Election Day 2016 is coming soon for Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. While most of the political pundits are focusing on the contest between Trump and Clinton to replace President Obama in the White House, Republicans in the Senate are pondering the possibility – even the likelihood – that they might soon lose their Senate majority because of a Hillary Clinton coattail effect.
Why 2016 Is Different
This year offers the Democrats a clear advantage on Election Day, given that more Republican held Senate seats are at stake than Democratic ones. Even among the Democratic Senate seats that are currently up for grabs, the majority are not competitive at all.
Democrats only need to win four additional seats to control the Senate if Hillary Clinton wins as well. This is because Vice President Tim Kaine would act as a tie-breaking vote. Of course, if Hillary Clinton loses the election, Democrats will need to win five seats in the Senate to take control.
Another reason that the Republican majority is endangered is the fact that their candidates are underperforming against Democrats. As reported by CNN, this is particularly the case in battleground states where Donald Trump’s lackluster performance in the first presidential debate and his ensuing antics throughout the week drove his poll numbers down even further. The HMS Trump is sinking, and it seems to be taking the Republican Senate down too.
Clinton’s Election Day Coattail
Even some Democratic leaders acknowledge that, instead of a Hillary Clinton positive coattail effect, it’s just as accurate to say Donald Trump is having a negative coattail effect. Of course, for the Democrats the result is the same either way. As CNN notes, this is one of the many reasons most Republican Senate candidates want to avoid Trump until well after the election. Or even longer if possible.
But distancing themselves from Donald Trump isn’t that easy, particularly in presidential battleground states. With Hillary Clinton’s massive advertising campaign, slick social media operation and superbly organized ground staff, virtually everything Clinton does in these states ties the stumbling Trump campaign to hapless Republican senators. He’s almost literally an albatross around their neck.
Even states where the Republican Senate candidate would normally be expected to win by a mile, such as North Carolina or Pennsylvania, have been transformed into a battleground. Currently, the polls suggest that Senator Burr of North Carolina has a within-the-margin-of-error lead of two points, while Senator Toomey of Pennsylvania leads by less than one point. If Clinton trounces Trump in these states, it could be bad for Burr and Toomey.
The Party’s Over?
At least one very significant figure in the Republican Party has at times seemed to be at risk of losing his long-held position in the United States Senate. Senator John McCain of Arizona is in an extremely challenging race in his home state. While he won his primary handily and has regained the lead against his Democratic opponent, it’s not absolutely certain he can win the general election in November.
But other Republican senators are in even worse shape. Senators Johnson of Wisconsin and Kirk of Illinois both came into office with the Tea Party revolt of 2010. With both of these states now leaning more Democratic these days, new polls seem to indicate that Election Day 2016 will see new senators elected in both of these states.
Trump and Clinton still have miles to go before the actual day of the election. It’s perfectly possible that Hillary Clinton could make a major mistake and stumble in the last few steps to the Oval Office. Or Donald Trump might give a brilliant performance at the next debate. Anything’s possible. Even so, there’s a very good chance that a number of Republican senators are going to need to clean out their desks.
[Featured Image by Drew Angerer/Getty Images]