Republicans have gotten a spate of very bad news in the last few days. Polls show Republicans struggling in Senate races across the map, especially in states that should be safe. The nomination of Amy Coney Barrett may give the GOP another conservative seat on the Supreme Court, but it will also highlight the threat to people’s health insurance in the midst of a pandemic. And yesterday evening, Trump’s tax returns finally caught up with him and could dominate the conversation going down the stretch. If nothing changes, Republicans will be hitting the panic button very soon.
In North Carolina, Senator Thom Tillis saw another devastating poll from a high-quality pollster. CBS News finds him trailing Cal Cunningham by ten points. At this point in the race, most voters know a lot about both candidates and closing a gap that wide in five weeks will be difficult. He will need Cunningham to stumble to make up the difference and Cunningham has not made many mistakes after a year of campaigning.
But what may be the worst news for Tillis is what is happening in other states. Two polls out this weekend show South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham in a dead heat with challenger Jaime Harrison. In Iowa, three polls show incumbent Republican Senator Joni Ernst trailing her Democratic opponent. In addition, polls in Mississippi and Kansas show races that should be safe for Republicans but are now tied. Outside money bolstering Tillis will soon be diverted to those states if his numbers don’t improve and races in those other states stay competitive. Expect the GOP to pull the plug on Tillis if the national environment or his numbers don’t improve in the next week or two.
While Republicans are celebrating the chance for Trump to appoint his third Supreme Court Justice, the debate is shifting to the impact Amy Coney Barrett could have on health care. While the Affordable Care Act has become popular with a majority of Americans, Barrett is on record criticizing the law. With a case pending before the court and schedule to be heard in November, she could be the vote that strips health care for millions of people and brings back pre-existing conditions.
The alarm sent the President tweeting, “Obamacare will be replaced with a MUCH better, and FAR cheaper, alternative if it is terminated in the Supreme Court. Would be a big WIN for the USA!” Americans spent most of the past decade hearing Republicans talk about repealing and replacing Obamacare and then when they had the chance, we learned they didn’t have plan. Voters don’t trust the GOP on health care for good reason and talking about it going into the final month of the election is not the conversation Republicans want.
Finally, the New York Times got a good look at Trump’s taxes and we now know what he was hiding. He only paid $750 in 2016 and 2017 and paid no taxes in ten of the fifteen years prior to that. And that’s probably just the beginning. He has mysterious creditors and he was paying his children exorbitant consulting fees for doing essentially nothing. After decades of harping on taxes, they are another conversation Republicans want to avoid. Poll after poll shows voters angry about the GOP tax bill that led to massive debt for the country and big savings for corporations and the wealthy but gave little to working and middle class families. Trump’s tax shenanigans just add insult to injury.
Republicans are in big trouble late in the election cycle. Senate races that shouldn’t be in play are. Incumbents that should be competitive are losing badly. Among those, Thom Tillis cannot get any traction and is at risk of losing his national support. The Supreme Court nomination fight is likely to highlight a GOP weak spot as health care becomes a focal point. The president’s taxes will dominate the conversation for the next few days and could offer fodder all the way until election day. Democrats are already selling “I paid more taxes than Donald Trump” swag. Republicans need some kind of break and it almost certainly won’t come from the president.
Thomas Mills is the founder and publisher of PoliticsNC.com. Before beginning PoliticsNC, Thomas spent twenty years as a political and public affairs consultant. Learn more >