So far, the answer appears to be….yes.
But the night, as they say, is young:
Donald Trump will prove a boon to House Democrats, top campaign officials said Monday morning, though they conceded that a Trump drag has yet to exhibit itself because the election’s dynamics have been slow to solidify.
“This election is breaking late,” said Kelly Ward, executive director of the Democrat Congressional Campaign Committee. “The dynamic of what is happening at the top of the ticket is taking a while to solidify,” leaving the House as a lagging indicator. Nevertheless, added New Mexico-3 Representative Ben Ray Lujan, who chairs the committee, “Whether people try to run away from Donald Trump now or not, the damage has been done.”
It’s mid-June, gentles; that’s awfully early for an election to “break,” even in 2016. Just as the dynamic of what is happening at the top of the ticket has already pretty much solidified: The American electorate emphatically wants other viable choices besides the two most loathed figures in American politics today, but are holding their noses moderately less for Hillary Clinton than they are for Donald Trump. He got a small post-nomination-clinching bump, which is now fading, and she may or may not get a bump after hers, but if she does, it will settle back down to that mid-single-digits margin by which she will eventually win in November. Indeed, I would argue that the top-of-the-ticket dynamic has not only solidified, it has congealed.
The question has always been the effect down-ballot. Coattails (positive and negative) have ceased to be an electoral phenomenon over the past generation, but the sheer stench and spectacle of Trumpmania figured to bring them back, though they also figured to have the least impact in the House. The evidence thus far seems to reinforce that conclusion:
While a Trump effect on the House has been much discussed (see here, here,here and here, for example) it has yet to exhibit itself in terms of the shape of the House battlegrounds: A perusal back through the Cook Political Report’s ratings of House races, for example, shows a surprisingly stable battle for the House. The most recent chart, issued last week, rated forty-five GOP-held seats as competitive (with three in the “likely Democrat” column, two more in “lean Democrat,” fifteen toss-ups, thirteen in “lean Republican” and another dozen in “likely Republican”); one month ago there were forty-four competitive Republican seats, divided roughly the same way; the number was forty-three the month before that. Democrats have thirteen competitive seats, according to the latest Cook tally, and need to net thirty seats to regain the majority in the House.
Doesn’t sound like a “blue wave” election at the House level to me. It might have been if the Dems had cared about electability and nominated Bernie Sanders instead, but as I have discussed for years now, Hillary Clinton inspires nothing other than heartburn. She’ll win because Trump is an even worse alternative for every voter outside his Peronist personality cult, but dragging her own fat ass across the finish line will be enough of a burden without having to lift all those other boats at the same time.
But what about in the Senate, where the GOP was going to have a difficult enough time holding onto its 54-46 majority even before the ill-fated, ill-advised rise of the pompadoured prince? Turns out there’s still some flickering hope there as well:
This lines up with polling seen in Senate and gubernatorial races. Trump’s negatives and lack of gain from Mitt Romney’s polling levels in 2012 hasn’t shown any impact on other Republicans. In Pennsylvania, Pat Toomey still holds a substantial lead over Democrat challengers despite Trump’s lack of significant traction. In Utah, a poll taken a week ago shows Trump not even reaching 30% in a three-way race for the presidency in this deep-red State and only 36% in a two-way battle against Hillary Clinton. Governor Gary Herbert scores 56% from the same sample in his re-election bid, however. In fact, another poll in Utah shows much the same kind of race.
If Trump is still neck and neck with Hillary Clinton in Utah three months after I first brought that to y’all’s attention, he’s going to get utterly and absolutely vaporized in just under five months. Shinola, even poor ol’ Bob Dole carried the Mormon State by twenty-one points in 1996, and John McCain by twenty-nine a dozen years later, and those were the most desultory Republican efforts in the past half-century.
But then anybody who hasn’t drunk the Trump Kool-Aid has always known that he couldn’t win in November and that the point of his bid all along was to ensure the ascension of his good friend Commissar Thunderthighs. The biggest threat of Trumpmania has always been the Whiggification of the GOP by the abject destruction of its brand by its subsumption into Trump’s corrupt, gutter-trash circus. But if the party’s congressional majorities could survive Trumpageddon, so could the party itself, and perhaps the GOP civil war that demon-spawned it could be wound down in something resembling Lincolnesque, as opposed to Reconstructionesque, fashion.
Holding the Senate is still a long shot, but if Paul Ryan is still wielding the gavel next January and thus around to atone for his Trumpist sins, Trumpageddon will not have been, after all, an extinction level event.
Which simply means he’ll try again in 2020. But one ELE at a time, I guess.