The strategy worked in 1996.
In August, the GOP and PACs associated with it, started preparing ads that target Hillary in case Donald Trump couldn’t make a comeback. Now that it’s almost certain we will end up with Hillary, the GOP knows the importance of holding the Senate and the House has only grown stronger.
With two weeks left, the candidates have unleashed these ads across the country, mirroring their opponents as too similar to Hillary and promise to keep her in check in the White House.
The Wall Street Journal reported:
Many Republican ads previously criticized Democrats for being allied with Mrs. Clinton but didn’t suggest so openly that she is likely to be the next president.
“Pivoting to a checks-and-balances message is pretty much conceding that Clinton will win, thus it’s the message of last resort,” said Jennifer Duffy, who analyzes Senate races for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. “It’s being used more in states where Clinton has been unpopular in an effort to rally the GOP base.”
The FiveThirtyEight blog mentioned this voting strategy earlier:
Another, far less optimistic hypothesis for Democrats is that voters are purposely splitting their tickets. As my colleague Nate Silver pointed out on Tuesday, there’s some evidence that voters split their tickets when they feel confident in predicting who the next president will be. If they’re certain it will be a Democrat, they’ll vote for a Republican for Senate, and vice versa. It’s known in political science as “anticipatory balancing.” With Clinton’s lead becoming clearer by the day even as her favorability rating remains low (albeit not as low as Trump’s), it wouldn’t be surprising to see voters seeking a Republican Congress as a check on a President Clinton.
Missouri is one of the states that has concerned the GOP. The Senate Leadership Fund has poured $5.3 million more into incumbent Roy Blunt’s campaign. They recently released an ad that said “One Hillary in Washington would be bad enough,” insisting Democrat Jason Kander is too similar to Hillary.
Minnesota Republican candidate Stewart Mills aired this ad against his opponent Rep. Rick Nolan.
In upstate New York, the National Republican Congressional Committee has been running a TV ad that says a Democratic candidate, Kim Myers, would “fast-track” Clinton’s agenda in the House. It urges voters to support Republican Claudia Tenney — who will “stand up to Hillary Clinton.” Another spot warns that Myers and an independent candidate, Martin Babinec, would “rubber-stamp Hillary Clinton’s agenda in Congress.”
Republican Sen. John McCain, facing the toughest reelection fight of his political career, is taking a similar approach. Following his primary victory, McCain released a face-to-camera video in which he called his Democratic opponent, Ann Kirkpatrick, a “good person,” but added: “If Hillary Clinton is elected president, Arizona will need a senator who will act as a check, not a rubber stamp, for the White House.”
The Congressional Leadership Fund, the primary super PAC for House Republicans, have also taken this approach. The PAC have found that in the districts up for reelection that have Hillary winning, want the candidate that will keep her in check, “rather than a ‘rubber stamp’ on her agenda:”
The group will begin airing ads in numerous districts using the “rubber stamp” theme later this week in states where Mrs. Clinton is favored to win, said its president, Mike Shields.
“Democrats are living in this fantasy world where they perceive Hillary as winning and they think that translates into support for their down-ballot candidates,” Mr. Shields said.
The GOP did this in 1996 when it realized that Bill Clinton would beat Bob Dole in 1996. It worked and the GOP maintained control of Congress.
The Hillary campaign has also funneled money into the down ticket elections as an effort to take Congress back from the GOP. The Democrats only need four seats to retake the Senate if Hillary wins. Last week, Politico reported that Hillary wants to spend $6 million in the battleground states plus an additional $1 million in Illinois and Missouri.
While the Democrats are also throwing money into these states, the GOP may be on the right track here.