Trump Attacks Raise Questions Down-ballot

Trump Attacks Raise Questions Down-ballot

The Briefing, Vol. IV, Issue 22-

This week:

  • Trump’s victory lap: Sniping at Republicans
  • His down-ballot effect remains a tough question
  • Clinton’s lies, Trump’s weirdness, Americans’ malaise

President 2016

Trump sniping: Only a week ago, Donald Trump was sending a private message to Republican Senate candidates: Don’t worry, I won’t hold it against you if you refuse to back me.

The move seemed uncharacteristically mature for Trump. Up to now, he has tended to turn typical political behavior into a zero-sum ego game, in contrast with most politicians, who  know not to take things so personally.

Then again, this message was delivered by Paul Manafort, the same top aide who had promised earlier that Trump would pivot to behave in a more “presidential manner,” only to be overruled from within the campaign. Perhaps it was more Manafort’s wishful thinking than Trump’s true intention.

Sure enough, within days, Trump was spending his time on the stump savaging Republicans who have been avoiding him. On TK in Albuquerque, he took a shot at Gov. Susanna Martinez, R, the Republican Governors’ Association chair, who has pointedly refused to endorse and even criticized Trump during the primaries.

“We have to get your governor to get going — she’s got to do a better job, OK?” Trump said. “Your governor has got to do a better job. … She’s not doing the job. Hey, maybe I’ll run for governor of New Mexico — I’ll get this place going. She’s not doing the job. We got to get her moving. Come on. Let’s go, governor.”

Just to round out the week, Trump added a late gratuitous shot at Ted Cruz, who had already dropped out of the race but has yet to make any official show of support for Trump:

“I wonder if I could say — you know, remember lyin’. Lyin’. I won’t say ‘Lyin’ Ted’ — I refuse to say it…Lyin’ Ted! Holds that Bible high, puts it down, and then he lies. Lyin’ Ted. Well, I’m going to retire that from Ted — I’m not going to call Ted that anymore.”

Let’s just set aside for a moment any pearl-clutching over the fact that Trump doesn’t seem to be honoring his promise. If it isn’t already clear by now that Trump’s word cannot be trusted on anything, it never will be. It’s a mistake even to attempt to ascribe meanings to the words that come out of his mouth — he merely says things to convey attitudes and provoke reactions.

So what sort of reaction is he going for here? It isn’t clear. Cruz won’t face re-election in Texas until 2018. Martinez, a second-term governor, is term-limited, having just been re-elected handily in 2014. Neither of them need to worry about Trump’s negative-coattail effect.

And in fact, Trump himself takes a risk in bashing them. Trump needs to win over as many Cruz supporters as he can, not only to guarantee a smooth convention but also to have a prayer in November. And the shot at Martinez at least doesn’t help if he’s trying to improve with women or Hispanic voters.

Beyond those two slights, though, Trump’s propensity to slam uncooperative Republicans raises once again the impossible-to-predict question of how he will affect the down-ticket vote.

Will down-ballot candidates hurt themselves by going against the Trump tide? Or will Republican voters largely not care, the same way most of them seem to be overlooking their own hesitations about Trump? Or will Trump’s sniping at them actually help them to burnish their credentials with other voters? Or will all of these effects just cancel each other out?

Keystone case study: The best example of a politician facing this question

Pat Toomey CPAC
Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

is Pat Toomey, the conservative Pennsylvania senator who was narrowly elected in 2010 and still holds a narrow lead in most polls. In a normal year, he’d be favored to win in a close race.

But how will Pennsylvania’s Republican-sympathetic voters — i.e., the regular voters willing at least to consider voting GOP — respond to a candidate who fails to back Trump, especially if Trump doesn’t hold off with the sniping?

There does exist a template for this race, for how voters can respond differently to different Republicans on the ballot. In 2000, George W. Bush lost Pennsylvania with 2,281,000 votes, even as Rick Santorum, R-Pa., won re-election with almost exactly 200,000 votes more. Something similar happened in 2004 with Arlen Specter’s re-election, when Specter received roughly the same 2.9 million vote tally as John Kerry. But the parallel between candidates in 2000 is arguably much stronger. Still, there’s no one quite like Trump. It’s hard to cite historical parallels of any kind in 2016 with any reliability.

So yes, voters in Pennsylvania have been known to split tickets at the margins, and can sometimes do so in a Senate candidate’s favor, even if ticket-splitting seems like a thing of the past to many people.

It may be that the more reliable GOP voters (the ones who backed him in 2010) stick with Toomey, but he has never faced a statewide presidential-year electorate. That leaves an entire subset of nearly 1 million quadrennial GOP-sympathetic voters who haven’t voted for him before, but could well well turn out to vote for Trump.

It’s always worth noting that although Republican resistance to Trump has certainly weakened, there may be some significant number of Republicans who do not vote at all because of Trump. However, die-hard Never-Trumpers are probably among the most likely to vote (perhaps just not for president) out of anyone in the conservative universe. If Republican voters do refuse to turn out this year because of Trump, it will probably be the ones who follow politics less closely.

Trump is sure to compete for Pennsylvania, so if Toomey keeps his distance, will Trump get snippy about it? Will he lay off, but only on Senate candidates? And how would it affect Toomey?

On top of that, how will the new voters — the ones Trump promises he will bring into the process in November — react to Senate and other down-ballot races? Will they leave those races blank? Will they vote for a Democrat?

Or will Trump wise up a bit and make the case that he would be helped in office by having more Republicans in the Senate, even the ones who didn’t stand up to be counted for him?

Clinton’s emails: Hillary Clinton’s email problem isn’t just about her unprecedented handling of classified communications — it’s really a character issue. It’s about someone who views herself as above the law and frequently doesn’t tell the truth.

This fact was underscored by last week’s State Department Inspector General report. The report explains why, contrary to her arguments up to now, her actions were unprecedented, undertaken without the required permission, and violated State Department rules for complying with open records laws.

The report also shows that Clinton did this for the sake of privacy, not just convenience. In a previously unreleased email, she tells top aide Huma Abedin that she doesn’t want “any risk of the personal being accessible.” At the very least, this seems to hint that the by poring over Abedin’s emails, State IG found a work-related Clinton email that she hadn’t handed over. In fact, he seems to have found at least three and possibly several more, which raises still further questions about Clinton’s truthfulness in claiming to have handed over all work-related emails.

The situation is bad enough that now even Bernie Sanders, who previously claimed not to care, is treating it as a real issue.

Between Trump’s odd candidacy (he spent the latter part of Memorial Day complaining on Twitter about the judge in his fraud trial) and Clinton’s character problem, Americans seem rather depressed about the shape of this year’s election. An AP poll found that only 23 percent are excited, and only 13 percent are proud of how the primaries played out.

The AP story on the poll appropriately describes the condition as “malaise.” And when you think about it, the relentless negativity that everyone expects hasn’t even started yet.




  1. This Governor of NM is only worried about her ILLEGAL ALIEN MEXICAN PARASITES, had enough of PC while they are here burning the American Flag and attacking American Citizens who belong here. Another Government Car was broke into and his GUN AND BADGE were stolen where the Young Lady who was killed by an ILLEGAL in San Francisco.

  2. Donald has stot himself in the foot so many times he’s losing backing and Republican support. What happened to the guy he hired to help him and be his campaign manager? Donald really needs him NOW.

    • He isn’t losing a thing! Any republican that doesn’t back him all the way is the loser! We will remember these losers when they want a promotion!

      • No, not at all – I just want him to dial it down a bit and start talking about what he’s going to do for America and how he’s going to do it – No one cares about Hillary any more she hung herself with her rant yeaterday. I just on’t want Trump to get caught up in her trap and loose focus on the election.

  3. Trump is just attacking the Rinos running for re-election—they need to be voted out and a real conservative elected in their place !!!!

    • He is most definitely not losing the backing of the Conservative Republicans. He has never had support from the RINOS because they have differences of opinion on how to run the country. Mr Trump wants to Make America Great Again and the RINOS want to run it into the ground.

      • don’t know what “conservatives” you are talking about … it sure as hell are not the grassroots conservatives / TEA party … they have NEVER been in the Trumpzombie false messiah camp, at BEST it has been split up.

          • Yup … I said it has been split up, although I musta been a bit sleepy cuz it obviously did not come across as I had intended. Bottom line is that Trump is NOT conservative by ANY stretch of the imagination … and the TRUTH is that he has perhaps destroyed the conservative momentum we had coming out of 2014 maybe even enough to destroy the country.

            When TRUMP says he’s a ‘lot like Bernie’ with many of his kooky positions … massive tariffs, single payer healthcare … not getting rid of ANY gobblement programs … touchback MASSIVE amnesty … conservatives are going to realize wtf they did.

          • That’s a stupid thing to say. Your obamas and bushes have destroyed our country and drug “freedom” thru the mud.

          • you are weird, gail … what is your point? it sure as hell ain’t MY trans-barack and bushee … but I will assume you are trying to say that Trump is somehow different than the examples you give. Really? then why did he pay for all the congress guys (worst of the worst) that pushed the WORST programs? Oh, and he FOUGHT the people like Cruz that tried to stop the sch…tuff.

          • Who are you going to stand behind? We have always had to choose the best of the worst in our elections. I won’t stand behind a woman who has brought so much scandal upon herself. And let’s not forget the scandal her husband brought into the white house.
            I will not vote for a man who thinks no matter how hard you work you will never have better than your lazy nieghbor.
            So yes Mr.Trumps baggage is less. He is also a leader. Hillary can’t even lead herself to be truthful about one dam thing. She makes up stories as well as lying. Bern was 41 before ever working.
            So yes Trump 2016

    • As Trump is not a conservative, it is hard to understand how your comment makes sense. Trump, in the unlikely event that he is actually elected, will be a pol of no actual philosophy-he just wants what is easiest for him to deal with. He will just be another RINO, except for the fact that he is not a liberal, either. Trump is a BIG NOTHING!

    • And yet, while he has been running, his MONEY, in the hands of Boner and Obama’s bitch Mitch, has been used ALL OVER THE COUNTRY to benefit establishment RINOs and defeat conservatives. Look at Indiana … in the same election that knocked Cruz down, Mitch McCrony’s hand picked surrogate won.

      Trump IS establishment, you fool, from Gang8sters to Mitch to Boner.

      Conservatives are fighting like hell on the down ticket … NO THANKS to Trumpty Dumpty OR his zombies, and often AGAINST them.

  4. And if this Toomy guy is with the RINOS, he probably will lose but it won’t be because of Trump, It will be because he was not listening to the American People

    • We have to get rid of Toomy and the rest of the RINOS

  5. Trump continues to be outrageous and to get lots of free press. He is doing what he needs to do. That he does it at the expense of relatively liberal or non-supportive Republicans is an added benefit. And Trump is nothing if not situation specific. He will deal with each electorate as he must. While he has dealt with all parties as a developer, he seems much more in line with conservative views than with liberals.

  6. Trump will do fine by the down votes. Many republicans including me are excited for a new anti-establishment president. I don’t see any reason to not vote all republics down the ballot. Trump gets a lot of media coverage every time he says just about anything. The liberal media wants him to look bad but instead it just makes us more determined to not only vote for him but also to campaign for him in our local areas.
    The only ones to blame if any down votes go democrat are the 6-7 refusing to back Trump. Romney the worse. The Bushes, and Cruz. Sore losers. With Hilliary’s legal mess, The Trump train is like a speeding bullet.

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