in next year's election.
"I think he's more reflective of not only folks here but also Democrats across the country," Jones said.
Asked about the impact on his race if Warren or Sanders won the Democratic nomination, Jones said: "Clearly, they would not play as well in Alabama."
As the race has boiled down to the three front-runners, ideological differences have become more prominent. Biden sought to play up those differences at the last Democratic debate by touting himself as a champion of ObamaCare and drawing a contrast with Warren's and Sanders's support for Medicare for All.
Asked Tuesday which of the front-runners best reflects the ideological views of the Democratic caucus, Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), who is neutral in the race, said, "probably Biden."
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who has endorsed Biden over her home-state colleague, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), said the same.
"If you ask me to weigh the entire Senate, the answer is yes. And if you ask me to weigh America, I actually think America is a pretty centrist country," said Feinstein.
Other Democrats such as Sen. Chris Murphy (Conn.), who is neutral in the race, say the ideological differences between Biden, Warren and Sanders are getting overhyped.
"I think we way over-obsess about ideology in the primaries when most voters are voting based on personality, authenticity and style," Murphy said. "When we have a conversation about electability, I think we have to admit that most voters are looking at the kind of person you are and whether they're seeing the real individual on the campaign trail."