WASHINGTON ― Barring a massive shift in a number of states over the next two weeks, Donald Trump will lose the presidential election and it won’t even be close.
The suspense now is how bad will Nov. 8 be for Republicans down-ballot, and the early indication is that ― thanks to Trump ― it could be really bad.
In the final stretch, Trump’s closing argument is that the election is rigged, the media is corrupt, and other Republicans have sold him out. It’s a perfect concoction for negative GOP turnout, particularly if you add a shoddy get-out-the-vote operation.
“Donald Trump’s plan to turn out Republicans is going about as well as his debate prep and early morning tweetstorms,” Meredith Kelly, the national spokeswoman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, told The Huffington Post on Monday. “Trump repels traditional Republicans who cannot bring themselves to vote for this unfit and unhinged man, and despite having developed a group of dedicated supporters in the Republican base, he has managed to convince them that the election is rigged and their vote won’t make a bit of difference.”
“In all scenarios,” Kelly added, “Donald Trump and House Republicans lose.”
Yes, Trump is headed for a loss. He even seems to know it. But a combination of factors ― generously carved out districts, for one, some Democratic recruitment failures, for another ― might stem the tide of GOP losses in the House and limit losses in the (for now) Republican-controlled Senate.
Most analysts not named House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) expect Democrats to pick up somewhere between 12 and 20 seats in the House and take control of the Senate, either because they actually win a majority in that chamber or because a Vice President Tim Kaine would get to break ties.
But the prospect of a wave election flipping the House still seems like a bit of a long shot. As The Washington Post’s Stuart Rothenberg put it, the generic ballot between Democrats and Republicans suggests healthy ― but not crazy ― gains for Democrats.
Recent national polls show Democrats with an advantage on the generic ballot ranging from 3 to 6 points. That is larger than the Democrats’ 2-point advantage in the October 2012 NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll (when Democrats gained eight seats) or the Democrats’ 4-point advantage in the October 2014 poll (when the GOP gained 13 seats).
However, large Democratic waves in 2006 and 2008 followed October NBC News-Wall Street Journal polls that showed Democrats with a generic advantage of 15 points and 13 points respectively — advantages not close to the current numbers.
The only way for Democrats to get close to those numbers is if the electorate that shows up on Nov. 8 is not representative of the polling.
Luckily for Democrats, that remains a possibility.
“We don’t know how bad the Trump effect is going to be on turnout,” one Democratic operative told HuffPost on Monday, “which makes it difficult to get an accurate representation of what the electorate is going to look like on Election Day.” The operative and other sources spoke on condition of anonymity to more openly discuss the races.
You can measure voter enthusiasm, but even that doesn’t provide a great sense of who shows up to vote. (”It all comes down to turnout” and “the only poll that matters is on Election Day,” as everyone who’s ever been on cable news says.)
By the voter enthusiasm measure, though, Trump is plummeting. His 12-point advantage in voter enthusiasm in early September has fallen to a 3-point deficit to Hillary Clinton, whose voters are increasingly fired up.
In head-to-head polls, Clinton is pulling so far ahead of Trump that voters may wonder what’s the point of voting, and donors might stop donating. “We are up against a perfect storm of spending from Democratic groups and donors who believe the presidential race is done,” Steven Law, the leader of the Republican PAC Senate Leadership Fund, told the LA Times.
On top of Trump’s overall problems, his get-out-the-vote operation is severely lagging behind Clinton’s. An analysis by The Hill over the weekend showed a roughly 4-1 advantage for Democrats on paid staff in states, with Democrats employing 5,138 staffers and Republicans having 1,409. While House and Senate Republicans have their own GOTV operations, both parties rely on the top of the ticket to help get their supporters to the polls. If anything, sources told HuffPost, Republicans rely more on the national operation than Democrats.
“They’re not making the same types of investments they would be if they had a robust field operation,” a Democratic aide told HuffPost.
Additionally, as Trump falls, his problems ― and thus the problems of Republicans in general ― compound.
If you were on the fence about Trump, why give up your ideological purity by going to support a guy who’s going to lose big anyway? If you were already uncomfortable with Trump’s ethics, how are you feeling as more women come forward to accuse Trump of sexual assault?
What semblance of a message the GOP nominee does have in the closing days is basically one that won’t appeal to those iffy voters. He’s continued his old, extreme rhetoric, doubled down on his misogyny by arguing that the women accusing him of misconduct aren’t attractive enough, and added new attacks against Republicans like Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).
The message that the Republican establishment is out to get him particularly does harm to both sides of the GOP; Trump supporters might skip over supporting Republicans elsewhere on the ballot, and traditional Republicans, already depressed, might just decide not to vote.
In a poll released Tuesday, only 4 percent of voters said the Republican Party is united. While more than 80 percent of Republicans are supporting Trump, according to the HuffPost Pollster average, that support might be soft among a number of GOP voters, and it may lead them to stay home.
And if you were supporting Trump, what’s really the point of voting? “It’s rigged,” isn’t it?
Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.