Listen: Top Dem says 'no Republican Senate seat is safe'

Listen: Top Dem says 'no Republican Senate seat is safe'
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The Democrat charged with overseeing the party’s long-shot bid to reclaim control of the Senate this year maintains the Republican majority is at risk — though he pointedly declined to predict how the midterms will play out.
In an interview for The Hill’s Power Politics podcast, Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) chairman Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenOvernight Energy: EPA finalizes rollback of Obama-era oil and gas methane emissions standards | Democratic lawmakers ask Interior to require masks indoors at national parks | Harris climate agenda stresses need for justice EPA finalizes rollback of Obama-era oil and gas methane emissions standards Democrats unveil bill to penalize gas producers for blowouts ahead of expected Trump methane rollback MORE (D-Md.) said his party would compete in Republican-held territory this year, given President TrumpDonald John TrumpUSPS warns Pennsylvania mail-in ballots may not be delivered in time to be counted Michael Cohen book accuses Trump of corruption, fraud Trump requests mail-in ballot for Florida congressional primary MORE’s dismal approval ratings and the national political landscape.
"We have some great challengers, and this is a year when no Republican Senate seat is safe," Van Hollen told The Hill. "I think we’re in a very strong position. I’m not going to make any predictions as to the exact outcome."
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Van Hollen, the first senator to run the DSCC during his first two years in office and the only person to run both the House and Senate campaign arms, pointed to election results last year in Virginia and Alabama, states where Democrats won by surprising margins. He said those races would be both harbingers of things to come and guideposts for how to get there.
“Clearly you’ve got a lot of motivation among the grass roots. You’ve got a lot of independents voting for Democrats. And you have a lot of disenchanted Republicans coming over,” Van Hollen said. “And I think you’re going to increasingly see a lot of the folks who supported Trump looking at his actual actions and deciding that they have been betrayed.”
Republicans hold a narrow 51-49 seat majority in the Senate. But the political map favors the GOP in 2018, when 26 Democratic-held seats will be up for election versus just eight Republican-held seats. Moreover, 10 Democrats represent states that Trump won in 2016, including some — like North Dakota, West Virginia, Indiana and Montana — that he won by wide margins.
Van Hollen said he was optimistic that the Democrats up for reelection, all of whom are running for another term, are ready for the challenge.
“They all have reputations as people who stand up for the interests of the people from their state,” he said. “These are battle-tested members. They’ve all run before. They’ve put together very strong campaigns. They’re putting together the resources to run strong grass-roots field operations as well as strong social media campaigns. So, they’re prepared.”
Van Hollen said Democrats will target Nevada, where Rep. Jacky RosenJacklyn (Jacky) Sheryl RosenSenate Democrats demand answers on migrant child trafficking during pandemic Democrats call for expedited hearing for Trump's public lands nominee Democrats call for McConnell to bring Voting Rights Act to floor in honor of Lewis MORE (D) is challenging Sen. Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerOn The Trail: Democrats plan to hammer Trump on Social Security, Medicare Lobbying World Democrats spend big to put Senate in play MORE (R); and Arizona, where Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D) will face the winner of a competitive Republican primary. He also pointed to Tennessee, where former Gov. Phil Bredesen (D) is mounting a political comeback after Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerTennessee primary battle turns nasty for Republicans Cheney clashes with Trump Sessions-Tuberville Senate runoff heats up in Alabama MORE (R) said he would retire, as an example of Democrats expanding the map, along with states like Utah and Nebraska, where Democrats are expected to choose female nominees.
“We have candidates now in every Senate race challenging Republicans, with the exception of Mississippi, and I’m confident we’ll have a strong candidate there,” Van Hollen said.
Though Trump’s approval rating hovers below any of his predecessors at this point in their terms, Van Hollen and other Democrats have said they plan to run on a platform that goes beyond simply opposing an unpopular president. Asked whether he was made uncomfortable by talk of Democrats impeaching Trump, he said the party should focus instead on the midterms.
“The Democratic message is that the Democrats are there for working folks, trying to make sure people get a fair shot, and I think if you look at the contrasts here, they are very strong,” Van Hollen said in the interview at the DSCC’s headquarters, a hodgepodge of townhouses stitched together across the street from the Hart Senate Office Building.
“Everybody in most states wants to hold the president accountable,” he went on. “By that, I mean they want members to work with the president if it’s going to advance the interests of the people of their state, but fight the president where it’s against the interests of the people in their states. And that has been the guiding principle for all of our incumbent senators. Their states come first. They’ll work with the president if that will get something done for the people in their states, but they will fight them if it won’t.”
Democrats worked in 2017 to take advantage of higher turnout among younger voters and minorities. Van Hollen said Democrats would continue to reach out to young people in particular, voters generally viewed as being drawn more toward specific issues than their parents or grandparents, who might have felt a stronger sense of loyalty to a political party.
“My sense has been that young people are really engaged on issues especially. And the main way to reach out to younger people is not to simply say 'vote for a candidate because they’re a Democrat,' but 'vote for somebody because they share your values and here’s their agenda,' ” Van Hollen said.
“Look, [Sen.] Bernie SandersBernie SandersChris Wallace: Trump struggling with attacks on 'shape-shifter' Harris Kamala Harris: The outreach Latinos need Biden and Harris seen as more moderate than Trump and Pence: poll MORE [I-Vt.] is no spring chicken, but he was able to galvanize a lot of support, of course, among young people because of ideas and the energy he brought to those ideas.”

Power Politics, hosted by The Hill’s Alexis Simendinger, airs every Saturday morning.
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