Could Trump nomination put House up for grabs?

Could Trump nomination put House up for grabs?
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The most unpredictable GOP presidential race in recent memory is sparking questions about whether the huge House Republican majority could be jeopardized with Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpIvanka Trump pens op-ed on kindergartners learning tech Bharara, Yates tamp down expectations Mueller will bring criminal charges Overnight Cybersecurity: Equifax security employee left after breach | Lawmakers float bill to reform warrantless surveillance | Intel leaders keeping collusion probe open MORE on the ticket.

It would take nothing short of a catastrophe to wipe out the historic 30-seat advantage now enjoyed by Republicans.

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Most in the GOP say they’re confident they’ll keep their majority intact in November no matter who their nominee is.

At the same time, even senior lawmakers couldn’t absolutely rule out the possibility of a wave election that hands Democrats control of the lower chamber.

“The truth is, nobody knows where this is all going. Anybody who says they do is either kidding themselves or lying to you,” Rep. Luke Messer (R-Ind.), the GOP policy chairman and a member of leadership, told The Hill.

Messer doubts his party will lose the House but said the top of the ticket always impacts the race.

“Of course, anything is possible,” he said, “but right now there is nothing indicating that sort of collapse.”

It’s not a sure bet Trump will win the GOP nod.

The New York billionaire and political newcomer is trying to quash a surge from Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzWhatever you think the Alabama special election means, you’re probably wrong This week: Congress gets ball rolling on tax reform Week ahead: Senators work toward deal to fix ObamaCare markets MORE (R-Texas), who closed Trump’s lead in delegates over the weekend.

Opponents of Trump are also hoping that Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Florida Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioOvernight Defense: Tillerson, Trump deny report of rift | Tillerson says he never considered resigning | Trump expresses 'total confidence' in secretary | Rubio asks Army to kick out West Point grad Rubio asks Army to kick out West Point grad with pro-communist posts GOP establishment doubts Bannon’s primary powers MORE can pull off victories on March 15 in their own states. Such a result would make it more difficult for the celebrity businessman to clinch the 1,237 delegates needed for the nomination.

Not everyone thinks Trump at the top of the ticket will hurt the GOP.

One vulnerable House Republican told The Hill he’ll begin polling his swing district in May to figure out who might show up to vote if Trump is the nominee. The GOP front-runner has become enormously popular with many white, working-class voters.

“I’m going to have to spend money on ‘get out the vote’ and modeling to figure out who my voters are if it’s Trump, because Trump changes the turnout,” the GOP lawmaker said Monday. “You have to figure out who is going to be voting, who didn’t vote before and who’s not going to vote who normally would vote because they don’t like him.”

The vulnerable lawmaker, who requested anonymity to speak freely about campaign strategy, said he actually views Cruz as a bigger threat than Trump.

“I don’t have a problem saying where I disagree with Trump,” he said, “but Cruz represents the ‘Party of No,’ and I think that there are a lot of Republicans who don’t like him. There are voters who say, ‘If he’s your nominee, I will reject’ ” all Republicans.

Freshman GOP Rep. Carlos Curbelo, a top Democratic target, said voters in his heavily Hispanic south Florida district are savvy enough to separate him from Trump, who kicked off his campaign last year by calling Mexican immigrants “rapists” and other criminals.

“Most voters understand that Donald Trump is neither a Republican or a conservative,” Curbelo, who is Cuban-American, wrote in an email. “He’s an aberration and a fraud who is using the Republican Party to advance his opportunistic and narcissistic campaign.”

Most political pundits and prognosticators believe Democrats have virtually no chance to win back the House.

Republicans won their current majority during the Tea Party wave of 2010; in 2014, they expanded it to 247 seats — the largest GOP majority since the Herbert Hoover administration in the late 1920s (Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew Boehner‘Lone wolf’ characterization of mass murderers is the epitome of white privilege Pelosi urges Ryan to create select committee on gun violence Ex-congressman Michael Grimm formally announces bid for old seat MORE’s resignation last fall put the latest tally at 246 seats).

To win back the House, Democrats would need to pick up seats in Florida, such as Curbelo’s, but also in New York, Maine, Illinois, Iowa, California and other states where the GOP made inroads in recent cycles.

NRCC officials argued that early signs in this cycle don’t point to a Democratic wave election. On New York’s Long Island, a recent Newsday/News 12/Siena College poll showed that Trump is much more popular than his GOP rivals and that he leads Democrat Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonChris Murphy’s profile rises with gun tragedies DNC, RNC step up cyber protections Gun proposal picks up GOP support MORE in a head-to-head matchup. That may be why vulnerable freshman Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.) is embracing Trump rather than running away from him.

“House races aren’t one size fits all,” said NRCC spokeswoman Katie Martin.

Patrick Murray, polling director at Monmouth University, agreed that it’s too early to tell how the eventual nominee might affect down-ballot congressional races. Other GOP candidates may be able to distance or “disassociate” themselves from Trump, causing voters to split the ticket, he said. But there’s also a concern that Trump’s heated rhetoric about things like immigrants, Muslims and torture could turn off a large swath of the GOP electorate.  

“A big fear for the party is that a sizable number of their voters may simply stay home because they can’t bring themselves to support the presidential nominee,” Murray said. “However, we simply won’t know until the nominee is set and any viable independent candidates potentially emerge.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGun proposal picks up GOP support Children’s health-care bill faces new obstacles Dems see Trump as potential ally on gun reform MORE (R-Ky.) has vowed to drop Trump “like a hot rock” if he’s the party’s nominee. His top deputy, Majority Whip John CornynJohn CornynGun proposal picks up GOP support House bill set to reignite debate on warrantless surveillance Republicans jockey for position on immigration MORE (R-Texas), has likened the real estate mogul to an “albatross” around the necks of down-ballot Republicans.

The bombastic candidate and former reality TV star has been more of a wild card when it comes to the House.

A poll conducted for party officials in December revealed that a plurality of voters would be less likely to cast their ballot for a GOP congressional candidate or incumbent with Trump at the top of the ticket. But Republican officials said they likely won’t spend money on additional polling until they have a nominee.

And Speaker Paul RyanPaul RyanThe Hill Interview: Budget Chair Black sticks around for now Gun proposal picks up GOP support GOP lawmaker Tim Murphy to retire at end of term MORE (R-Wis.) and his leadership team are drafting what they’re calling a bold, positive, conservative House agenda they hope candidates will be able to tout on the campaign trail.

“I really believe you are stronger when you have something positive to run on, especially when you get to the general election and when you are appealing to independent voters,” NRCC Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) told The Hill last week. “In the House, it’s tough to punch through above and beyond a presidential megaphone. You can’t do it. But individually, in races, you can.”

Last fall, after Trump proposed banning Muslims from the U.S., Walden suggested such rhetoric was unhelpful and put “competitive seats in jeopardy.” But last week, he expressed hope that Trump might be able to work well with House Republicans.

“He said he’s the guy who can work with Congress to get things done. In the end he’s the consummate dealmaker,” Walden said. “Hopefully, if he is the nominee, we can have some ideas and concepts and reforms that he could adopt.”