Fretting has officially begun in the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate as President Donald Trump faces bad polling numbers amid multiple crises. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said in a Fox News interview Friday: “If the election was today, yes, you’re concerned. Can we do better? Yes, we can.”
On Twitter, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) argued that losing the White House and the upper house's majority could end “good” nominees for the Supreme Court and hurt an economy already reeling from COVID-19. The GOP in the fall seeks to defend seats held by Sens. Martha McSally of Arizona, who trails her Democratic challenger in polls, and Thom Tillis of North Carolina, who trails his by less. Yet another mild hope for Republicans is defeating rookie Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.).
The White House also has let its own concerns be known about Sen. Kelly Loeffler’s election efforts in Georgia.
Down-ballot worries for Republicans could not have been salved by the rambling non-answer Trump offered Thursday night when Fox commentator-adviser Sean Hannity probed softly about his second-term agenda.
Trump simply wandered off.
"I was in Washington I think 17 times — all of a sudden, I'm president of the United States," Trump said. "You know the story. I'm riding down Pennsylvania Avenue with our first lady, and I say, 'This is great.'
"You make some mistakes, like, you know, an idiot like Bolton — all he wanted to do is drop bombs on everybody," Trump said of former national security adviser John Bolton. "You don't have to drop bombs on everybody. You don't have to kill people."
Earlier Thursday in Pennsylvania, former Vice President Joe Biden gave Republicans something they felt was worth seizing on. "People don’t have a job, people don’t know where to go, they don’t know what to do," the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee said. "Now we have over 120 million dead from COVID. I mean, 120,000 dead from COVID."
Trump has been playing up Biden's verbal errors, as part of a vicious caricature of an opponent still under construction, and Democratic contenders have blown projected leads before. But other Republicans' reelection worries involve not just the president's appearances but his policies.
Last week, his allies practically pleaded for the president to show more urgency on the coronavirus, rather than act as if the crisis has passed. The administration's decision to wind down federally supported testing sites prompted a letter in which Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, both Texas Republicans, urged the administration to reverse course.
“Frankly I didn’t really understand what they were thinking," Cornyn said, as quoted in Politico. "At a time cases are spiking, we’re gonna pull back? I’d be surprised if there’s a good reason not to continue it.” Trump has complained recently that testing drove up the number of acknowledged coronavirus cases.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) might have political worries of a different kind, though maybe for a different year. On primary day last week, Democrats in New York backed more ideologically leftist candidates in Congress with whom Schumer might find difficult to deal. But the bigger share of power in the Senate still belongs for now to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).