One of the problems Republicans face in adjusting to a population and a society less and less dominated by white men is that their lack of diversity in office-holders can be self-perpetuating. At a time when the GOP is coming to grips with truly calamitous polling numbers among women (a new Monmouth survey shows 55 percent of women nationally all but ruling out a vote for Donald Trump), who are sinking Republican chances in key suburban swing areas up and down the ballot, the party is struggling to increase the paltry number of women in its congressional caucuses. That goal is looking especially hopeless in the Senate, as Politico reports:
Senate Republicans could lose nearly half of the women currently in their caucus come November after recently making painstaking gains — the latest potential blow to the party in the Trump era.
Out of nine Senate GOP women serving, four face highly competitive races this year in Arizona, Maine, Georgia and Iowa.
Appointed senator Martha McSally of Arizona, who lost a 2018 Senate race to Kyrsten Sinema, has trailed Democrat Mark Kelly in ten of 11 public polls released this year and by double digits in several. It doesn’t help that Republicans are struggling in her state, in part thanks to a spike in coronavirus cases. Another appointed senator, Georgia’s Kelly Loeffler, is facing strong opponents to her right (Republican congressman Doug Collins) and to her left (Democratic minister Raphael Warnock) in a nonpartisan “jungle primary” in November that will probably lead to a January 2021 runoff.
Veteran Maine senator Susan Collins has had a bull’s-eye on her back since her crucial vote to confirm Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh in 2018. She has trailed her most likely Democratic opponent, state House Speaker Sara Gideon, in sparse public polling. And alarm bells went off in Iowa last month when the gold-standard poll from Selzer & Company showed incumbent Republican Joni Ernst trailing Democrat Theresa Greenfield by three points.
There are no women in the slender ranks of viable Senate Republican challengers, although Cynthia Lummis is the GOP front-runner to replace retiring senator Mike Enzi in Wyoming. Meanwhile, neither of the two Democratic women up in November, Jeanne Shaheen or Tina Smith, is in any trouble. So depending on what happens in competitive Senate races, there will be somewhere between 17 and 20 Democratic women in the Senate next year.
Needless to say, the president’s currently poor showing in every measurement of his contest with Joe Biden is acting as a down-ballot drag on all of his party’s vulnerable Senate candidates.
It could get even worse for Republican women in the Senate: Thanks to a tweet from the president pledging to oppose Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski when she is up for reelection in 2022, she has become a prime prospect for a postelection party switch, particularly if Democrats get within one Senate seat of gaining control of the chamber.
All in all, 2020 may be remembered as a negative landmark for Republican women in the Senate, much as 2018 was for those in the House: Their numbers dropped from 23 to 13 in just one election cycle. It’s not a good sign for a more diverse future.