While threatening the prospects of down-ballot Republicans across the country, the release of a video showing Donald Trump bragging about groping women poses a particular problem for Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, whose cruise to re-election appears to have hit a significant speed bump.
- Controversy surrounding Trump could impact other Republicans
- Latest poll shows Rubio leading Murphy by 2 percent
Since announcing his last-minute re-election bid in June, Rubio has consistently polled ahead of his Democratic challenger, U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy. Democratic hopes of winning the Senate race grew so thin that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee last week canceled nearly $2 million worth of Florida television advertising intended to help Murphy in favor of aiding other candidates locked in tighter contests.
The fallout from the Trump tape, however, could include a backlash from the very Republicans and independents Rubio is depending on to win.
"The biggest problem that Rubio has is (Trump) is struggling with college-educated white women, and when you look at the sexual assault comments he's made, you look at the comments he made about his daughter over the weekend that came out, it's just hard for me to be able to see him recover among those voters," said Democratic strategist Steve Schale. "The question is whether those voters punish Republicans all the way down the ticket or whether they vote for Rubio."
Indeed, polls have shown the potential for widespread ticket splitting, with sizable numbers of Floridians intending to vote against Trump and for Rubio.
The latest poll, conducted by the Marist Institute for Public Opinion, indicated a smaller split and showed Rubio leading Murphy by just two percentage points, 48-46. The poll was conducted before the politically explosive Trump tape was released.
If Democrats are buoyed by the developments, however, it may be too late to resurrect next week's canceled pro-Murphy ad blitz. Party strategists expect the DSCC to reallocate the money to Senate campaigns in Missouri and North Carolina, home to less expensive media markets and Democratic candidates who are also facing incumbents vulnerable to the toxic effects of the Trump tape.
Whereas Schale gave Murphy a 30 percent chance of winning Florida's Senate race as recently as a few weeks ago, though, the congressman's stock is markedly rising.
"I would say that it's probably more like 45-55, but it certainly is not out of the range of possibilities," that Murphy could win, Schale said. "It seems like every day there's a new shoe store of shoes dropping on Donald Trump, so who knows what this race looks likes in a week or two."