The Democrats are so cheery, optimistic, and perhaps slightly inebriated here in Philadelphia that it’s easy to forget they are, by most standards, America’s minority party. They need four seats and the presidency or five seats to win back control of the Senate and 32 seats to win back control of the House of Representatives. They only control 18 governor’s mansions. There are 31 GOP-controlled state legislatures, 11 Democratic-controlled ones, and eight are split. There are currently about 1,000 more Republican state legislators than Democratic ones.
The 2010 and 2014 midterm elections clear-cut a generation of Democratic rising stars; the Democrats’ hopes of winning the Senate hinge on a lot of old retreads coming back and riding a Democratic wave: former senator Russ Feingold in Wisconsin, former governor Ted Strickland in Ohio, former governor and senator Evan Bayh in Indiana. Democrats have to hope 2016 is an anti-incumbent year but not an anti-insider year, as the other half of their hopes hinge on House members: Tammy Duckworth running in Illinois, either Alan Grayson or Patrick Murphy in Florida, and Ann Kirkpatrick in Arizona.
“No guarantees, there never are, but the odds are more like than not that we will take back the Senate,” Sen. Chuck Schumer said at a forum sponsored by the Washington Post Thursday afternoon. Schumer will be the next majority or minority leader of the Senate Democrats, depending upon how November unfolds. He suggested that the electorate’s sense of economic gloom was actually working to his party’s advantage: “The electorate is moving in a more Democratic direction. When middle class incomes decline, people tend to move in a more progressive direction.”
Schumer’s optimism is driven more by national demographics than by the specific traits of his candidates. He contends that Millennials, or voters aged 18 to 35, will be the largest age group voting in this year’s electorate, even if they don’t turn out in massive numbers.
“The number one factor in whether we retake the Senate is whether Hillary Clinton does well, and I think she’s going to do really well,” Schumer says of his former fellow New York senator. He notes that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell urged Senate Republicans in difficult races to localize their elections, rather than get too tied to Trump’s positions and comments and scoffs, “Sorry, Mitch, this is a national election if there ever was one.”
At least publicly, Schumer has no worries about his party’s dwindling fortunes among working-class white voters. “For every blue-collar Democrat we lose in western Pennsylvania, we will pick up two moderate Republicans in the suburbs in Philadelphia, and you can repeat that in Ohio and Illinois and Wisconsin.”