White House immigration agenda hurts Senate Republicans in 2020

White House immigration agenda hurts Senate Republicans in 2020
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Each day that President TrumpDonald John TrumpSteele Dossier sub-source was subject of FBI counterintelligence probe Pelosi slams Trump executive order on pre-existing conditions: It 'isn't worth the paper it's signed on' Trump 'no longer angry' at Romney because of Supreme Court stance MORE keeps the federal government closed over funding for an unpopular border wall further transforms the perception of Republicans among the general public from favoring growth to unfavoring immigration. This gambit puts Republicans in jeopardy of losing control of the Senate next year. His stance on the border wall is the latest divisive action that has split the coalition that delivered Republicans the White House and both chambers of Congress in 2016. His immigration agenda has included separating families at the border, promising to end birthright citizenship, supporting fringe legislation to cut legal immigration levels in half, calling up the military to respond to a few thousand asylum seekers, and launching an administrative attack on immigration applications.

His decision to make the midterm elections a referendum on immigration repelled independents, suburbanites, and women. It created a blue wave that cost the party dozens of seats and the House majority. Doubling down on this message risks the Republicans losing the Senate next. Nearly 60 percent of Americans oppose a border wall. By a margin of two to one, they oppose both the tactics of shutting down the government and declaring a national emergency to force border wall funding. By a margin of three to one, Americans support immigration. No wonder the approval rating of Trump has fallen since the beginning of the shutdown.


After the midterm elections, Trump pointed to Senate Republican gains to claim victory. While the party did expand its Senate majority to 53 seats, closer inspection indicates a net gain of just two seats was not impressive. Democrats faced the most handicapped election map in at least a generation, defending 26 Senate seats, including 10 in states that Trump won in 2016, compared to nine Senate seats for Republicans. The Republican Senate victory in Florida was won by a mere 10,000 votes.

In 2020, Republicans face a much more difficult election map, defending 22 Senate seats compared to just 12 Senate seats held by Democrats. In order to take control, Democrats must win four or five Senate races in the following states that are likely to be the most competitive. In Arizona, Democrats won the seat of retiring Republican Senator Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeHow fast population growth made Arizona a swing state Jeff Flake: Republicans 'should hold the same position' on SCOTUS vacancy as 2016 Republican former Michigan governor says he's voting for Biden MORE in 2018. They will look to do the same in 2020, likely against the same opponent, in the old seat that was held by the late Republican Senator John McCainJohn Sidney McCainAnalysis: Biden victory, Democratic sweep would bring biggest boost to economy The Memo: Trump's strengths complicate election picture Mark Kelly: Arizona Senate race winner should be sworn in 'promptly' MORE.

In Colorado, Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonFox News poll: Biden ahead of Trump in Nevada, Pennsylvania and Ohio Trump, Biden court Black business owners in final election sprint The power of incumbency: How Trump is using the Oval Office to win reelection MORE won by five points in 2016, and voters elected a progressive Democratic governor in 2018. Democrats have Republican Senator Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerBillionaire who donated to Trump in 2016 donates to Biden The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Trump previews SCOTUS nominee as 'totally brilliant' Cook Political Report shifts Colorado Senate race toward Democrat MORE as their main target there in 2020. In Iowa, Trump won by nine points in 2016, and Democrats flipped two Republican House seats in this swing state in 2018. The only remaining Republican in the four member Iowa House delegation is Representative Steve KingSteven (Steve) Arnold KingTrump, Biden deadlocked in Iowa: poll GOP leader: 'There is no place for QAnon in the Republican Party' Loomer win creates bigger problem for House GOP MORE, who has poisoned the Republican brand by defending white nationalism. This deals a blow to the reelection chances of Republican Senator Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstTillis appears to reinforce question about COVID-19 death toll The power of incumbency: How Trump is using the Oval Office to win reelection Poll: Trump opens up 6-point lead over Biden in Iowa MORE.

In Maine, Clinton won by three points in 2016, and Democrats took back the governorship in 2018. Although Republican Senator Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsThe Hill's Campaign Report: Trump faces backlash after not committing to peaceful transition of power Billionaire who donated to Trump in 2016 donates to Biden Credit union group to spend million on Senate, House races MORE is popular in the state, she faces a tough reelection campaign as the last New England Republican in Congress and is a top target of Democrats. In North Carolina, Trump won by four points in 2016. The state has a history of tight revolving door Senate races. With gains in 2018, Democrats may be able to flip this seat held by incumbent Republican Senator Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisTillis appears to reinforce question about COVID-19 death toll Billionaire who donated to Trump in 2016 donates to Biden Collins: Winner of presidential election will be sworn in next year MORE.

Republicans have an advantage of three Senate seats, but Democrats must win more seats to take control since Republicans will likely win back the Alabama Senate seat held by Democrat Doug Jones. If Democrats win four of these seats and the vice presidency, or win five of these seats and lose the vice presidency, then they will gain control the Senate in 2020.

Given that Democrats are increasingly flirting with socialist policies, the possibility of such an outcome should keep conservatives up at night. To have the best chance of maintaining and increasing their presence in Congress, Republicans must stand up to Trump and present a message that resonates with the growing voter populations in the Phoenix, Denver, Des Moines, Portland, and Raleigh metro areas. That means ignoring the divisive immigration siren song in favor of a positive growth platform.

Jordan Bruneau is a policy analyst at the Becoming American Initiative.