Down-ballot Republicans can’t distance themselves from Donald Trump, and his racist and xenophobic policies and rhetoric — especially if he ends up the GOP nominee. That’s particularly true for Senate and House candidates who have spent the last eight months complimenting Trump and insisting that they will support him as their party’s nominee . But it also applies to just about any down-ballot Republican — just about anywhere in the country. They can say what they want, but they’re still part of the Party of Trump.
Roll Call: Dem Senate Takeover Probable, If Cruz or Trump Nominee
With Donald Trump and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz seemingly positioned to fight it out for the Republican presidential nomination, Democrats are now poised to take over the Senate in November.
As the Republican nominee, the uncompromising Cruz would end up defining his party’s positions on key issues, while the controversial Trump would inject himself into every race across the country. Either candidacy would make it very difficult for GOP Senate nominees to run their own races and establish their own brand.
At least five incumbent GOP senators from Democratic-leaning or competitive states were facing difficult re-election races this year even under the most favorable circumstances – Mark Kirk of Illinois, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Rob Portman of Ohio. A Republican open seat in Florida also looked at great risk.
Add in the deep division within the Republican Party, and the possibility of Trump or Cruz leading the national GOP ticket, and all – or at least almost all – of those races suddenly look much more uphill. In addition, states like North Carolina, Indiana, Missouri and Arizona look more interesting.
The fight for the Senate obviously took on greater importance with the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. The GOP’s worsening position for November raises new questions of whether the Republican Senate should take up President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, when he makes that nomination, or risk dealing with a new Democratic president and a Democratic Senate majority in 2017.
Chicago Tribune: Illinois Republicans worry about Trump effect down the ballot
Ilinois Republican leaders already opposing Donald Trump’s presidential campaign are expressing cautious concerns over how his nomination could affect GOP chances in the fall, ranging from Sen. Mark Kirk’s re-election bid to Gov. Bruce Rauner’s attempt to pick up Democratic legislative seats.
“I think Trump at the top of the ticket hurts the brand,” said former state GOP chairman Pat Brady, who is backing Ohio Gov. John Kasich. “Is it good? No. It’s not good for anybody.”
Of larger concern is Kirk. He’s seeking a second term in the Senate against nominal primary opposition and already is considered to be among the most politically vulnerable Republicans in the country even before the prospect of a Trump nomination.
“Sen. Kirk is not endorsing in the Republican primary. He is focused on his work in Illinois and his campaign for re-election,” Kirk’s campaign said in a statement. “The GOP nomination is a long and fluid process right now and we are not going to try to decrypt a very hazy and cloudy crystal ball.”
But two of the three Democrats vying for the primary nomination for Kirk’s Senate seat — U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth of Hoffman Estates and former Chicago Urban League CEO Andrea Zopp — already are criticizing Kirk for not saying whether he would back Trump as the GOP nominee.
Published: Mar 8, 2016