The GOP has become seriously concerned about this election. Sure, they have been concerned ever since Trump seemed to dominate the field over other Republican candidates a year ago. And sure, they tried to find some way to circumvent his nomination. But still, the party rallied around him, albeit in a lukewarm way, with significant numbers of GOP members refusing to endorse him, or better yet, publicly announcing they would vote for Clinton. But now, the situation appears to be even more dire, and the Republican party may soon veer further from Trump in hopes of at least salvaging what they can of the down vote.
Trump’s erratic behavior last week after his poor performance in the first debate with Mrs. Clinton — repeatedly and viciously attacking a former beauty pageant winner over her weight, and making an issue of the Clintons’ marriage — has alarmed a number of Republican senators, including Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader. Mr. McConnell expressed concern that Mr. Trump might not have bottomed out yet and could lose even more support, especially among women. The GOP had hoped that Mr. Pence’s debate performance on Tuesday night would have a positive effect, but the reality is that while Mr. Pence may have been said to have “won” the debate by most media pundits, he failed miserably at explaining or defending Trump’s views and rhetoric. At this point, I think it is only fair to say the Trump is his own worst enemy.
Which brings us to the down vote. “Two weeks ago I would have said Republicans would hold control of the Senate, but there’s just so many seats up and nobody is getting separation,” said Neil Newhouse, a Republican pollster. 34 Senate seats and all 435 seats in the House of Representatives are up for grabs this year, as well as 12 governor seats. It almost seems that the GOP has given up the hope of Trump actually winning, and is now preparing for what is called a “lose-close” strategy: holding Clinton to a narrow victory, and sparing other Republican candidates in the process. In the words of one Republican supporter from Illinois, “They want the guy to make a credible showing. They’re afraid that if Trump really screws up and looks bad, then down-ticket, there are going to be a lot more votes for Democrats.” Pretty much sums it up.
Republicans must decide in the next few days, rather than weeks, whether to seek distance from his wobbly campaign. Should Mr. Trump falter badly in his second debate with Hillary Clinton on Sunday, Republican congressional candidates may take it as a cue to flee openly from their nominee, said two senior Republicans involved at high levels of the campaign who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Trump has already slipped perceptibly in public polls, trailing widely this week in Pennsylvania and by smaller margins in Florida and North Carolina — three states he cannot afford to lose. Two weeks ago, the two candidates were almost neck-and-neck, but as of today, Ms. Clinton leads in the RCP aggregate of polls by 3.9%. Not a wide margin, but a step in the right direction (see graph at the start of this post). There are a number of reasons that polls are not necessarily reliable indicators. In today’s environment, I believe that Trump supporters are the more enthusiastic and vociferous (read ‘noisily obnoxious’), while Clinton’s supporters are less likely to be heard, the ‘silent majority’, as it were. According to an article in The Washington Post (10/05/2016), private polling by both parties shows an even more precipitous drop for Trump, especially among independent voters, moderate Republicans and women, according to a dozen strategists from both parties who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the data was confidential. I think one could realistically add a few points to Clinton’s lead based on those who speak more softly.
For more than a year now, I have questioned why those who support Trump cannot see what sort of man he is, what type of leader he would be. Is this latest trend simply another blip in the ever-changing landscape of the pollsters, or is it sustainable? And the big question … does this mean that the lemmings are finally waking up to smell the coffee, or are the fence-sitters just finally deciding that Trump has committed one too many verbal atrocities? Whatever the answer, let us hope it continues for the next 33 days!