By Hastings Wyman –
With the election some two weeks away, a Democratic landslide grows more likely by the day. What’s more, even the Republican base in the South no longer seems immune. Polls show Hillary Clinton ahead in Florida, North Carolina and Virginia, the once-swing states essential to a Trump victory. If that’s not enough, polls also show Clinton within striking distance in Georgia, South Carolina and Texas.
It’s difficult to come up with an event that could stop the avalanche of Democratic votes on November 8. One might be a public display of a serious health problem for Clinton. But she looked fit as a fiddle, and played a good tune as well, in all three debates with Donald Trump. Moreover, even if Clinton were to collapse again in range of a video camera, it’s not clear the electorate would swing to Trump. The Democratic surge is not due to a massive response to Clinton’s message, but a major rejection of Trump as presidential material. If illness sidelined Clinton, the voters could very well stick with the Democrats, preferring the still not-very-well-known but seemingly stable Tim Kaine to the volatile mixture of personality that Trump has presented to the public.
Another development that could materialize on Election Day is that do-or-die Trump supporters will flock to the polls, while Clinton backers – both over-confident and under-enthusiastic – will not turn out commensurate with their candidate’s lead in the opinion polls. Trump did vote better in the primaries than he showed in the pre-primary polls. But early voting reports indicate a better get-out-the-vote operation by Democrats than by the Republicans. Moreover, such a major difference between pre-election surveys and the final results that would be required to pull Trump close to Clinton has no precedent in modern politics.
The continuing Democratic trend also leaves many down-ballot races, in the South as well as elsewhere, very much up for grabs. It is more probable than not that the Democrats will take control of the Senate, and they may get help in Dixie. US Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) is in a too-close-to-call contest with largely unknown ex-state Rep. Deborah Ross (D). A Ross victory looks more and more likely as Clinton gains ground in the Tar Heel State.
The same is true in Florida, where polls now show a tie between once-heavily-favored US Sen. Marco Rubio (R) and his Democratic challenger, Congressman Pat Murphy.
Three other Republican senators appear to be safe: Arkansas’s John Boozman, Georgia’s Johnny Isakson and Kentucky’s Rand Paul. But if the Trump collapse continues, keep an eye on these races, Georgia in particular, where the winner on November 8 must have a majority to avoid a January runoff.
A Clinton landslide could also bury some Republican US Representatives in the South. While the House isn’t likely to flip to the Democrats, it is within the realm of possibility, and as many as a half-dozen GOP-held congressional seats in Dixie could go Democratic.
In Florida, where Trump’s strength has steadily eroded, two seats are favored to flip to the Democrats. In the 10th (Orlando, etc.), an open seat due to redistricting, Democrat Val Demings is a solid favorite to replace a GOPer. And in the 13th (Pinellas County), political fixture Charlie Crist (D) has a strong lead in the polls over incumbent David Jolly (R). Two other Republican incumbents are vulnerable: Carlos Curbelo (R) in the 26th (Dade County) and John Mica in the 7th (Winter Park, etc.) Moreover, in the 18th District (Palm Beach, etc.), multi-millionaire Randy Perkins (D) is likely to hold the seat being vacated by Senate-candidate Murphy (D).
In Virginia, where Clinton is leading by as much as 15 points in one poll, Democrats could pick up two seats. In the 5th District (Charlottesville, etc.), where incumbent Robert Hurt is retiring, Board of Supervisors chair Jane Dittmar (D) is waging a strong campaign against state Sen. Tom Garrett (R). And in the 10th (Washington, DC suburbs), freshman Barbara Comstock (R) is probably a slight underdog to businesswoman LuAnn Bennett (D).
In Texas, in the 23rd District (San Antonio, etc.), freshman US Rep. William Hurd (R) could well lose to former US Rep. Pete Gallego (D). Much of the district’s Hispanic majority has not been pleased with Trump’s anti-Mexican rhetoric.
Other impacts of a Clinton landslide could include the more-likely-than-not defeat of North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) by state Attorney General Roy Cooper (D), as well as Democratic gains in state legislatures throughout the region. Republican margins are too large for any loss of control in either state senates or houses of representatives in the South, but the Democrats should have more local political muscle in Dixie after the election.
In short, as things look now, Hillary Clinton will win the presidency by a large margin, and her victory will include a major contribution of electoral votes from the South. In addition, the Democrats are likely to gain one or more US Senate seats in Dixie, as well win other down-ballot victories.
Finally, the morale boost for Southern Democrats, almost accustomed to “also ran” status in most of Dixie, will be significant. And for the GOP, the soul-searching will begin in earnest, with a likely war between the “deplorables,” as Hillary dubbed them, backing Trump, and the respectables, who got outmaneuvered in this year’s primaries. Stay tuned.