Donald Trump’s troubles in the polls could give Washington state considerably more clout on Capitol Hill next year.
The state’s two Democratic senators, Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, will lead influential committees in 2017 if Republicans lose control of the Senate on Nov. 8.
The odds appear to be increasing: Earlier this week, the Cook Political Report predicted that Democrats will pick up from five to seven additional seats, more than enough to become the majority party. If Hillary Clinton wins the presidency, Democrats will need only a net gain of four seats to produce a 50-50 tie with Republicans. They’d still control the chamber since the vice president would get the tie-breaking vote.
The Cook report, an independent nonpartisan newsletter that analyzes congressional campaigns, said Republican prospects dimmed Oct. 7 when The Washington Post released an “Access Hollywood” video showing Trump boasting about kissing and groping women.
“Since the release of the Access Hollywood tape, Senate Republicans have seen their fortunes dip, particularly in states like Florida, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Nevada and Pennsylvania, where Clinton has established a lead,” the report said.
Murray is up for re-election this year; Cantwell is not.
In the latest Elway Poll, released Monday, Murray had the backing of 58 percent of those surveyed, while her Republican challenger, Chris Vance, had 34 percent.
Murray’s in line to become the chairwoman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, a job that Independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has said he’d like to have, too.
But she faces two other big decisions.
Murray could have a chance to lead the powerful Appropriations Committee. That would happen if Vermont Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy decides not to take the post, allowing him to lead the Senate Judiciary Committee instead.
And she must decide whether to challenge Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin for the No. 2 Democratic leadership slot.
Cantwell, meanwhile, would be in line to become chairwoman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.