Donald J. Trump has proven political strategists and pundits wrong on nearly every prediction they’ve made in 2016 thus far, and now we can add another “given” to that list: The assumption that retention of the Republican’s House majority was a foregone conclusion. Democratic (and Republican) strategists entered this election cycle generally believing that dismantling the GOP’s 30-seat advantage would require a years-long chipping away effort. But now, Democrats are at least entertaining the possibility of a ‘wave’ election produced by a heavy backlash against Trump.
The House GOP’s leading indicators — its most vulnerable members, like Reps. Bob Dold and Rep. Carlos Curbelo — are already sounding the alarm against Trump and his rhetoric on women, Hispanics and other groups. The party’s outside groups are preparing an intensified fundraising push to help defend the chamber. The The Cook Political Report downgraded Republicans’ chances in 10 districts Friday. Though the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which has been stung by overzealous predictions in past years, won’t say outright that the majority is in play, the party is thinking about it.
Democrats already had reasonable odds of flipping a dozen or so House seats. But DCCC Chairman Ben Ray Lujan recently started highlighting ‘reach’ districts, like those of Rep. John L. Mica in Florida and Rep. Steve Knight in California, that broaden Democrats’ target list enough to take back the chamber — if local candidates can take advantage of the opportunity. Strategists are now turning their attention to moderate suburbs around Detroit, Minneapolis, Washington and other areas where House Democrats have struggled in recent years but Trump has already shown weakness.
Rep. Dold, among others, has already begun distancing himself from Trump, saying several weeks ago that his ‘hateful words … disqualify him’ from being president. But most House Republicans are still holding fire. If Trump wins the nomination, however, they may shift ground. As the general nears, we’ll likely see a sudden rush to jump ship.