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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

‘Trump Drag’ a Worry of GOP Candidates….and a Boon for Dems

Republican 2024 candidates will be interested in “Can Republicans Hope To Outrun Trump In 2024 House Races?” by Amy Walter at The Cook Political Report. But Democrats should also give it a read, and flip the question into “Can Democrats Make Sure Republican 2024 candidates are branded as Trump’s lapdogs?” Of course, there is no guarantee Trump will win the GOP. But that is the most likely scenario at this juncture.

Here’s an excerpt from Walter’s article:

Last week, POLITICO’s Ally Mutnick and Holly Otterbein reported on how former President Donald Trump’s “early dominance” in the GOP presidential primary has “spooked some potential down-ballot candidates” and made the job of recruiting top-tier talent into key swing seat contests difficult. I’ve heard similar hand-wringing from GOP strategists, including the polling firm Public Opinion Strategies, which released the results of a swing-state survey they conducted showing a ticket led by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis produced a generic ballot advantage of one point for Republicans, while a Trump-led ticket produced a down-ballot advantage to Democrats of three points.

So, how worried should GOP candidates be about the “Trump drag” in 2024?

Walter reviews the history of Trump drag for both times he has been on the ballot and the midterms during his presidency and she sees some significant ‘Trump Drag.’  Further,

In 2022, Republicans narrowly won control of the House thanks to the fact that 18 Republicans won in districts Biden had carried in 2020. However, Republicans’ failure to flip other high-profile seats that Biden narrowly carried two years earlier (like MI-08, MI-07, PA-07, CO-08, NM-02 and OH-13) cost them a more robust majority.

To hold the House in 2024, Republicans first have to limit their losses in Biden-held districts. The most vulnerable Republicans are the five freshmen who outperformed Trump’s 2020 showing in their districts by double digits: John Duarte (CA-13), George Santos (NY-03), Anthony D’Esposito (NY-04), Mike Lawler (NY-17) and Lori Chavez DeRemer (OR-05). For example, Biden won the Central Valley-based 13th District by 11 points. Freshman Rep. John Duarte carried it by just under one point.

Walter concludes, “To hold the House, Republicans are going to need to beat Democrats in districts where Trump will likely lose.” Also,

In 2016, when Trump was a novelty, 23 Republican candidates won in districts Trump lost. Four years later, only nine Republicans were able to do the same thing. In 2022, Democrats effectively branded the GOP as the party of MAGA and Trump, helping them to pick up a Senate seat and hold down their losses in the House.

This is why many Republicans are correctly worried that Trump on the top of the ticket could risk their majority.

So, in the event of Trump’s winning the GOP nomination, Democrats should get out their branding irons and make sure GOP candidates have “Trump lapdog” emblazoned their foreheads. But save a little room for “anti-choice puppet,” which could come in handy, — especially if Trump tanks, and some other extremist gets the Republican nod.

It’s true that the ‘Trump Lapdog’ brand has not hurt some of his most obsequious minions, like Sens. Ted Cruz and Lindsay Graham in the recent past. But keep in mind that demographic transformations, though modest from year to year, favor Democrats in many states and congressional districts. Graham does not have to run in 2024. But Cruz is facing a charismatic Democrat, Colin Allred. A good Democratic branding effort in Texas, for example, could help flip a couple of points – and win an Allred victory – for Dems.

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