Brian Howey

Brian Howey

INDIANAPOLIS — We all knew this election was going to be about HIM. So what happens to Indiana’s down ballot candidates if and when President Trump’s re-election bid collapses?

There is mounting evidence that a Democrat tsunami is forming. CNN/SSRS had Joe Biden with a 16-point lead nationally, 57-41%, on Monday, coming on the heels of NBC/Wall Street Journal Sunday that had Biden up 53-39%. The CNN poll revealed 69% don’t trust what the White House is telling the public about the president’s health.

Biden leads by 9% in the Real Clear Politics Polling composite, crossing the 50% milepost. In swing states, Biden has crossed the 50% mark in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, is at 49% in Michigan and Arizona, and 48% in North Carolina and Florida. And almost all of these polls were conducted prior to Trump’s hospitalization for COVID and his chaotic return to the hotspot White House, where the virus has spread to 34 staffers.

Sunday’s NBC/Wall Street Journal poll had Biden leading Trump by 27% among senior citizens (62% to 35%), and Monday’s CNN/SSRS poll had Biden up 21% (60% to 39%). Trump carried senior citizens by 7% in 2016.

Why is Trump collapsing?

First, he bombed in his first debate with Biden last week. Then he tested positive for COVID after months of downplaying its impacts, and landed at Walter Reed Medical Center Friday evening. The White House has obfuscated the timelines of when he last tested negative and first tested positive, with rampant speculation that he knew he was infected and contagious at his debate with the 78-year-old Biden. Trump showed up late and ducked taking the required COVID test. He’s still contagious, but wants to debate Biden in person next Thursday, or he’s not showing up.

His doctors at Walter Reed — who are treating their commander-in-chief boss — have been less than candid, and have been contradicted by Trump and Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. There was Trump’s Sunday “joyride” stunt with two Secret Service agents in full PPE driving with him in the hermitically sealed Chevy Suburban.

When he returned to the White House on Monday, he made a Mussolini-style balcony appearance while gasping for breath after removing his face mask before going inside.

All but one of the Pentagon’s Joint Chiefs of Staff is quarantining. And the kicker: Trump abruptly pulled the plug on COVID relief talks on Capitol Hill via tweet, an hour before the Wall Street bell, causing the markets to convulse, only to make a half-hearted course correction via Twitter the next day.

Unlike other presidents who might have been in a position to receive some sympathy during a hospitalization, voters are reacting to the cavalier attitudes Trump and the White House have exhibited for months, from the flouting of medically prescribed protocols (like wearing masks) to packing Rose Garden and MAGA rallies with supporters, with dozens contracting the disease.

Trump sucks the oxygen from all other races.

Let me put it another way: If any governor, mayor, university president or corporate CEO had acted in such a reckless, chaotic manner, their board of trustees would have said, well, “You’re fired.”

The last CBS Battleground Tracking Poll had President Trump with a 10% lead in Indiana, 54-44% in late September. But Indiana Republican Chairman Kyle Hupfer declined to release polling information on the Trump-Biden race Wednesday after revealing gubernatorial numbers (Gov. Eric Holcomb at 60%, Democrat Woody Myers at 21% and Libertarian Donald Rainwater at 6%). Asked if Holcomb would out-perform Trump, Hupfer said, “It’s too early to tell. It’s certainly a possibility.”

When early voting began Tuesday in the state, long lines were reported in downtown Indianapolis and in Porter, Hamilton, Vigo and Bartholomew counties.

There’s a reason why new House Speaker Todd Huston is running TV ads in his rematch against Democrat Aimee Rivera Cole. It’s inoculation for what appears to be the building Blue Wave.

Predicting wave elections in the Donald Trump era has been dicey. We thought we saw a blue tsunami in the early summer of 2016, and again in the “Access Hollywood” weekend on the eve of the first Trump-Clinton debate, but this is different. Trump is facing Joe Biden and not the much hated Hillary Clinton.

The way the current congressional and General Assembly maps are drawn gives Indiana Republicans a life raft. My newsletter, Howey Politics Indiana, has only the 5th Congressional District race between Democrat Christina Hale and Republican Victoria Spartz in the “tossup” zone, along with five Indiana Senate seats (in Indianapolis and LaPorte) and five suburban Indiana House Districts. So at this writing, Trump’s meltdown looks like it will have a limited down ballot impact.

If President Trump craters at the top of the ticket, the problem for Democrats is that gubernatorial nominee Woody Myers has been an anemic fundraiser, giving Gov. Eric Holcomb’s re-election chances an enhanced status and raising a potential bulwark against down-ballot carnage.

While Myers reported his first large donation since mid-July on Oct. 1 (three totaling $12,000), he has actually been out-raised on that front by the Libertarian Rainwater, who reported receiving another $15,000 from a California man on Oct. 1.

Republican sources tell me that while Trump won’t carry Indiana by the 19% he did in 2016, he’ll likely come in with a 6% to 8% plurality. Trump’s self-inflicted problems will fester more prolifically in the swing states.

Brian A. Howey is publisher of Howey Politics Indiana at www.howeypolitics.com. Find him on Facebook

and Twitter @hwypol.

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