As Trump fal­ters, more Repub­li­cans say they’ll block Clin­ton

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - NEWS - By Alan Fram The As­so­ci­ated Press

WASHINGTON >> A new fundrais­ing email from House Speaker Paul Ryan’s po­lit­i­cal op­er­a­tion, over for­mer Speaker Newt Gin­grich’s sig­na­ture, seeks money for Repub­li­can con­gres­sional can­di­dates by call­ing the ap­peal “our very last chance to stop Pelosi and Hil­lary.”

In­di­ana Repub­li­can Trey Hollingsworth says in one TV ad that he’s run­ning for Congress to stop three Democrats — op­po­nent Shelli Yoder, pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Hil­lary Clin­ton and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — from im­pos­ing “higher taxes and gov­ern­ment-run health care.” In an­other spot, the GOP-aligned Se­nate Lead­er­ship Fund at­tacks the Demo­cratic Se­nate chal­lenger in Mis­souri by say­ing, “It’s sur­pris­ing how many ways Ja­son Kan­der is just like Hil­lary Clin­ton.”

With polls show­ing Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Don­ald Trump fac­ing a steep path to vic­tory, GOP can­di­dates are in­creas­ingly seek­ing vot­ers’ sup­port by say­ing they will check Clin­ton’s agenda.

Some of the ads are be­ing funded by a last-minute in­fu­sion of cash from the Se­nate Lead­er­ship Fund, a ma­jor su­per PAC fo­cused on Se­nate races and run by al­lies of Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell. The group an­nounced Tuesday it is spend­ing $25 mil­lion for the fi­nal stretch in six key states: In­di­ana, New Hamp­shire, Ne­vada, Penn­syl­va­nia, North Carolina and Mis­souri.

The in­vest­ment comes after pub­lic com­plaints from the Repub­li­can Party’s Se­nate com­mit­tee that it faced be­ing out­spent badly by Democrats in the elec­tion’s fi­nal stretch. GOP out­side groups are re­spond­ing, in­clud­ing ad­di­tional in­vest­ments by the Cham­ber of Com­merce.

Repub­li­cans hope that a loathing for Clin­ton will drive vot­ers to the polls who oth­er­wise might stay home be­cause of their aver­sion to Trump.

Yet the value of the check-and-bal­ance tac­tic is ques­tioned by both par­ties’ strate­gists as vot­ers ex­press fa­tigue with grid­lock and a de­sire that Washington ad­dress prob­lems like the slow-growing econ­omy.

“The tightrope you walk is that as­sum­ing a Hil­lary win can po­ten­tially de­press your base” vot­ers’ turnout, said GOP poll­ster Jon McHenry. But he said with Clin­ton’s fa­vor­a­bil­ity rat­ings nearly as low as Trump’s, ar­gu­ing you will pre­vent Clin­ton from get­ting “free rein” in Washington is “a po­tent ar­gu­ment for a lot of in­de­pen­dents.”

The tac­tic is pop­ping up in spots around the coun­try, among them:

• A new ad by the Amer­i­can Ac­tion Net­work, which backs House Repub­li­cans, morphs a picture of Michi­gan Demo­cratic House can­di­date Lon Johnson into Clin­ton and says both have “taken a for­tune from spe­cial in­ter­ests.” An­other by the net­work that starts Wed­nes­day calls Suzanna Shkreli, a Demo­cratic can­di­date in a sec­ond Michi­gan dis­trict, “a rub­ber­stamp for Washington in­sid­ers” as pic­tures are shown of Clin­ton and Pelosi.

• In cen­tral California, the Con­gres­sional Lead­er­ship Fund sup­ports GOP Rep. Jeff Den­ham by say­ing Demo­cratic chal­lenger Michael Eg­gman and Clin­ton back the dan­ger­ous nu­clear arms pact with Iran, though “California fam­i­lies know they’re wrong.”

• The Na­tional Repub­li­can Con­gres­sional Com­mit­tee, the House GOP cam­paign or­ga­ni­za­tion, says Demo­cratic can­di­date Emily Cain “sides with Hil­lary, not with us” as she tries un­seat­ing fresh­man Repub­li­can Rep. Bruce Poliquin.

• An NRCC spot says first-term Rep. Brad Ash­ford, D-Neb., “says he’s with us, but Clin­ton and Pelosi know he’s with them.”

• And west Texas GOP Rep. Will Hurd has an ad call­ing him­self “the only can­di­date will­ing to stand up to Hil­lary Clin­ton and Don­ald Trump.”

The re­liance on the tac­tic comes with Repub­li­cans wor­ried that a poor Trump show­ing could help Democrats cap­ture a Se­nate ma­jor­ity and erode GOP House con­trol.

The email from Ryan’s po­lit­i­cal or­ga­ni­za­tion seeks con­tri­bu­tions “to en­sure the last line of de­fense for con­ser­va­tive val­ues doesn’t fall into the clutches of Hil­lary.” After months of clashes, Ryan has re­fused to cam­paign for Trump and the pres­i­den­tial can­di­date has sav­aged the speaker on Twit­ter.

Asked why Ryan was adopt­ing the check-and-bal­ance ap­proach, spokesman Zack Ro­day said Ryan “is fo­cused on beat­ing Democrats, in­clud­ing Hil­lary Clin­ton, on Elec­tion Day” and “com­mit­ted to pre­serv­ing our con­gres­sional ma­jori­ties.”

GOP poll­ster Robert Bl­iz­zard said the tac­tic works best if tied to is­sues Repub­li­can vot­ers find emo­tional, like boost­ing taxes or ex­pand­ing Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s health care law. But he cau­tioned, “The eas­i­est, most ef­fi­cient, most ef­fec­tive way to de­feat a Demo­cratic can­di­date is to make that Demo­cratic can­di­date un­ac­cept­able, un­electable.”

Democrats say the tac­tic is flawed be­cause it re­lies on two un­likely oc­cur­rences: Repub­li­cans re­pelled by Trump show­ing up to vote any­way, or peo­ple split­ting their ticket be­tween Clin­ton and a GOP con­gres­sional can­di­date.

“The na­tional tide is run­ning very strongly against down-bal­lot Repub­li­cans,” said Demo­cratic poll­ster Ge­of­frey Garin. “They have to try to do some­thing to change the na­tional nar­ra­tive of the elec­tion, even if it means throw­ing their nom­i­nee right un­der the bus.”

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