After Donald Trump won the Indiana Republican presidential primary and sewed up the GOP nomination back in May, many swing state Republicans up for reelection in 2016 worried the outcome would narrow their path to victory.
Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio), all three beneficiaries of the 2010 “Tea Party” wave midterm, were all slated for fights to save their political lives. However, with a very polarizing candidate at the top of the ticket, some thought it would encourage an anti-Republican movement, providing Republicans in tight races with yet another hurdle to overcome.
The same was thought to be true of the House of Representatives. Many feared Trump’s presence on the ballot would place the GOP’s control of the House in jeopardy as well.
Yes, swing state Republicans are in fights for their seats, but that would have probably been true even if a more milquetoast candidate like Jeb Bush or John Kasich were the Republican nominee.
Without a Bush or Rubio at the top of the ballot, none of the traditional so-called establishment is spending money on the presidential race. Trump has gone out of his way to say he doesn’t want their money. And that has been evident in Trump’s fundraising numbers compared to what Hillary Clinton has raised.
Instead the money the establishment would have spent on the Republican nominee — if the nominee were somebody other than Trump — is going to down ballot races.
It is likely the Dems will make gains on Republicans this fall in the Senate, but control of the upper chamber doesn’t appear to be lost for the Republicans if you take into account polling data.
It appears to be even more of a longshot that Democrats can win back the U.S. House. Despite the tireless efforts of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) — who has been traveling around the country to raise money for Democratic candidates — winning the amount of seats needed to regain the House seems out of reach, which is something even outspoken liberal cheerleaders in the media acknowledge.
“Democrats pretty much concede this year that they have no chance of winning back control of the House in November,” MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow said to her viewers earlier this month. “There just aren’t enough competitive districts in the country right now, thanks to partisan gerrymandering, what they’re hoping for, the best they’re hoping for is to get about halfway there towards unseating House Speaker Paul Ryan and putting the House back in Democratic control. Democrats would have to flip about 30 seats in order to make the House Democratic again. They think they might, might be able to get about half that, they might be able to get about 15 seats.”
As for the Republicans, Trump’s candidacy might not be considered a positive for their reelection efforts. However, it certainly hasn’t helped any so-called insurgent candidates trying to replicate Trump on a congressional level.
In Alabama, Jonathan McConnell’s bid to unseat Sen. Richard Shelby was not even close. Despite Trump’s overwhelming success in the Yellowhammer State, there was no trickle-down effect for McConnell.
Granted, Shelby spent a lot of his war chest saturating the airwaves with advertisements. But the incumbent was still able to easily win the nomination and will do the same in the general election come November.
Other so-called outsiders in Alabama House races didn’t benefit from Trump being on the ballot against their “establishment” counterparts.
Dean Young fell way short for a third time trying to attain the Republican nod in Alabama’s first congressional district against incumbent Rep. Bradley Byrne. And Rep. Martha Roby easily defeated Tea Party activist Becky Gerritson, who had 15 minutes of fame in 2013 for her testimony about the IRS before a House Ways & Means Committee hearing.
Others races around the country also challenged the notion that Trump’s presence on the ballot will have any impact. Sen. John McCain easily defeated challenger Kelli Ward in Arizona and House Speaker Paul Ryan beat his challenger Paul Nehlen in a blowout primary.
That’s not to say something could later come out involving Donald Trump that could shake up the election. A scandalous October surprise on either side could shift momentum to hurt turnout for a party, which matters more in individual congressional districts. If Democrats stay home in a Democratic-leaning district, or if Republicans stay home in a Republican-leaning district, suddenly that seat is in play.
But barring the unexpected, there is reason to believe that neither Trump or Hillary are having that much of an impact on the other contests on the ballot this fall.
As much as some Republicans love to hate on their nominee in this cycle, blaming Donald Trump for down-ballot shortcomings would not be fair at this stage in the game. Conversely, crediting him for any Republicans that win their elections probably also would not be fair.