Each day that President TrumpDonald TrumpRobert Gates says 'extreme polarization' is the greatest threat to US democracy Cassidy says he won't vote for Trump if he runs in 2024 Schiff says holding Bannon in criminal contempt 'a way of getting people's attention' 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 FlakeFlake donating unused campaign funds to Arizona nonprofit focused on elections: report Biden nominates former Sen. Tom Udall as New Zealand ambassador Biden to nominate Jane Hartley as UK ambassador: report 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 McCainVirginia race looms as dark cloud over Biden's agenda Sinema's no Manchin, no McCain and no maverick Progressives say go big and make life hard for GOP MORE.
In Colorado, Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump criticizes Justice for restoring McCabe's benefits Biden sends 'best wishes' to Clinton following hospitalization The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Altria - Jan. 6 panel flexes its muscle MORE won by five points in 2016, and voters elected a progressive Democratic governor in 2018. Democrats have Republican Senator Cory GardnerCory GardnerColorado remap plan creates new competitive district Protecting the outdoors: Three cheers for America's best idea Ex-Sen. Cory Gardner joins lobbying firm 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 KingGOP brawls over Trump on eve of first Jan. 6 hearing Pence to visit Iowa to headline event for congressman Former Steve King challenger on rural voters in GOP states: 'They hate Democrats' 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 ErnstDemocrat Mike Franken launches challenge to Grassley in Iowa Trump heads to Iowa as 2024 chatter grows Photos of the Week: Manchin, California oil spill and a podium dog MORE.
In Maine, Clinton won by three points in 2016, and Democrats took back the governorship in 2018. Although Republican Senator Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsSenators ask Biden administration to fund program that helps people pay heating bills McConnell gets GOP wake-up call Republicans are today's Dixiecrats 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 TillisGOP rallies around Manchin, Sinema Advocates frustrated by shrinking legal migration under Biden Key debt-limit vote sparks major fight among Senate Republicans 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.