Trump and GOP Senators Lagging in the Polls
August 23, 2016 02:18 PM
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is slumping in the polls against Democrat Secretary Hillary Clinton and appears to be dragging down some of his party’s candidates for the United States Senate.
Polls of the presidential race show Clinton leading Trump by six to nine points nationally in most polls, but it is the state polls that are even more worrisome for Trump. Clinton leads Trump by nine points in Florida, according to a new poll released on August 16 and 14 points in another poll released August 23. Recent polls of New Hampshire and North Carolina have Clinton holding a nine point lead in both states. The Clinton campaign is so confident of its double-digit leads in Colorado and Virginia that it has suspended television advertising in those states.
Trump vowed to use his appeal to working class voters to take the industrial Midwest out of the Democratic column, but the most recent polls show Clinton with a 10-point lead in Michigan and a 15-point lead in Wisconsin. The last four polls of Pennsylvania put Clinton up by 10 or 11 points.
Trump is not currently leading in any of the 11 battleground states (Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin). With the Republican party’s standard-bearer in such trouble, it’s not surprising that some of the GOP’s Senate candidates are fighting the headwinds.
The GOP currently enjoys a 54-46 advantage in the Senate, but since the party conventions in July, the fortunes of several Republican incumbents have darkened considerably.
While most Senate races will see the incumbent safely returned to office, there are at least nine competitive contests that should ultimately decide control of the Senate. In most of those nine states, Donald Trump has fallen in the polls in August and so has the Republican Senate candidate, suggesting a link between the fate of the GOP’s presidential candidate and its Senate majority.
In North Carolina, incumbent Republican Richard Burr held a narrow lead over Democratic challenger Deborah Ross, a former state representative, for most of the summer and the state remained a toss-up between Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton. However, following the party conventions, Clinton has leapt into the lead in the Tar Heel state, with the latest poll showing her up by nine points. That same poll also shows Ross finally taking a narrow two-point lead over Burr.
In New Hampshire and Pennsylvania, both considered battleground states by the Trump campaign -- and home to fiercely contested Senate races -- Trump has fallen behind Clinton by double digits and Republican incumbent Senators Kelly Ayotte and Pat Toomey have lost their leads over Democratic challengers and now trail narrowly. This is particularly worrisome for the GOP because both Ayotte and Toomey have made it clear they are not enthusiastic supporters of Trump and do not want to campaign alongside him. Their decline in the polls since the party conventions indicates that many voters who do not like Trump may be inclined to punish even Republicans who are publicly cool to their party’s nominee.
In Illinois and Wisconsin, two states where Clinton holds big leads over Trump, Republican incumbents Mark Kirk and Ron Johnson are considered the most vulnerable GOP candidates. In Illinois, where Trump trails by 20 points, Kirk is now an average of seven points behind Democrat Tammy Duckworth in the polls. In Wisconsin, Johnson is 11 points behind former Senator Russell Feingold, a margin almost identical to Trump’s 12-point deficit in the state.
In Indiana, home to Trump’s running mate Mike Pence, Democrat Evan Bayh, also a former Senator, has taken a seven point lead over Republican Representative Todd Young in a poll released August 17. That race is to fill the open seat left by retiring Republican Dan Coats.
Republicans incumbents in Florida and Ohio are faring better, Marco Rubio and Rob Portman are holding on to narrow leads thanks, in part, to big cash advantages.
Democrats are in good position to pick up Senate seats in Indiana, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Wisconsin and North Carolina, which would give them control of the Senate. The Democrats are within striking distance in Ohio and Florida and could take both races if Trump continues his fall in the polls. By contrast, the GOP has only one realistic chance to pick up a Senate seat, in Nevada, where Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid is retiring. Vying to replace him are Rep. Joe Heck, a Republican, and Catherine Cortez Masto, a former state attorney general who would be the Senate’s first Latina, if elected. That race is currently too close to call.
It is early, but many pundits estimate the Democrats will win a majority of two seats in the Senate, 52 to 48 (two independent Senators caucus with the Democrats).