Senate Democrats are turning to veterans in their battle to win back the majority in 2016.
Rep. Tammy Duckworth (Ill.) last week became the third Democrat with experience in the armed forces to jump into a Senate race, announcing a bid against incumbent Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.).
Duckworth, a double amputee who fought in Iraq, followed in the footsteps of Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander and former Rep. Joe Sestak, two other veterans who are seeking the Democratic nomination in crucial Senate races.
With the emphasis on military experience, Democrats seem to be taking a page out of the GOP playbook from the 2014 midterm elections.
Republicans say the 2016 election will be a referendum on President Obama’s national security policies, and their White House hopefuls are preparing for a vigorous primary debate over issues like the Iranian nuclear talks and fighting terrorism.
“Foreign policy and national security is going to be in the top three concerns on voter’s radar in 2016. Democrats recognize they need vocal people on this issue because they need to be taken seriously,” said GOP strategist Ford O’Connell.
But Democrats need a net gain of five seats to take back the majority, which is a tall order, even in a presidential election year when voter turnout is likely to be high.
It’s unlikely that the Senate will change hands, unless Democrats can win in states like Illinois, Pennsylvania and Missouri, which are more favorable terrain for their party.
“There are only so many permutations and combinations to wining the majority back,” O’Connell said.
O’Connell said possessing a military background “looks good on the outside” but warned their Republican opponents “are going to play their cards wisely on the campaign trail.”
Democrats will have to “keep the car between the two white lines and not veer of into a ditch where the Republicans can pound them into the dirt,” he said.