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Contentious town meetings show continued Senate majority might not be cakewalk for Republicans

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Dean Heller lets his attitude about his constituents show at a town meeting in Reno.

 

Democrats will have an uphill climb, if not an impossible one, to regain the Senate in 2018. That said, Republicans are doing themselves absolutely no favors. The two most vulnerable Republicans running in 2018-Sens. Dean Heller (NV) and Jeff Flake (AZ)- found that out while back home this recess.

Mr. Heller plainly does not relish the town-hall format: He told a conservative group last week that the events were "one of those boxes you gotta check," according to audio obtained by The Nevada Independent. And at a gathering on Monday in Reno, Mr. Heller's genial sidestepping was greeted at times with chants of "Answer the question!"

On some contentious issues, like federal funding for Planned Parenthood, he seemed caught between a desire to placate attendees-in a state Hillary Clinton carried last year-and a need to reconcile his past positions. At one point, he said he would "protect Planned Parenthood," before hedging. (Facing pressure from the right, his office further clarified his remarks afterward.)

The welcome for Mr. Flake, who was also pressed on Planned Parenthood funding during a town hall in Mesa, Ariz., was not much warmer. "You work for us!" attendees shouted repeatedly.

A top contender to challenge one of the Democrats' most endangered incumbents in 2018, Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota, didn't fare a whole lot better. He went on local radio to defend White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer's disastrous Hitler and "holocaust centers" remarks by saying Spicer's comparison of Hitler and President Bashar al-Assad of Syria is "not without some validity." Because he hasn't learned that if you are a politician, you just shut up about Hitler already. Nope, Cramer says, "I do say what's on my mind," and-I am not making this up-"I expose myself a lot. [...] That's the best way I can put it." What he meant, supposedly, was that he spends a lot more time in front of voters. And, no, that was probably not the best way to put it.

These seats are by no means going to be handed to Democrats, not without solid candidates and hard work. But it does mean that Senate Republicans are going to be constrained in pursuing the extremist agenda of the Trump regime and the House Republicans, because any big political win for Trump is going to be toxic in places like Nevada and Arizona.