The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) released an ad on the eve of three U.S. Senate debates Friday evening. Candidates in close races in Nevada, New Hampshire, and Wisconsin will face off, after those in Ohio (where the Republican has a solid lead) do so early Friday afternoon.
While Hillary Clinton has picked up a strong lead (6.7 percent in the RealClearPolitics average) over Donald Trump in the past few weeks, the Democrat candidates for U.S. Senate have not picked up similar leads. FiveThirtyEight’s Harry Enten proposed two explanations — that the Democrats may just experience a lag in catching Clinton’s surge, or that Americans are purposefully splitting their ballots, voting for a Republican Senate as a check on a likely President Clinton.
At the end of the day, however, a Senate race is not a presidential race. Any given voter may prefer a Republican Senate candidate over Donald Trump. Indeed, the Ohio Senate race points to exactly that: the state is highly contested between Clinton and Trump, but GOP Senator Rob Portman has a solid lead (15.5 points!) over former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland. This race was supposed to be close, but now it isn’t.
While Clinton holds a strong advantage in the Electoral College, Democrats have no lead in the Senate map. Throughout August, there were 47 safe Democrat seats and only 44 safe Republican seats, according to the RealClearPolitics average. Now, each party has 46 safe seats, with 8 races contested by both parties.
Democrats know their coveted Senate majority is in jeopardy, so they’re desperately trying to link Republican candidates to Donald Trump, and especially his recent sex scandals. The scandals have taken a serious toll on Trump’s support, especially among Christians and among elected Republicans. But they’re unlikely to hurt Senate candidates. Here is the DSCC video, launched on Tuesday.
— Senate Democrats (@dscc) October 10, 2016
This video reeks of desperation. It paints with too broad a brush: connecting Nevada Representative Joe Heck, Missouri Senator Roy Blunt, Florida Senator Marco Rubio, Indiana Representative Todd Young, Ohio Senator Rob Portman, Arizona Senator John McCain, North Carolina Senator Richard Burr, Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson, Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey, and New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte to specific offensive Trump comments is rather a stretch.
Most of these comments related to Republican candidates supporting the Republican nominee in a presidential election — what a surprise! Ayotte’s comments telling a child to aspire to be like Donald Trump are the strongest connection, and even those came before the video leaked.
Next Page: Why this desperate attack will likely backfire in a few key races.
This is not an isolated attack ad, either. In the five days since The Washington Post published the 2005 Access Hollywood comments, Democrats had launched four ads attacking downballot Republicans for Trump’s comments, Politico reported.
Democrats hit California Representative Darrell Issa, who has joined the Trump campaign’s national security advisory council, with the same attack. But Issa’s spokeswoman, Calvin Moore, shot back, calling the ad against the congressman “as hypocritical and misleading as you can get.”
Issa’s challenger, Doug Applegate, reportedly stalked and threatened his ex-wife, and a judge released two restraining orders against him. “Voters know the difference between guilt by association and actual wrongdoing, and Doug Applegate has an ugly record of abuse,” Moore told Politico.
Representative Heck, the Nevada Senate candidate, released his own ads showing women praising him. In those ads, women praise the former physician, declaring that he has “cared for thousands of women,” especially “including victims of sexual assault and domestic violence.”
Leading up to the debates in Nevada, New Hampshire, and Wisconsin Friday night, the races are close. Heck leads former Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto by 3.4 percent. Ayotte has a 2.3 percent lead over New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan. Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson stands a mere 3 percent behind former Senator Russ Feingold.