With their party flailing to rebuild after losing the House, the Senate, the presidency, and hundreds of down-ballot races in recent cycles, 10 Senate Democrats are up for re-election in states that President Trump won last year. As their campaign strategies develop, observers will be looking to identify how each senator approaches Trump and his policies.
We're seeing early indications of how those strategies may unfold over the next 16 months, with senators conscious of the need to tread carefully or risk their chances with an electorate that rejected Hillary Clinton.
An article in The Atlantic published Thursday probed Sens. Bob Casey, D-Penn., and Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., for hints at how they plan to tackle Trump in 2018.
"Both Casey and McCaskill—along with their colleagues—have been emboldened to oppose Trump precisely because they believe his agenda hasn't met those voters' needs," wrote Ronald Brownstein, capturing what may be the key pitch of Trump Country Democrats in the midterms.
Here's a key section on McCaskill, who fundraised just last week on "fighting back" against Trump:
McCaskill said she "respects" Trump voters and their choice to "pull the pin on this grenade [to] see if we can upset the status quo." But she argued that Trump's agenda would deliver "a gut punch to [the] rural Missouri" communities where he ran best—thanks to a health-care plan that would raise premiums for older and small-town consumers; proposals to shift federal funding from public to private schools through vouchers; and an infrastructure plan centered on promoting private investment and adding toll roads, both of which are more likely to benefit urban areas.
In 2016, Democrats tried to convince voters Trump was a liar; In 2018, they may try to convince voters that he lied.
Casey followed suit:
Casey pointed to similar risks in the congressional GOP proposals to severely cut Medicaid, which he said could destabilize both the physical and economic health of rural Pennsylvania. (In over half of Pennsylvania's rural counties, he pointedly noted, the local hospital is either the largest or second-largest employer.) Add in the toll-focused infrastructure plan and proposed reductions in community-development grants and home-heating assistance for low-income seniors, Casey said, and "I don't think that's what people in his base thought they were getting in their communities."
The strategy, then, is to acknowledge the concerns of rural and working class voters who pulled the lever for Trump, but persuade them that they were swindled and the president sided with Big Business and special interests instead.
Whether they can pull that off is another question.
Emily Jashinsky is a commentary writer for the Washington Examiner.