Already bracing for the backlash over their party's presidential nominee, Republican politicians in down-ballot races are scrambling to make their own case, unattached to Donald Trump, to voters. In a recent speech in Wisconsin, Speaker Paul Ryan tried to dissuade College Republicans from not supporting GOP congressional candidates because of Trump.
"If we lose the Senate, do you know who becomes chair of the Senate Budget Committee?" Ryan said, according to The Nation. "A guy named Bernie Sanders. You ever heard of him?"
But what was an attempt to convince Republican voters against having Sanders as Budget chairman turned out to be a huge impetus for liberal progressives to boost Democratic candidates' chances. Sanders fired off a tweet about Ryan's warning, urging his followers to donate to Democrats running for House and Senate seats — and raised more than $2.4 million.
Ryan's warning was touted as having "spectacularly backfired," considering it caused the opposite effect. Republican leaders and candidates up for election have increasingly distanced themselves from their nominee over the past several weeks. After denouncing Trump's remarks in the wake of the scandal, Ryan said he would focus his efforts on defending the GOP's majority in Congress.
Presidential elections are typically more dramatic and high-tension than down-ballot elections, but the latter has a more significant impact on the country than who wins the presidency in many ways. When the GOP swept Congress in 2014, it hindered President Obama's ability to pass progressive legislation, and the contentiousness between GOP Congressional members and Obama was partly why the public held such a dismal view of Congress' job performance. Today, Republican groups and politicians are deserting Trump, instead doubling down on safeguarding their Congressional majority.
The GOP's ability to ensure voter turnout for these races is what propelled them to power in Congress, and Democrats are fighting to make sure they don't lose in the devastating margins they did in 2014. After conceding the Democratic primary, Sanders has turned his attention to changing the makeup of Congress as part of the political revolution his campaign championed. And if his latest fundraising effort is anything to go by, it seems that voters, too, are realizing the gravity of down-ballot races.
Cover image via Andrew Cline / Shutterstock.com.