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HomeNewsLeslie Loftis’s America Watch: Trump takes the GOP ship down with him

Leslie Loftis’s America Watch: Trump takes the GOP ship down with him


Save good news mirages appearing to some Donald Trump supporters, most observers anticipate a Hillary Clinton win in less than two weeks. Yes, undecided numbers are still relatively high, so Trump’s loss is not a sure thing for cautious analysts, but early voting trends and poll momentum suggest the more practical question is how big Clinton’s win will be.

The bigger Trump’s loss, the more dramatic the ripple effects, both locally and globally. I’ll look at local, down ticket implications this week and global implications next.

For local races the Trump nomination looks like a catastrophe. He’s left the down ticket candidates, from US Senators to state legislative representatives and local sheriffs and judges, strapped for funding and damaged by association with his brand.

Local campaigns bloom later than presidential races. Tight local races are often fought and won in their last two weeks, with PR blasts and targeted Get Out the Vote efforts, both of which are expensive.

After becoming the presumed nominee, Trump had trouble raising funds directly from the bigger party money. Therefore, the Trump/GOP fundraising efforts have been more entwined than in typical campaigns. The party supported Trumps’s anaemic accounts throughout the summer and Trump did mass fundraisers among his enthusiastic base of smaller dollar donors.

But now, in the final weeks when the GOP is tapped out and local candidates need to do their big push, Trump has cancelled the fundraisers. The infusions of funds for local competitive candidates this year won’t happen, and the staffing required for GOTV efforts never existed. (If my inbox is any indication, the Trump camp’s GOTV effort is reduced to spamming any former Republican donors.) Typically in presidential election years, local candidates supplement the GOTV efforts of the presidential campaign, but the Trump campaign has not bothered with local staffing. This year, local candidates are on their own.

Then, we have the “coat-tails” problem. A popular candidate at the top of a ticket usually helps down ticket races. The ballot in my precinct this year has around 50 races to select, and the convenience option of straight party voting wins votes for many local offices that people might undervote for lack of knowledge or patience.

I don’t favour it because it promotes local issue ignorance. Voters pick local state and local politicians based upon the party of their preferred US Representative. (The coat-tail effect is most pronounced for Congress members.) But that has too many gaps.

For instance, the Houston Independent School District has a funding proposal on the ballot to fight the state’s Robin Hood school funding scheme. (Basically, schools are funded through local property taxes and richer, usually urban districts are required to donate funds to poorer, usually rural districts.) It’s a non partisan issue, not covered any a quick party vote. Also, Houston has some legal issues. Readers might recall the Planned Parenthood video scandal and later when the PP workers selling baby parts got a pass but those recording the incriminating interview got indicted. That’s my district attorney, and that wasn’t her only scandal.

Straight party voting isn’t advisable. Still some vote straight party, but this year the effect is uncertain. To start with the obvious, Trump has the poorest favourability ratings ever measured and once-reliable Republican voters plan on voting Libertarian or Democratic. It is not the ideal year for for Republicans to tout the supposed virtues of straight voting.

Alas, it is a defensive recommendation. Trump supporters who are upset with Republican regret after the latest round of Trump scandals have threatened to vote Democratic down ticket out of spite. This spite threatens Republican control of a solid majority of state governments and FiveThrityEight picked up solid movement toward Democrats to take a majority in the US Senate last week.

Between the actual objections to Trump and the spite over those objections, Clinton might have the appearance of long coat-tails. The bigger her win, the wider and deeper the Republican loss. She may well enter office with the illusion of a mandate and weakened opposition in all branches and at all levels of government.

And if that’s not depressing enough, I’ll discuss foreign policy ripples next week.

(Image: Gage Skidmore)

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Leslie Loftis
Leslie Loftis
Leslie is a once and future American expat, most recently in London. She is also a lawyer and former local political campaign operative turned freelance writer. She currently lives in her hometown of Houston with her husband and their four children. Find her on twitter @AHLondonTX.

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