For one thing, there’s simply no evidence the Trumpian interlude has hurt the GOP. The Republican party’s overall favorable rating hasn’t changed in these last six months. The percentage of Americans identifying as Republicans hasn’t declined. Obama’s approval rating hasn’t gone up. The Pew Research Center regularly asks which party would do a better job on the economy. In July, Democrats held a three-point edge; in December, Pew found Republicans leading by five. In the same Pew polls, Republicans improved from -2 to +2 on handling immigration and from +12 to +14 on handling terrorism.
So there’s no evidence of damage to the Republican “brand” from Trump. Nor is there evidence of damage to Republican chances in 2016. Indeed, there is compelling evidence, in poll after poll, that the percentage of Americans intending to vote in November for Hillary Clinton has declined since Trump appeared on the scene. When Trump launched his candidacy in mid-June, Hillary Clinton had a comfortable lead over every GOP candidate in general election polls. Now she’s basically tied with the leading non-Trump candidates. The fact that Hillary Clinton, with all of her advantages, does not hold a lead at the beginning of 2016 is a promising indicator for Republican prospects in November.
Obviously correlation isn’t causation. Clinton might have sunk if Trump had decided not to run. But we should also point out that Trump recently seems to have done real damage to Hillary Clinton’s ability to play the woman card—surely her trump card—by calling out her complicity in covering up Bill Clinton’s behavior towards . . . women.