GOP candidates down ballot are feeling the Trump effect
In Miami, state Democrats are running TV ads this week against the incumbent Republican state Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla accusing him of having a loose connection to Donald Trump from almost 20 years ago.
In Tampa, Democrat Bob Buesing continues to publicly pressure his state Senate rival Dana Young on the campaign trail to denounce Trumps past comments about women.
And outside of Orlando, new television ads from Democrat Stephanie Murphy tell voters that incumbent U.S. Rep. John Mica, R-Winter Park, said “I love Trump,” earlier this year and to choose her instead.
While both major parties and political experts for months said they anticipated little impact from Trump on downballot races for Congress and the state Legislature, all that has changed over the last two weeks. Trump’s 2005 comments about grabbing women sexually without consent, has ignited a new firestorm that has Republicans in even what were thought to be safe districts worried about what has become known as the “Trump effect.”
In some races, Democrats are running ads pinning opponents to Trump, in others Republicans who unendorsed Trump are now facing a bitter backlash that have them worried about ardent Trump supporters not voting in their race and handing the election to Democrats. And in yet dozens of others, Republicans are ducking and refusing to answer questions about Trump in hopes their silence will avoid backlash.
“It would be better for everybody down ballot if the Republican nominee for president were bringing folks, rather than shedding them like hair on a german shepard,” said Mac Stipanovich, a longtime Florida Republican strategist and lobbyist who has become one of the #NeverTrump movements leading voices.
Races that should be lined up as Republican victories in a normal election cycle are increasingly in uncertain waters thanks largely to Trump and what he has done to the Republican Party, said veteran Florida Democratic strategic Tom Eldon. Republicans who despite Trump are threatening not to vote at all, and Trump backers are threatening to not cast ballots for anyone other than Trump to teach the establishment a lesson.
“There are races out there that are not typically Democratic targets, but are going to be very close now,” said Eldon, saying he expects Democratic groups to drop more money into fringe races in hopes of fueling a mini-wave in Congressional and state legislature contests.
More to come on tampabay.com later today.