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CEO Daily: The real shape of a Republican collapse

Saturday Morning Post: The Weekly View from Washington

The chaos consuming the Republican presidential campaign seems like it can’t possibly get worse for the party. It can and it is.

The nomination fight, to be sure, is bad enough. Party leaders only two years ago envisioned a talent pageant stuffed with rising stars. They would have been hard pressed to conjure a darker nightmare than what now confronts them in a choice apparently narrowed to Donald Trump and Ted Cruz.

But even before that lose-lose proposition can be settled, its wages are spilling over onto Congressional Republicans. On Friday, David Wasserman, House editor for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, floated the possibility that the down-ballot drag from either a Trump or Cruz nomination could put the GOP’s House majority in jeopardy. That is a stunning notion, considering the party now enjoys its biggest cushion in the chamber since 1928. Democrats would need to net 30 seats to seize control, a task further complicated by redistricting that heavily favors Republicans. (In the last presidential election, House Democratic candidates drew 1.37 million more votes nationwide than their Republican rivals and nevertheless ended up with 33 fewer seats.) Yet Wasserman is already reclassifying ten races as more competitive for the minority based on the likely top of the Republican ticket. Other districts with concentrations of Latinos and upper-income moderates could soon join them. “We don’t hold local House elections anymore, with very few exceptions,” Wasserman says. “House candidates are more or less defined by their nominee these days.”

The same goes for Senate races, where the map already favors Democrats. To regain control of the upper chamber, the party needs to pick up four seats if it also holds the White House. And Senate Republicans are defending seven seats in states that President Obama won twice. But eyeing a potential presidential blowout, Senate Democratic strategists believe they are facing a singularly historic opportunity. So while the battle for control of the Senate will play out in familiar battlegrounds — think Florida, Illinois, Iowa, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — the party is also racing against looming filing deadlines to lure credible Democratic contenders in ruby-red territory like Kansas and South Carolina. Already, quietly, in Georgia and Idaho, it has scored a pair of businessmen primed to run as political outsiders with private-sector cred (sound familiar?). Competitive races in those states shouldn’t be possible — but neither should a Republican presidential nominee with a real potential to limbo under 40 percent of the popular vote. “We’re preparing for an outcome that’s completely different from anything we’ve seen,” one top Democratic strategist says. With the primaries ongoing and eight months until Election Day, nothing is guaranteed. But if Republicans see their White House prospects continue to crater, they can’t take for granted their Congressional backstop.

Tory Newmyer
@torynewmyer
tory_newmyer@fortune.com

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