Montana Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock To Run For Senate
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
We've heard this a lot from Democratic presidential candidates.
(SOUNDBITE OF MONTAGE)
JOE BIDEN: We're going to not only have to win this time; we have to bring along the United States Senate.
ELIZABETH WARREN: Think about what we could do if we get a majority in the House, a majority in the Senate.
PETE BUTTIGIEG: The time has come for us to stop acting like the presidency is the only office that matters. Not only is this a way to get Donald Trump reelected; we got a House to worry about. We got a Senate to worry about.
CORNISH: And some of those who dropped out of the presidential race retrain their sights on the Senate. That includes Montana Governor Steve Bullock and former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper. We're going to talk more about this with Nathan Gonzales of Inside Elections.
Welcome to the studio.
NATHAN GONZALES: Thank you for having me.
CORNISH: During his presidential campaign, Steve Bullock pitched himself as a moderate and an outsider but, more importantly, someone who could take on President Trump in red states. What are his chances of unseating a Republican senator there?
GONZALES: Well, first off, this takes a seat that was not considered competitive and brings it onto the competitive battlefield. And there are now 10 vulnerable Republican Senate seats. Bullock's, I think, starts the race as an underdog against Republican Governor Steve Daines. He has - you know, he's been elected statewide. He has that reputation, but that brief presidential campaign kind of boxed him in a little bit. He came out in support of impeaching the president in a state that the president is likely to win in November. He came out in favor of some other issues that Republicans will be more than happy to bring up.
CORNISH: More broadly, Democrats need to hold on to all their Senate seats and then, I believe, gain four more to take control of the chamber. Is that correct? What other states are they focusing on?
GONZALES: So four seats - a net gain of four seats is four with - a majority. But they can gain three seats and the White House, and the vice president would be a 50/50 tiebreaker. So the White House results are connected. The other vulnerable or top Democratic takeover opportunities - Colorado with Cory Gardner; Arizona, where Martha McSally is running; Thom Tillis in North Carolina; and Susan Collins in Maine.
CORNISH: Alabama's freshman Democratic Senator Doug Jones has been a target of Republicans since he got into office. Are there other Democratic senators who are vulnerable?
GONZALES: Really, the only other one that we're watching at this point is Gary Peters in Michigan. He's running for reelection a second time. Republicans are very excited about their likely candidate John James. And that could be a state where, you know - the president won Michigan by less than half of 1% in 2016. And the fate of that Senate seat might ride on the fate - the result of the presidential race.
CORNISH: Something we'll hear about later in the year but that's been hinted at already is the idea of coattails - right? - having someone at the top of the ticket that will get people to turn out for the party in these other seats. Is there a sense, based on what we know from the primary so far, about what that could mean for Democrats?
GONZALES: Well, I think more Democrats are more comfortable running with Joe Biden at the top of the ticket rather than Bernie Sanders. I mean, I have a tough time believing that Steve Bullock would choose to take on this difficult race if Bernie Sanders were at the top. But again, going back...
CORNISH: But is that a vague sense, or is there any...
CORNISH: ...Way of really knowing it? I hear it from pundits all the time.
GONZALES: Yeah, I think that it just changes what these candidates are going to be asked about all the time. If Bernie Sanders were the Democratic nominee, Steve Bullock and all these others would be asked about, how do you pay for, you know, this health care plan every single day. And now they're going to get questions - they're going to get, you know, sent through the ringer, but it'll be a different-looking race. And in 2016, remember - the first time that the presidential result and the Senate result matched up in every single state. And that's why senators such as Cory Gardner of Colorado or Susan Collins should be concerned if the president isn't able to carry those states again.
CORNISH: That's Nathan Gonzales, editor and publisher of Inside Elections. Thanks for your insight.
GONZALES: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.