Notwithstanding how frightening the prospect of a Donald Trump presidency might be, with Trump doing poorly in the latest polls, he may ultimately be a gift to Democrats and may be the silver bullet Democrats need to retake control of the U.S. Senate. Yes, the GOP know nothings and Neanderthals in the House of Representatives would still pose a problem, but a Democrat win of the White House and control of the Senate could set the stage for the appointment of up to three Supreme Court justices and perhaps harken in an a new liberal Court that would reverse travesties like Citizens United and set the stage for further advances in LGBT rights rulings. Talking Points Memo looks at the situation. Here are highlights:
If Democrats are having a harder time than expected in a few marquee races in 2016, none of it may matter in the time of Donald Trump.
This week, polls showed the Republican presidential candidate's campaign in free fall –high single-digit and sometimes double-digit deficits– that even the strongest senatorial candidates likely won't be able to weather.
In Pennsylvania, a Franklin and Marshall College poll found Clinton had an 11 point lead. In Florida, a Suffolk University poll found Clinton was up 6 points in a head-to-head match-up with Trump. In New Hampshire –where Democrats recruited a popular two-term sitting governor to run for the Senate– Clinton was up 15 points against Trump.Those are margins that get very difficult for Republican senators to outrun, experts say.
"You cannot just withstand a blowout," said Rob Jesmer, a former executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. "I could see a scenario where we lose the White House and hold the Senate, but if Trump is just getting destroyed even if our guys can outperform the ballot at three to four or even five points, it is very problematic."
Democrats need five states to win the Senate majority back in November and four to tie it. They are most bullish on states like Wisconsin and Illinois, which seem to be trending blue. Their next best hope seems to be in New Hampshire and in Indiana, where the last-minute recruiting of Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) could be enough to bring Democrats to a tie in the Senate. If Clinton wins the White House, four seats will be enough to give them the majority on tie votes.
From there, however, the road to the majority relies heavily on hard races against incumbents in Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania where the saving grace for Democrats may be that the presidential campaign will dominate the airwaves.
“Portman has gotten a lot of good press lately, and he’s earned it," said Kyle Kondik, a Senate race expert based at the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. "On a lot of different marks Portman is a superior candidate to Strickland, but Strickland may have the benefit of the top of the ticket.”
Even in Pennsylvania, where Clinton is up 11, but McGinty is just up a single point, Kondik predicts the mere perception of a blowout at the top of the ticket though could hurt Republican turnout in November and favor Democrats.
"If the winds are blowing the Democrats’ way it seems hard to think that all these 50/50 Senate races are going to break the other way," Kondik said.