Top DCCC brass: Uh, that Trump effect hasn't shown up yet

Forget talk of coattails — Democrats chortle with glee over the boat-anchor impact that Donald Trump will have on down-ballot races. It’s coming, the chair and the executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee insist, and it will flip the House out of Republican control. Just wait — it’s coming any day now.

Except there’s no indication it’s coming at all, US News editor Robert Schlesinger writes. In fact, nothing much has changed over the last three months in House races:

Donald Trump will prove a boon to House Democrats, top campaign officials said Monday morning, though they conceded that a Trump drag has yet to exhibit itself because the election’s dynamics have been slow to solidify.

“This election is breaking late,” said Kelly Ward, executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “The dynamic of what is happening at the top of the ticket is taking a while to solidify,” leaving the House as a lagging indicator. Nevertheless, added New Mexico Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, who chairs the committee, “Whether people try to run away from Donald Trump now or not, the damage has been done.”

While a Trump effect on the House has been much discussed (see here, here, here andhere, for example) it has yet to exhibit itself in terms of the shape of the House battlegrounds: A perusal back through The Cook Political Report’s ratings of House races, for example, shows a surprisingly stable battle for the House. The most recent chart, issued last week, rated 45 GOP-held seats as competitive (with three in the “likely Democratic” column, two more in “lean Democratic,” 15 toss-ups, 13 in “lean Republican” and another dozen in “likely Republican”); one month ago there were 44 competitive Republican seats, divided roughly the same way; the number was 43 the month before that. Democrats have 13 competitive seats, according to the latest Cook tally, and need to net 30 seats to regain the majority in the House.

If the damage has been done, as Rep. Lujan says, then it doesn’t amount to much at all. It’s not breaking late; it isn’t breaking at all. To some extent the DCCC exists to produce hype even where it’s not warranted, and … this seems to be one of those instances.

This lines up with polling seen in Senate and gubernatorial races. Trump’s negatives and lack of gain from Mitt Romney’s polling levels in 2012 hasn’t shown any impact on other Republicans. In Pennsylvania, Pat Toomey still holds a substantial lead over Democratic challengers despite Trump’s lack of significant traction. In Utah, a poll taken a week ago shows Trump not even reaching 30% in a three-way race for the presidency in this deep-red state and only 36% in a two-way battle against Hillary Clinton. Governor Gary Herbert scores 56% from the same sample in his re-election bid, however. In fact, another poll in Utah shows much the same kind of race.

What does this mean? Voters seem adept at distinguishing between Trump and other Republicans, at least at this stage of the race. That might inoculate the GOP if polling turns sour on Trump, but might mean that other Republicans will not get the benefit of Trump’s promised redrawing of the map if it arrives — and for which there is just as much evidence as the DCCC’s promised “Trump Effect” boost for their candidates. It’s worth watching, but with Trump and Clinton having almost total name recognition, it seems unlikely that either one will have a different impact down ballot than what we already see.