The roiling chaos within the Trump campaign has some in the main line Republican Party scrambling to distance themselves from the former reality TV star and real estate tycoon. Some GOP candidates for offices lower on the ballot are plotting to take out ads explicitly separating themselves from the presidential nominee in a last ditch effort to save their political skins.
The New York Times said Saturday that for many candidates, strategists and longtime Republican operatives, the possibility of a Trump loss has not just become a reality, but an almost foregone conclusion. Now, party stalwarts are scrambling to put together a plan to minimize damage to candidates further down the ballot.
Many of the party sources who spoke to the Times requested anonymity and at this juncture, few in the party are willing to go on the record as breaking from the top of the ticket. However, the cracks in the party’s loyalties began to show even at the Republican National Convention, when neither Ohio Gov. John Kasich nor any living Republican presidents chose to attend.
On Friday, Trump traveled to Iowa and Wisconsin, but neither Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) nor Rep. David Young (R-IA) attended his rallies. Both men are vulnerable incumbents who would, under normal circumstances, be expected to campaign alongside their presidential nominee. However, Johnson and Young both held their own rallies in other parts of the state than Trump.
Senator Patrick J. Toomey (R-PA) said in a Friday conference call that he believes, perhaps overly optimistically, that voters “will make a completely separate decision” regarding local offices and the presidency.
One strategist revealed that many candidates are planning on launching ads “by early to mid-September” distancing themselves from Trump and urging voters not to see the presidential nominee as representing the rest of the party.
“Do we run the risk of depressing our base by repudiating the guy, or do we run the risk of being tarred and feathered by independents for not repudiating him?” said GOP pollster Glen Bolger to the Times. “We’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t.”
The weeks since the RNC have been disastrous for Trump. He has feuded with a Gold Star family and picked a fight with a baby. He has pundits and pop psychologists attempting to diagnose him with everything from amphetamine addiction to malignant narcissistic personality disorder.
Republican officials reportedly staged an “intervention” of sorts in which they attempted to rein Trump in, urging him to ease up on the personal attacks and feuds and act more like a candidate for the highest office in the land.
Democratic rival Hillary Clinton has seen a significant bump in the polls since the Democratic National Convention and some reliably Republican states like Georgia are showing the former First Lady and Secretary of State slightly ahead.