Unpopularity Of Major Party Candidates Could Lead To Increased Ticket Splitting

Trump Clinton Celebrity Death Match

With his act which was so successful in Republican primaries failing miserably in the general election campaign, Hillary Clinton is expected to easily beat Donald Trump as things stand now. Of course there is still a long way to the election and things could possibly change. Just yesterday more email came out which Clinton failed to release demonstrating corruption involving the Clinton Foundation, and further violations of the ethics agreements Clinton made prior to confirmation as Secretary of State. In a normal year, or if the Democratic Party stood for anything other than getting elected, this would preclude Clinton from being considered for any elected office. Maybe Donald Trump will get his act together and even manage to look like a credible alternative in the debates, similar to  how Ronald Reagan established himself as a legitimate candidate. More likely, Trump will continue to alienate more voters and possibly see states which have not voted blue in decades go to Clinton.

If we assume that current predictions of a humiliating loss do come true, this leads to the question of what happens to the rest of the Republican Party. There is increasing speculation that a Clinton landslide could lead to Democrats taking control of one, and possibly both, Houses of Congress. Some Republicans have gotten desperate enough to promote an independent candidate. Republicans also hope that more voters will split their tickets and vote for Clinton for president but still vote for Republicans down ticket. The Washington Post discussed this today, noting that Rob Portman is trying to align himself with the Clinton campaign in Ohio.

Portman is betting that a significant number of Ohioans in this turbulent election season might do something voters have not done in a long time: divide their preferences between the two parties as they work their way down the ballot. Breaking that pattern may be key to the survival of some endangered Republicans and possibly to the GOP’s hopes of holding onto its control of the Senate. It’s a clear acknowledgment of the fear that Donald Trump is pushing some voters away — and of the threat he poses to the rest of his party…

Split-ticket voting, once commonplace, has in recent elections grown rare in this polarized country. In 2012, for instance, only 6 percent of congressional districts — just 26 out of 435 — went for one party in the presidential race and another in picking a House member.

It was the lowest rate in 92 years — and a far cry from the zenith of split-ticket voting, which happened in Richard M. Nixon’s landslide of 1972, when 44 percent of the districts in the country voted one way for president and the other for the House.

Ohio is a good example of the trend. It has not split its preferences for the White House and the Senate since 1988, when it voted for both George H.W. Bush and to reelect then-Sen. Howard Metzenbaum (D).

There are some signs that Portman may be succeeding. The latest NBC News-Wall Street Journal-Marist poll, for instance, shows the senator holding a five-point lead over the Democratic nominee, former governor Ted Strickland, despite how Clinton has pulled ahead in Ohio by a similar margin…

That both parties have nominated relatively unpopular candidates for president is the main force that could disrupt what has become the typical straight-ticket dynamic.

Trump has higher negative ratings than any standard-bearer in history; were he not in the race, that dubious distinction would go to Clinton. Also scrambling the equation is how more and more leading Republicans are turning their backs on Trump.

While the article stresses the unpopularity of the two major party nominees, it failed to discuss two important points. The first is that Clinton is distrusted by a significant majority of voters. Just as people voted for Nixon in 1972 but also voted for Democrats in Congressional races, there might be many voters who vote for Republicans down ticket to put a check on a president they justifiably distrust. While Clinton might have difficulty getting other Democrats elected on her coattails, a Democrat with a higher approval rating such as Bernie Sanders might have brought a strong liberal majority into Congress.

Secondly, it should be a lot easier for voters to cross party lines this year. While Donald Trump does not follow conservative orthodoxy, an old DLC Democrat such as Clinton, who also embraces neoconservative foreign policy, and is generally conservative on social issues, provides a good match for Republican voters. Neoconservatives have been moving towards Clinton over the last few months, preferring her to a more isolationist Donald Trump who has criticized their ideas for interventionism in countries such as Iraq, Libya, and Russia. Wall Street is also happy to have Clinton in office. Clinton’s biggest problem will probably be with small businessmen and those hurt by trade agreements she has supported, but Trump’s erratic behavior could limit the loss of potential Democratic votes which Clinton might otherwise experience.

Another option which was ignored is the possibility of voting for third party candidates such as Jill Stein or Gary Johnson for president, and then possibly voting for major party candidates down ticket.

While most talk is naturally about the current election, Republicans can also look ahead to a potential rebound in 2018 and 2020. Clinton has benefited this year from a primary system which was heavily tilted in her behalf, and an exceptionally weak general election candidate. If she continues her current practices of dishonesty and attempting to avoid accountability for her actions, Democrats could find that a victory under the conditions of this election is not to their long term benefit.

Be Sociable, Share!

Leave a comment