Hoyer: Trump nomination would bring Dems 'substantial' gains

Greg Nash
The restive political milieu that's given rise to Donald TrumpDonald TrumpTrump: Press 'refusing to report' I'm winning Crossing fingers: A Canadian observer's view of the US election Post headline asks: ‘How fascist is Donald Trump?’ MORE will only benefit Democrats in November, Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Tuesday.
Hoyer, the Democratic whip, said Trump's combative campaign — and the sharp GOP split over the merits of his bid — will alienate voters and fuel "substantial" gains for House Democrats at the polls.
"Democrats are in good shape," Hoyer told reporters in the Capitol. "I think we are, in fact, doing better. I think the environment is better for us. And I think we're going to pick up a substantial number of seats."
Hoyer pointed to a New York Times survey released Tuesday that found 60 percent of Republicans are "mostly embarrassed" by their party's presidential campaign, while just 13 percent of Democratic respondents feel the same about the race between Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonTrump: Press 'refusing to report' I'm winning Crossing fingers: A Canadian observer's view of the US election Bill Murray honored with Mark Twain Prize MORE, the former secretary of State, and Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersAT&T-Time Warner merger: Rigged by cozy regulatory relationships? Juan Williams: When WikiLeaks leaked my cell number Trump: Podesta a 'nasty guy' MORE (I-Vt.).
"Why?" Hoyer asked. "Because on our side you have a very substantive debate between two obviously qualified candidates."
By contrast, Hoyer claimed, the top Republican contenders — Trump and Sen. Ted CruzTed CruzJuan Williams: When WikiLeaks leaked my cell number 56 memorable moments from a wild presidential race Is Georgia turning blue? MORE (Texas) — are sending a vitriolic message that fuels doubts about whether they have the temperament to run the country.
"I don't think any of them are showing to the American people the responsibility that's necessary," Hoyer said.
The Democrats have a steep climb ahead, having lost scores of House seats since the 2010 cycle — a trend that's given the Republicans their greatest lower-chamber majority since the Great Depression.
Still, they're hoping Trump's controversial message will scare away women, minorities, millennials, independents and even moderate Republicans wary of the bellicose billionaire.
Citing an attack line popular with Cruz, Hoyer noted that, despite Trump's front-runner status in the GOP primary, he's still trailing both Clinton and Sanders by double-digit margins in most recent national polls.  
"Cruz is right," Hoyer said. "In the polling, about two-thirds of the American people — which includes, obviously, Republicans and independents — do not believe Trump is a responsible candidate for president of the United States [or] that they would feel comfortable having as the leader of the country. 
"In that context … I think the environment is good for us."
Last Friday the Democrats got some good news when the Cook Political Report, a prominent online election handicapper, shifted 10 seats in its most-watched ratings columns, all in favor of the Democrats.
"We think the Cook report reflects what we're seeing — that the environment in which this election's being held is moving toward the Democratic side," Hoyer said.
Still, redistricting after the 2010 census broadly favored House Republicans. And even after last week's ratings shift, the Cook team put only 18 House Republican seats on their most-vulnerable list — a dozen shy of the 30 seats the Democrats would need to win back the House.
There's also a concern among many Democrats that Trump is such a wild-card candidate — one who seems to be resonating with blue-collar voters of all parties — that there's no way to predict his influence down-ballot.
Indeed, roughly 20,000 registered Democrats in Massachusetts jumped parties ahead of the state's March 2 primary — a move state officials attributed to Trump's appeal among working-class voters.
Hoyer suggested he's not concerned, arguing that Clinton's resume will negate any of Trump's gains among on-the-fence voters. 
"She will be perceived correctly as a responsible, able, effective presidential candidate, who can be a president who will bring stability and vision to that office. I think, frankly, the candidates on the other side have not shown them[selves] to fall into that category," Hoyer said.
"Democrats," he added, "are going to do well."