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Joe Biden

Hill Democrats: Joe Biden won’t take us down with him

With President Joe Biden declaring he intends to remain in the race for the White House, House and Senate Democratic leaders face a huge question — can they win in November if he’s at the top of the ticket?

Their answer: The crisis surrounding Biden doesn’t change the outlook much for their incumbents or challengers. That’s the argument senior Democrats are making in public and private to push back against the claim that Biden will drag them down on Election Day.

Here’s how it goes.

Now that former President Donald Trump is the clear frontrunner in the race for the White House, a lot of the campaign cash, media attention and the Democratic Party’s organizational muscle will shift toward down-ballot races. Hill Democrats emphasize that it’s critical to win the House and limit losses in the Senate in order to put up a firewall against Trump’s agenda.

As evidence, Hill Democrats point to the fact that their most vulnerable House and Senate incumbents continue to poll either slightly ahead of or dead even with their GOP challengers. Those Republican candidates are running well behind Trump in those polls.

Rank-and-file Democrats also have plenty of money, and donations are surging as Biden stumbles. And some of the most vulnerable Democrats — such as Sens. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) — always knew it was going to be an uphill battle in a presidential election year anyway.

“As we’ve always said, Senate campaigns are candidate vs. candidate battles and Republicans have a roster of deeply flawed recruits,” said David Bergstein, the DSCC’s communications director. “We’ll win because we have the better candidates.”

Battleground race polls overwhelmingly show Senate Democrats leading in these races. That hasn’t changed following Biden’s debate debacle, at least not yet. A new Nevada poll released on Wednesday showed Trump up by 10 points in the Silver State, yet Democratic Sen. Jacky Rosen with an eight-point lead over Republican challenger Sam Brown.

Democrats we spoke with this week also pointed to our recent reporting on Trump’s meeting with Senate Republicans to argue that even GOP senators acknowledge their candidates are flawed. During that meeting, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) raised alarms about the fact that Trump is out-performing GOP Senate candidates in the battleground states, and asked the former president to do more to boost them.

Of course, that was well before the Biden-Trump debate spurred the current emergency for Democrats. GOP insiders argue that Biden’s abysmal performance will help Republicans close that gap between Trump and their Senate candidates. But it may take days, if not weeks, for that to show up in polling.

Democrats also claim the media is overhyping the impact Biden will have on down-ballot races.

“Democrats run common-sense, independent-minded candidates who are focused on kitchen table issues,” Viet Shelton, DCCC communications director added. “Meanwhile Republicans run extremists who only care about acting like and obeying Trump — peddling conspiracy theories, taking away reproductive freedom and pushing tax breaks for the ultra-wealthy.”

Money keeps flowing into Democratic coffers, a huge plus. The DCCC raised $1.3 million online in the days following last week’s Biden-Trump debate. House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries and former President Barack Obama raised $3 million at an event last Friday.

Yet the evidence that Democrats are wrong — or just spinning very hard — abounds.

A number of House Democrats have said Biden should drop out or are openly predicting a Trump win. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) will be somewhere else when the president travels to Wisconsin on Friday. Biden gave an interview to a Milwaukee radio host admitting “I screwed up” during the debate.

We’re also beginning to see Republican candidates ramp up efforts to tie their Democratic opponents to the weakened Biden.

Dave McCormick, the GOP Senate candidate in Pennsylvania, has a new ad out saying Biden and Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) “are too weak” to stop the crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border. Here’s the spot.

Casey’s lead over McCormick has averaged five points since April, according to RealClear Polling.

However, some Democratic strategists privately fear that edge is eroding as Biden flounders. Biden is trailing Trump by four points in the latest Pennsylvania polls, despite the dozens of trips the president has taken there. Biden will be in Philadelphia on Sunday, and Casey is scheduled to appear with him. Biden badly needs to win Pennsylvania to have any hope of winning reelection.

Those Nevada poll results also face some serious doubts from political pros there.

“I believe Rosen is running ahead of Biden, but that’s not hard to do these days,” Jon Ralston, CEO and editor of the Nevada Independent, told us. “My gut tells me that in November, if Trump wins Nevada outside the margin of error, which is unlikely but possible, Rosen is in big trouble.”

— John Bresnahan, Andrew Desiderio and Jake Sherman

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Editorial photos provided by Getty Images. Political ads courtesy of AdImpact.