- The Washington Times - Friday, August 12, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

There’s a narrative the media is pushing quite forcefully: That establishment Republicans and #NeverTrumpers have given up on GOP nominee Donald Trump — essentially conceding the presidency — but think they can save Congress through split-ticket voting.

It would be bucking 44 years of voter trends. It’s insane.

“Republicans think (and certainly hope) that Trump’s exotic nature — amplified by the sheer number of GOP opinion-leaders who are keeping their distance from him — will send a signal to swing voters that the genial, glad-handing Republican pol who represents them in Congress or the statehouse has nothing to do with the rude, raging beast at the top of the ticket,” an article in New York Magazine reads.

On Thursday, reports swirled about 75 establishment Republicans writing a letter to the Republican National Committee urging Chairman Reince Priebus to stop spending money on the presidential contest and instead devote the group’s resources to congressional races.

“We believe that Donald Trump’s divisiveness, recklessness, incompetence, and record-breaking unpopularity risk turning this election into a Democratic landslide, and only the immediate shift of all available RNC resources to vulnerable Senate and House races will prevent the GOP from drowning with a Trump-emblazoned anchor around its neck,” the letter states, Politico reported. “This should not be a difficult decision, as Donald Trump’s chances of being elected president are evaporating by the day.”

News to these Republicans: If the top of the ticket loses, so will down-ballot.

Ideological polarization between the right and left has reduced the occurrence of ticket-splitting in our modern political era. To think a progressive would ever vote for a Republican is unhinged. To think Republicans will come to the polls just to vote down-ticket, well, that’s unprecedented. In terms of independents, the dirty truth is they lean toward a party and behave like partisans, in general.

In 2012, only 6 percent of congressional districts in the country voted for one party for president and another party for Congress. Ohio hasn’t split the ticket since 1988. Strategic voting — the belief that some Republicans or Democrats will turn out to the polls to vote Republican down-ballot to preserve the balance of power on a Hillary Clinton presidency — well, that’s a pipe dream.

“The last time there was any clear evidence of widespread ‘strategic voting’ was all the way back in 1972: Democrats picked up Senate seats despite the debacle that George McGovern suffered at the presidential level,” the New York Magazine wrote. “And back then, of course, it was very easy for voters in the South and parts of the West to vote for conservative Democrats down-ballot, along with the conservative GOP presidential candidate.”

Times have changed. There are no more conservative Democrats.

To be sure: Maintaining a GOP-controlled Senate was going to be hard this election cycle no matter who was at the top of the ticket. The Democrats need to flip five Senate seats, four if they maintain the White House. Six GOP senators up for re-election this cycle hail from swing states that President Obama won in 2012 — Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida, Illinois and New Hampshire.

All of these GOP senators are facing tough battles, but it’s unclear how much of a drag Mr. Trump is having on them. His unceasing negative headlines certainly aren’t helping, and that’s what frustrates these establishment Republicans.

But they’re also acting suicidal.

They keep adding to the media’s narrative that Mr. Trump is more dangerous to Western democracy than Mrs. Clinton, and that somehow Republicans can win down-ballot if they sacrifice the White House — a claim that bucks decades worth of voter data.

The establishment seems intent on not only blowing up the party, but giving the Democrats all three branches of government. That’s what I call unhinged.


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