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Battle for the Senate in 2020 is critical for presidential candidates' plans

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Image: Chuck Schumer, Amy Klobuchar
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer speaks to reporters at the Capitol on April 9, 2019.J. Scott Applewhite / AP file

WASHINGTON — For all of the focus on the 2020 Dem presidential race and the attention on the candidates’ policy proposals, Stacey Abrams’ announcement that she’s a no-go for the Senate underscores an important reality for the presidential hopefuls.

Without control of the U.S. Senate — and with Mitch McConnell in charge — it’s a legitimate question whether a Democratic president in 2021 can get his/her cabinet and court picks confirmed.

Let alone pass Medicare for all. Or an ambitious climate plan. Or tax hikes on the wealthy.

Here’s the math: With the GOP holding a 53-47 advantage right now, Democrats must pick up a net of three Senate seats to win control of the chamber if they win the White House (with the vice president getting to break 50-50 ties).

And here’s the map: GOP Sen. Cory Gardner is vulnerable in Colorado; Democrats have recruited Mark Kelly to run against GOP Sen. Martha McSally in Arizona; but Dem Sen. Doug Jones is going to have a challenge hanging on in Alabama in a presidential year.

So assuming Dem wins in Arizona and Colorado — as well as a loss in Alabama — Democrats have to beat Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, plus flip one of Georgia, North Carolina, Iowa, Kentucky or Texas.

It’s doable. But it’s also daunting.

And Georgia looks more difficult without Abrams running.

Now, it’s still early. National Democrats believe the pace of the presidential race is skewing the perspective of Senate recruiting.

After all, Jacky Rosen didn’t announce her Nevada Senate until July 2017. And Kyrsten Sinema didn’t announce until September 2017. So it’s early.

But the challenging Senate map should be an important question for every 2020 Democratic presidential candidate: What can you legitimately get done as president if your party doesn’t control the Senate in 2021?

And just as important: With that challenging Senate map, why are you running for president instead of for the Senate?

Biden’s bump

He’s still a vulnerable frontrunner, but Joe Biden has gotten a nice bump after his announcement in the early national polls.

A CNN poll conducted after his announcement has him at 39 percent — followed by Bernie Sanders at 15 percent, Elizabeth Warren at 8 percent, Pete Buttigieg at 7 percent, Beto O’Rourke at 6 percent and Kamala Harris at 5 percent.

And a new national online Morning Consult poll has Biden at 36 percent, Sanders at 22 percent, Warren at 9 percent, Buttigieg at 8 percent, Harris at 7 percent and O’Rourke at 5 percent.

But remember: It’s never easy being the early polling frontrunner. Ask Rudy Giuliani and Hillary in 2008. Or Jeb Bush in 2016.

2020 Vision: Begun the contrast war has

The gloves haven’t quite come off in the 2020 Democratic presidential race. But it’s starting to get chippy as the candidates contrast their records with one another.

Here was Sanders on Biden in a CNN interview last night: "But I think when people take a look at my record versus Vice President Biden's record — I helped lead the fight against (North American Free Trade Agreement); he voted for NAFTA," Sanders said.

More: "I helped lead the fight against (permanent normal trade relations) with China; he voted for it. I strongly opposed the Trans-Pacific Partnership; he supported it. I voted against the war in Iraq; he voted for it."

And here was Jay Inslee’s campaign reacting to Beto O’Rourke’s $5 trillion plan to combat climate change: "Beto O'Rourke will need to answer why he did not lead on climate change in Congress and why he voted on the side of oil companies to open up offshore drilling.”

On the 2020 campaign trail today

Joe Biden makes his first campaign stop in Iowa, hitting Cedar Rapids and Dubuque… Kamala Harris holds a roundtable on increasing teacher pay in South Carolina… Beto O’Rourke remains in California, holding a town hall in San Diego… Pete Buttigieg raises money in Massachusetts… And John Delaney gives a foreign-policy speech in DC.

Trumps sue to stop bank subpoenas

“President Donald Trump and several members of his family sued Deutsche Bank and Capital One on Monday seeking to prevent them from responding to congressional subpoenas for information about the president's finances,” NBC News reports.

“The House Intelligence and Financial Services committees have issued subpoenas to several banks as part of their investigations of alleged foreign influence on U.S. elections.”

This is a reminder of what Team Trump does. And it also raises the question again: What are they hiding?

Tweet of the day

Data Download: The number of the day is … just 12 percent

Just 12 percent.

That’s the share of Americans who say their family has personally benefitted a great deal from the growing economy, according to a new poll from Monmouth University.

Even as the president touts the low unemployment rate and booming stock market, a majority of Americans (54 percent) say they have not been helped by the economic climate much (27 percent) or at all (27 percent.)

It’s a dichotomy Joe Biden mentioned yesterday in his opening campaign appeal to blue-collar workers.

“The stock market is roaring, but you don't feel it. There was a $2 trillion tax cut, did you feel it? Did you get anything from it?” he said. “No! Of course not."

The Lid: Can’t buy me love

Don’t miss the pod from yesterday, when we looked at why the booming economy isn’t matching up to a strong approval rating for the president.

ICYMI: News clips you shouldn’t miss

Trump wants to charge asylum-seekers a fee to process their claims.

The NRA’s Wayne LePierre has been reelected as CEO despite the internal woes of the gun lobby.

Gay donors are the foundation of Pete Buttigieg’s campaign, the New York Times writes.

Kamala Harris has hired admaker Jim Margolis.

Other news that’s out there…

Trump agenda: Barr-ed

A Barr standoff is looming for House Dems.

The share of Americans saying that illegal immigration at the border is a “crisis” has jumped 11 percentage points, a new Washington Post/ABC poll finds.

Is Stephen Moore in trouble? Joni Ernst says she’s “not enthused” about backing him.

2020: Biden takes aim at Trump

Alex Seitz-Wald and Mike Memoli wrap Biden’s opening argument from yesterday.

Beto O’Rourke is out with a new $5 trillion to address climate change.

Can a woman beat Trump? Not everyone is convinced.

Pete Buttigieg is trying to reach out to black voters.

Team Trump thinks it can expand the 2020 map. Can they?

POLITICO checks in on Cory Gardner’s reelection race.