The Real Losers of Wednesday's Debate Were Down-Ballot Republicans

October 20th 2016

Lucy Tiven

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump's performance at Wednesday night's debate is sounding alarms within his own party.


Republican strategists predicted that down-ballot candidates would suffer the fallout of Trump's failure to reach out to undecided voters and his refusal to agree to accept election results, Politico reported.

"The biggest loser tonight was not Trump; the presidential race is over," said GOP pollster Robert Blizzard, who is working on numerous congressional races. "Instead, down-ticket Republicans lost tonight — they needed some help and got absolutely none."

Thursday morning's FiveThirtyEight election forecast gave Democrats a 71.6 percent chance of winning control of the Senate.

And that number doesn't reflect polls taken after the debate. Even so, the site's odds for Senate Republicans have taken a considerable nosedive since Oct. 9, when FiveThirtyEight forecast that Democrats led Republicans by a narrow 2.8 percent. That's the day the 2005 tape of Trump boasting about non-consensually groping women came to light.


Trump's odds seem to be shrinking in the polls, and a growing list of Republicans are condemning his comments and jumping ship entirely. But the candidate has fired back and announced that he will finish his presidential bid on his own terms.

Trump's rhetoric has taken a dark, conspiratorial turn that's sending ripples down the ticket.

Trump used mid-October speaking events to warn voters about "election rigging," to double down on vicious threats to jail his opponent and to dredge up her husband's sex scandals.


Trump has also attacked perceived enemies across the board: women who have accused him of sexual assault (he's denied the allegations), the media, the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates, and his fellow Republicans. The rhetoric may earn points with his base, but it does little to sway moderate Republicans, independent voters, and white Republican women, all of whom he needs to actually win the election, Reuters reported.

Party leaders hemmed and hawed about Trump's endangering down-ballot candidates weeks before the debate. But his latest remarks about not conceding the election pose a new threat to other GOP contenders.

"It’s the one and only headline that matters coming out of the debate," Steve Schmidt, John McCain's 2008 senior campaign strategist, told Politico. "It’s absolutely unprecedented for any presidential candidate in the history of the country."

Republicans who never endorsed Trump or who have revoked endorsements condemned Trump's statement on Twitter.

Senate and House candidates in swing states who still endorse Trump have not.

Condemning Trump could mean losing the votes of his loyal supporters in close races.

"This is microcosm of the general election campaign," former Republican National Committee political director Mike DuHaime told Politico. "Trump does well at times but can't sustain it for the entire time and makes unnecessary mistakes."

ATTN: reached out to the Trump campaign for comment on this story and will update it when we receive a response.