Vulnerable down-ballot Democrats stay quiet after Biden’s debate

Democrats running in competitive down-ballot races this year largely kept quiet or dodged questions on Friday about the first presidential debate as the party grapples with the fallout from President Joe Biden’s shaky performance.

Several Senate Democratic candidates in key states took to social media not to comment on the debate, but to share footage from recent campaign events or highlight other policies. Staffers working with several of those campaigns did not return requests for comment on the debate. And a few candidates did not directly answer questions about whether Biden should continue as the party’s presidential nominee.

“I focus on my race. I’m not a pundit,” Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, told News5 Cleveland when asked if party leaders, including himself, should ask Biden to step aside. “I’ve never given my colleagues about what they should do with their free time and what they should do with other politicians.”

“I’ve got flooding all in my district and I’m headed home to work on that,” Rep. Angie Craig, D-Minn., who’s facing a hotly contested re-election race, said at the Capitol Friday when asked if Biden should step aside.

“Let other pundits do the punditry,” Craig added.

As some Democrats fretted privately about the party’s chances in the November elections following Thursday night’s debate, operatives working in competitive congressional races were not panicking.

“I think everybody’s in agreement that it was not the president’s best showing last night. He had a very off night,” said Democratic strategist Chuck Rocha. “And I don’t think, because it’s so early … that it will have a huge impact on House or Senate races.”

Rocha and other Democratic strategists noted that voters, long concerned with Biden’s age, have been distinguishing the president from down-ballot candidates, pointing to public and private polling showing Democrats outperforming him in key races.

“As we’ve always said, Senate campaigns are candidate vs. candidate battles and Republicans have a roster of deeply flawed recruits — we’ll win because we have the better candidates,” Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee communications director David Bergstein said in a statement to NBC News.

Democrats have little room for error in the battle for Congress this year. Republicans need a net gain of just two seats to take control of the Senate, or one if former President Donald Trump wins the White House, since the vice president breaks Senate ties.

In the House, Democrats are looking to net just four seats to flip the chamber.

One Democratic strategist working on House races said Friday that internal polling shows that Biden is struggling in districts he won in 2020, but emphasized that the party’s congressional candidates are over-performing Biden. The strategist said voters are “clearly” distinguishing between the races but worried “that may not last; there may be a drag effect” in the end.

But others were skeptical that the debate could impact races further down the ballot, with many voters already set in their views about Biden and Trump.

”Joe Biden turned in a weak debate performance. There’s no beating around that bush,” said one Democratic strategist working in House and Senate races. “But it doesn’t change the fact that voters have come to expect that Joe Biden is old and that Donald Trump is really crazy.”

Renewed optimism for GOP

The debate left Republicans brimming with optimism about winning not only the presidency, but both chambers of Congress this fall.

Sen. JD Vance, R-Ohio, a potential vice presidential contender, said any boost to Trump will help GOP Senate candidates, noting that many of them are under-performing him, including in states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Montana.

“Tonight helps Donald Trump. And because it helps Donald Trump it probably helps Senate Republicans,” Vance said Thursday night after the debate. “The basic lay of the land is: every single race, Republicans are running behind Donald Trump.”

GOP strategist Brad Todd said the debate puts Republicans in good shape to hold the House and positioned to win upwards of 54 Senate seats.

“I think that Hakeem Jeffries is probably taking a lot of Tums tonight — antacid medication for the ulcer that he just got between 9:00 and 10:30 p.m.,” Todd said of the House minority leader. “Republican control of the House is going to be in pretty good shape if the climate trends where it is, and tonight helped the climate. And I think Republican donors need to seriously entertain the idea that maybe they’re not focusing on a broad enough Senate map.”

Apart from attempting to flip West Virginia, Montana, Ohio and Pennsylvania, he said, “I think you have to now start looking to beyond, expand that map. Nevada, Virginia, New Mexico — states we haven’t talked about before now need to be in the conversation.”

The National Republican Senatorial Committee kept its focus on a top target: Montana Sen. Jon Tester, who is running in a state Trump carried by double digits four years ago.

“Senate Democrats have been telling Americans Joe Biden is still sharp. Jon Tester even went so far as to say Biden is ‘absolutely 100% with it.’ It is clear they were lying, and voters will remember that in November,” NRSC spokesman Mike Berg said in a statement. He pointed to an ad the party is running on Tester praising Biden’s abilities.

In the House, a spokesman for the GOP’s campaign arm said to expect more attacks tying Biden to Democrats.

“House Democrats know the president isn’t up to the job, yet they enabled him doddering in the Oval Office while the border devolved into chaos. Prices skyrocketed, communities became consumed with violence, and wars proliferated abroad,” said the National Republican Congressional Committee’s Jack Pandol.

“They will be held accountable for their fecklessness with an onslaught of advertising tying them at the hip to our Commander in Decline,” Pandol added.

This article was originally published on

Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top