Trump’s tar­nish not stick­ing to Sen­ate can­di­dates

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY DAVID SHERFINSKI

Democrats are ea­ger to tie the brash and po­lar­iz­ing Don­ald Trump to Repub­li­can can­di­dates in key U.S. Sen­ate races, but, at least so far, he has avoided be­ing the apoc­a­lyp­tic wipe­out fac­tor many in the GOP had feared.

While vot­ers say they’re more likely to vote against can­di­dates who back Mr. Trump, it’s not a dom­i­nant fac­tor, and there are signs vot­ers are pre­pared to split tick­ets to sup­port Repub­li­cans down the bal­lot, even if they don’t plan to back Mr. Trump at the top, ac­cord­ing to polling taken in the month since he sewed up the party’s pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion.

The lack of early move­ment in key races isn’t dis­suad­ing Demo­cratic strate­gists who are con­fi­dent Mr. Trump will tar­nish enough Repub­li­can can­di­dates to put con­trol of the Sen­ate in play.

Most re­cently, Democrats are try­ing to tie Repub­li­cans to Mr. Trump’s com­ments that a judge over­see­ing a fraud case against his Trump Uni­ver­sity has a con­flict of in­ter­est be­cause of the In­di­ana-born judge’s Mex­i­can her­itage.

“Ei­ther Repub­li­can Sen­ate can­di­dates don’t un­der­stand the grav­ity of Trump’s at­tacks, or they are too scared to stand up to them,” said Sam Lau, a spokesman for Sen­ate Democrats’ cam­paign arm.

One of those key races is Ari­zona, where five-term Sen. John Mc­Cain is run­ning again. Mr. Mc­Cain, the 2008 Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee, has said he backs Mr. Trump now that the pri­mary is over, but is keep­ing some dis­tance and doesn’t plan to be at this sum­mer’s nom­i­nat­ing con­ven­tion.

A sur­vey from the Demo­cratic-lean­ing firm Pub­lic Pol­icy Polling found 39 per­cent of Ari­zo­nans were less likely to sup­port some­one merely for back­ing Mr. Trump.

Still, Mr. Mc­Cain leads in his race over lead­ing Demo­cratic can­di­date Rep. Ann Kirk­patrick by 6 per­cent­age points — more than the 2-point lead the poll gave Mr. Trump over likely Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee Hil­lary Clin­ton.

Ari­zona has voted for the Repub­li­can can­di­date in nine of the past 10 pres­i­den­tial elec­tions, with 1996 the lone out­lier.

Na­tion­ally, some 45 per­cent of vot­ers say they would be less likely to sup­port a can­di­date who sup­ported Mr. Trump, com­pared to 35 per­cent who said more likely, ac­cord­ing to a re­cent Morn­ing Con­sult poll.

GOP Sen. Mark Kirk of Illi­nois, who faces a tough re-elec­tion fight, went be­yond merely con­demn­ing Mr. Trump’s re­marks about Judge Gon­zalo Curiel.

Mr. Kirk, who pre­vi­ously said he’d sup­port Mr. Trump if he was the GOP nom­i­nee, said the com­ments, cou­pled with past at­tacks, “make it cer­tain that I can­not and will not sup­port my party’s nom­i­nee for pres­i­dent re­gard­less of the po­lit­i­cal im­pact on my can­di­dacy or the Repub­li­can Party.”

Sen­ate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell said last week that he’d ad­vise Mr. Trump to stop at­tack­ing var­i­ous mi­nor­ity groups and get on mes­sage.

But the Ken­tucky Repub­li­can also said re­cently he’s not wor­ried about los­ing any par­tic­u­lar state be­cause Mr. Trump will be at the top of the ticket, point­ing out that both Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clin­ton are un­pop­u­lar.

“Sen­ate races are big enough to stand on their own,” Mr. McCon­nell said in a re­cent in­ter­view with CNN. “I think this is go­ing to be a ticket-split­ting elec­tion.”

But polling on key bat­tle­ground states has shown the gen­eral elec­tion matchup be­tween Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clin­ton track­ing closely with the Sen­ate elec­tions.

Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clin­ton were tied at 44 per­cent apiece in a re­cent Franklin Pierce Uni­ver­sity poll on New Hamp­shire, while GOP Sen. Kelly Ay­otte had a 1-point, 48 per­cent-to-47 per­cent lead over Demo­cratic Gov. Mag­gie Has­san.

About 83 per­cent of Ay­otte sup­port­ers also backed Mr. Trump, while 82 per­cent of Has­san sup­port­ers backed Mrs. Clin­ton.

Re­cent Quin­nip­iac polling on Ohio and Penn­syl­va­nia showed sim­i­larly close races, with Mr. Trump en­joy­ing slightly bet­ter polling numbers than GOP Sen. Rob Port­man in Ohio. Mr. Trump led Mrs. Clin­ton by 4 points, 43 per­cent to 39 per­cent, while Mr. Port­man is trail­ing by 1 per­cent­age point Demo­crat Ted Strickland, a for­mer gov­er­nor there.

In Penn­syl­va­nia, Mrs. Clin­ton had a 1-point, 43 per­cent-to-42 per­cent lead over Mr. Trump, while GOP Sen. Pa­trick J. Toomey had a 1-point, 45 per­cent-to-44 per­cent lead over Demo­crat Katie McGinty.

Repub­li­cans cur­rently hold an ef­fec­tive 54-to-46 ma­jor­ity in the Sen­ate, but are de­fend­ing twice as many seats as Democrats are this year.

Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee Chair­man Reince Priebus has said it could be dif­fi­cult for peo­ple to sep­a­rate out the pres­i­den­tial con­test from down-ticket races in key states, and has pledged that the GOP will have a ro­bust op­er­a­tion up and down the bal­lot.

“We can’t win the Sen­ate if we don’t do well at the top of the ticket. It just doesn’t work that way,” Mr. Priebus told ra­dio host Hugh He­witt re­cently. “Peo­ple can’t just de­cide that, well, we don’t want to par­tic­i­pate in the pres­i­den­tial, but we do care about win­ning the Sen­ate.”

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