Predicting a Wave

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 13, 2016 — Democrats are attempting to get atop of what they perceive as a growing wave in response to Donald Trump’s potential collapse, but they are missing several components necessary to creating such an outcome.

During the past two days Democratic leaders and strategists have begun to predict a landslide Hillary Clinton win, a majority in the US Senate, and now an impending wave large enough to carry their House candidates to success.

In the Senate, as we know, Democrats need to hold all 10 of their in-cycle seats, and then convert at least four Republican states to re-capture the majority. Illinois, Wisconsin, and Indiana all look like impending Democratic victories. Nevada Rep. Joe Heck (R-NV-3), in the one state Democrats are risking, continues to hold a small lead but his advantage over former Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto (D) is tenuous.

New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R) and Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey (R) are both highly vulnerable and could easily lose, as could North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr (R). Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt (R) sees better trends developing in his state at the presidential level, but Democrats are using a strong performance in the open governor’s race as a potential springboard to unseating the one-term senator and former US House Majority Whip. Ohio Sen. Rob Portman (R), Arizona Sen. John McCain (R), and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (R) look to be stemming the adverse tide. But, all of the aforementioned races could easily change one way or the other in the final four weeks.

In the House, Democrats must retain all 188 seats they risk, but they are in danger of losing four, before taking 30 Republican seats. If they achieve this, they reach a minimum one-seat majority. Even with the presidential trends breaking Democratic, it is still a long shot for Republicans to lose control.

Cutting against a wave election developing is, primarily, the fact that both top of the ticket candidates are unpopular. Though Trump is moving into uncharted negative rating territory, Clinton is far from assuming a positive image. Therefore, it is highly unlikely that a wave would form around a candidate who is viewed so negatively. Such normally occurs when one candidate and party is in a downward spiral, and the other is either neutral or a positive alternative.

The most likely Trump scenario casts him rebounding to a degree but falling short of victory range. Thus, GOP Senate and House candidates will soon counter with the argument that supporting Republican congressional contenders balances unbridled Clinton power. Clinton’s negatives are such that we could see this argument being effectively made in many campaigns.

Perhaps most importantly, and in relation to an eventual House final scenario, more districts perform reliably for Republicans rather than Democrats irrespective of the candidates involved. Since a majority of seats favor Republicans, thanks to strong GOP legislatures in most cases, the great preponderance of districts should hold for the party even in a bad year.

Democrats could break through, however, if the Republican base splits over the Trump demise and fails to vote in sufficient numbers. GOP forces must rebound with a strong voter turnout effort, making the need for a compelling final message mandatory regardless of Trump’s faltering prospects in the presidential contest.

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