Jennifer Duffy at the Cook Political Report has this sobering analysis out today:
Senate Republicans had been doing a pretty solid job of maintaining their distance from GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump by running their own campaign that focused largely on more local issues or those issues that motivate their base. The strategy was working fine and it looked as if Republicans would be able to keep their losses low. That is until October 7 when The Washington Post reported on the existence of the Access Hollywood tape in which Trump described sexually assaulting women. Then things started to unravel, albeit slowly.
Assuming that Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton wins the White House, the party needs four seats to tie the chamber, leaving the Vice President as the tie breaking vote. . . . . [W]e are increasing the range of expected Democratic pick ups to five to seven seats. This means that we feel that the prospect that Democrats will have at least 51 seats is greater than the odds of a tied Senate, or of Republicans somehow holding their majority.
Gulp. They also have this to say about the best GOP strategy:
Early voting is underway in 27 states, so Republicans don’t really have much time to turn things around, and Trump won’t be any help, especially his campaign doesn’t really have a ground game to speak of. The GOP’s only hope is to start running a checks-and-balances message, or more blatantly, a don’t-give-Clinton-a-blank-check message to motivate their base, particularly what one strategist called “casual Republicans,” to the polls. We are starting to see that message in some red and purple states as candidates work to tie Democratic candidate to Clinton.
I don’t see why the “don’t give her a black check” strategy would appeal only to casual Republicans. I think it appeals to classical liberals like me as well. (Note to Trumpers who think I just admitted being a leftist: Google “classical liberal.” You can’t manage to work the Googles? Fine, I’ll do it for you.)
I think, at this point, encouraging votes in House and Senate races is clearly the best strategy for those of us who care about limited government. For us, the presidency is lost — even if Donald Trump wins, which is looking extraordinarily unlikely. There is going to be a fan of Big Government in the Oval Office, no matter which candidate wins. Our only chance is to convince voters to vote down ticket.
Interestingly, the likelihood that Hillary Clinton will win is apt to make us limited government types less choosy about who we select down ballot. If I thought Trump were likely to win, I’d spend more time scrutinizing the record of each GOP candidate, to see if I thought it likely that he would oppose big-government initiatives pushed by Trump. But with Clinton likely to win, I can more easily see myself voting even for Trumpers in the House and Senate. They may not understand why they oppose her policies, but if it’s Hillary Clinton proposing them, they’ll oppose her. Fighting Hillary is what they live for.
Hope for the best; prepare for the worst. I sure hope the Cook Report is wrong about the Senate. But either way, let’s work to motivate folks to vote for Republicans down ticket.