Senate Republicans facing tough re-election battles are recalculating their campaign strategies amid the push from Democrats to impeach President Trump.
Republicans hold the majority in the upper chamber by two seats and of the 35 seats contested in 2020, Republicans hold 23 and four of their members are in toss-up races.
Senate Democrats, frustrated by the number of Trump judicial and administration appointments Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has guided through upper chamber confirmation votes, have zeroed in on vulnerable Republican members, like Colorado's Cory Gardner, as part of their 2020 election strategy to take back the Senate.
Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins, running for her fifth term, split from her party’s defense of the president and criticized him over asking China to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.
“I thought the president made a big mistake by asking China to get involved in investigating a political opponent. It’s completely inappropriate,” Collins said.
As far as impeachment was concerned, Collins would only say that she believes the process should “be done with the seriousness that any impeachment proceeding deserves,” adding she will not want to reveal any current position on impeachment because she may end up “acting as a juror as I did in the Clinton impeachment trial.”
Collins has had a political target on her back since she came to the floor of the Senate in 2017 and announced she would vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court, angrily dashing hopes for Democrats of finding a Republican to vote against the Trump pick for the high court.
Once known as the country’s second most popular senator in the country, Collins likability in her own state has dipped making her the most unpopular senator after McConnell, according to the poll released by Critical Insights back in July.
Although the Maine Republican easily won each county in 2014 by at least a 24% margin, anti-Trump groups have already started to broadcast ads against her and other GOP senators on the impeachment issue.
But Collins still has the support of both the state and national Republicans. Additionally, she still has a wide lead over her likely Democratic opponent, Sara Gideon, speaker of the Maine House, in latest polls.
Gardner came out in full support of releasing the whistleblower report but did not back the House impeachment inquiry when it was first announced by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
“... The Senate unanimously voiced its support for the full release of the whistleblower report and the Senate Intelligence Committee will be conducting a formal inquiry, which I support,” the Colorado Republican said. “Starting an impeachment inquiry to appease the far-left is something the majority of Americans do not support and will sharply divide the country.”
Gardner is running for his second term. While Democrats know that getting enough Senate Republicans to remove Trump is nearly impossible, the Colorado Republican is seen by outside liberal activists as a Republican to pressure to vote against Trump, should an impeachment trial make it to the Senate, to try to at least weaken the president prior the 2020 election.
In 2016, Hillary Clinton won Colorado by 5% points and Trump’s job approval rating in the state, according to a Magellan Strategies poll released in July, is at 39% versus those who disapprove at 57%.
But Gardner has had strong fundraising numbers. This quarter, he raised $2.45 million which will be part of the almost $6.7 million in his war chest at the beginning of the month.
His likely Democratic opponent, former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, raised $2.1 million in just over five weeks since he abandoned his presidential campaign and decided to run for senate instead.
North Carolina Republican Sen. Thom Tillis dismissed Pelosi’s call for an impeachment inquiry without an official impeachment inquiry vote saying to WBTV that Democrats’ "credibility in terms of facts driving their behavior is really diminished in my eyes.”
He continued, “It looks like it’s a political decision. If it was an institutional decision, then Speaker Pelosi, why didn't you take a vote on the floor and get everybody on the record saying the evidence rose to a level to do it?"
Tillis faces at least two primary challengers in his bid for a second term in office. His current job approval rating, according to a High Point University Poll released on Sept. 25, shows a 27% approval and 38% disapproval job rating. Trump, on the other hand, gets a job approval rating from North Carolinians of 42% versus 50% disapproval.
Finally, Arizona Republican Sen. Martha McSally, who lost her initial Senate run in 2018 to now Democrat Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, only called the impeachment inquiry a “distraction,” preferring to allow voters in her state to make up their own minds about the president.
More recently, under pressure to be clearer about her thoughts on the matter, McSally stated, "This is not a joke. It's not a game," she said. "And for our country going forward and the standards that we have related to this process, I take my role very seriously. And I think that's what my constituents want me to do."
But McSally is being outraised and outpolled by likely Democrat challenger Mark Kelly. In an effort to help the struggling Republican Arizona senator, Vice President Mike Pence was sent to the state last week to boost her prospects at a fundraiser in Phoenix.