Since Donald Trump sewed up the Republican nomination this spring, Democrats have been salivating—and Republicans quaking—about the havoc such a historically unpopular candidate could wreak down the ballot. But with 47 days until the election and Trump having recovered some momentum since the national party conventions, there’s no clear sign yet that the GOP standard-bearer will drag fellow Republicans under.
Using the latest polling, most expert election watchers see Democrats picking up slightly less than half the seats they’d need to retake the lower chamber. And they’re chalking it up to the failure of that anticipated anti-Trump wave to materialize. “The narrative that Trump would automatically bring down Republicans because there are fewer ticket-splitters was actually wrong,” says Nathan Gonzales, editor of The Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report, a nonpartisan newsletter. “Trump is a unique enough figure that voters started the sprint in the general election with a split ticket, and it’s up to Democrats to link the races together.”
However, Trump’s improved polling in recent weeks also hasn’t convinced his fellow Republicans who are still holding him at arms length to embrace him. And Democratic strategists still believe that by handcuffing Republican candidates to Trump, they have a shot at flipping the 30 seats they need to retake control of the House.
A handful of recent polls support the Democratic case. In Minnesota’s third district—a suburban bellwether west of Minneapolis—the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is touting an in-house survey that shows their candidate, state Sen. Terri Bonoff, leading Rep. Erik Paulson by two points after a week of ads tying the incumbent Republican to Trump. Likewise in Florida’s seventh district, encompassing Orlando’s northern suburbs, a DCCC poll released Wednesday shows Democratic challenger Stephanie Murphy within striking distance of GOP Rep. John Mica, trailing him by three points after earlier surveys showed a wider gap. Murphy has been pushing the theme that Mica would be a rubber stamp for a President Trump. And in Kansas’s third district, including parts of Kansas City and its surroundings, Democrats have been airing ads trying to associate Rep. Kevin Yoder with Trump. But the Democratic challenger still appears to be lagging badly, despite the fact that Hillary Clinton is sitting on a solid lead there over Trump.
So far, Democrats haven’t proven they can pull it off. As Gonzales notes, House races typically take shape in the final weeks before the election, meaning there’s still time. But Republicans are encouraged by a presidential contest that by all accounts has tightened this month.