Several national media outlets have already called the presidential race for Hillary Clinton, including the Washington Post, saying “Now, it’s only about Clinton’s winning margin.” In Texas, of all places, the Post’s own poll shows Hillary within two points of Donald Trump. Nate Silver says Trump’s chances of winning have dwindled to 12%, and the Chicago Tribune says no presidential candidate has ever come back from a deficit this big, this late.
There is more troubling evidence mounting for Republicans who are not named Trump. In Florida, where poll averaging shows Hillary Clinton leading Trump by an average of more than 4 points, a recent Quinnipiac University poll shows a tightening Senate race between Marco Rubio and Patrick Murphy. Republican John Mica is in the fight of his career against upstart Democrat Stephanie Murphy (no relation to Patrick). For weeks, Democrats have pointed to a heavy advantage in voter registrations, in early voting numbers, and their vaunted get-out-the-vote efforts in the Sunshine State.
Some Democrats aren’t convinced. “Florida is just wired to be close,” Democrat Steve Schale wrote on his blog. “And 2016 will be no different.”
But Schale wrote that line a full month ago, and much has changed since then. The Trump tape. A second debate. A voter registration extension in Florida. A potentially “game changing” federal court judge ruling that “signature mismatches” were not a valid reason to disqualify a ballot. More than 23,000 such ballots were tossed in 2012, when Barack Obama only narrowly edged Mitt Romney.
So with everything seemingly falling into place, can Democrats capitalize and turn the 2016 election cycle into a wave year?
“We aren’t so much looking at the possibility of a Democratic wave election as we are a Donald Trump bomb election,” says Democrat strategist Kevin Cate. “He is the absolute worst thing to happen to the Republican Party in my lifetime. If Murphy upsets Rubio, then Donald Trump truly is the Manhattan Project of the Republican Party.”
But then there is the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC), which zeroed out millions in financial support it had previously earmarked to help Murphy beat Rubio. Did they pull out because they see the converging poll numbers and think their turnout game will be enough to send Marco Rubio into early retirement? According to one report, the DSCC thinks they can win two seats (one in Georgia, one in North Carolina) for the price of one in Florida, and if Murphy can pull it out here, that’s three races for what they were going to spend on one.
That is exactly what a wave election looks like.
Still, Republicans aren’t pushing the panic button, yet.
“The DSCC isn’t going to score a hat trick at Rubio’s expense,” said one Republican who’s seen internal polling in the Rubio race. “That’s just pure fantasy. Rubio will be re-elected by a comfortable margin.”