MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Alex Conant has worked for Republican presidential candidates, Senate candidates and the National Party. Right now, he and his fellow GOP strategists are not optimistic.
ALEX CONANT: I have not talked to a Republican operative since the presidential debate who thinks Trump is likely to win.
. . .
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
BEN SASSE: The way he kisses dictators’ butts, the way he treats women and mocks evangelicals behind closed doors – he’s flirted with white supremacists.
LIASSON: That’s easy for Sasse to say. He’s cruising to reelection in ruby-red Nebraska. But Republican Senate incumbents in tough races can’t do that. For them, says Alex Conant, breaking with the president is the political equivalent of a murder-suicide pact.
CONANT: You know, you need your base plus some independents to win an election these days. If you attack Trump or disown Trump and you’re a Republican, you’re going to lose your base.
. . .
CONANT: I think it’s clear that Senate Republican candidates don’t want to be talking about Donald Trump. They want to be talking about their own records, local issues, Joe Biden’s faults, their opponents’ faults because look; every time a Republican Senate candidate is talking about Donald Trump, he risks one of two things – hurting himself with the Republican base or hurting himself with independents. But there is no upside.
LIASSON: Republican Sen. Thom Tillis, in a tight race in North Carolina, has gone even further. He made the kind of argument candidates make when they’re convinced the top of their ticket is losing when he told Politico that, quote, “the best check on a Biden presidency is for Republicans to have a majority in the Senate.”
CONANT: I think you’re going to see more Senate candidates arguing that we really need to make sure that we reelect Republican senators in case Joe Biden is elected president. And every voter can read the polls as well and knows that that’s a likely scenario, so I expect you’ll hear more of that sort of language the closer we get to the election.