Sat, Oct 15, 2016 - Page 9 News List

Republican split over Trump puts states into play

Party infighting has loosened its grip on traditionally safe states, jeopardizing its majority in the Senate and possibly even the House

By Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin  /  NY Times News Service

Illustration: Kevin Sheu

Republican US presidential candidate Donald Trump’s intensifying battle with his own party is tearing open the nation’s political map, pulling Republicans across the country into a self-destructive feud that could imperil dozens of lawmakers in Congress and potentially throw conservative-leaning states into his Democratic rival Hillary Rodham Clinton’s column.

Democrats are moving swiftly to exploit Trump’s crumbling position in the presidential race, aiming to run up a big margin of victory for Clinton and extend their political advantage into the congressional elections next month.

Clinton’s campaign has concluded that at least two traditionally Republican states, Georgia and Arizona, are realistic targets for her campaign to win over. Republican polling has found that Trump is at dire risk of losing Georgia, according to people briefed on the polls, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Clinton now holds such a strong upper hand that Priorities USA, a super political action committee (PAC) backing her campaign, might direct some of its war chest into Senate races and begin broadcasting ads for those contests as soon as next week, two people said.

Congressional Democrats also hope to persuade Clinton to continue pouring money and campaign resources into states like Virginia and Colorado, where they believe her victory is assured, in order to lift other Democratic candidates.

In a signal of Democrats’ growing focus on the US House of Representatives and Senate, Clinton used a visit on Tuesday to Miami to attack both Trump and Senator Marco Rubio, whom Clinton blasted for what she described as his indifference to climate change.

“We need to elect people up and down the ballot, at every level of government, who take it seriously,” Clinton said. “It is an unacceptable response for Marco Rubio, when asked about climate change, to say: ‘I’m not a scientist.’”


Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta, told reporters that she would continue to call out down-ballot Republicans.

Rubio, who has led in his re-election campaign by a comfortable, but not overwhelming margin, is among the Republicans whom Priorities USA might seek to defeat, if the group decides to intervene in Senate races, one strategist said.

Increasingly anxious Republicans have not come up with a unified strategy for containing the damage from Trump’s embattled candidacy, and several strategists and party officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity said they were awaiting a new round of polling before settling on a course.

However, in a sign that Republicans now view the presidential race as a lost cause, several Senate candidates are preparing ads asking voters to elect them as a check on Clinton in the White House.

Yet Trump himself, having been rejected in recent days by dozens of Republican elected officials, has indicated that he would make any separation an exceptionally messy and painful ordeal for the party.

Trump on Tuesday morning lashed out publicly at two of his best-known critics: Senator John McCain, who withdrew his endorsement of Trump over the weekend, and House Speaker Paul Ryan, who informed congressional Republicans on Monday that he would no longer defend Trump.

Seething on Twitter, Trump called Ryan “weak and ineffective,” and described McCain as “very foul-mouthed.”

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