Republicans face an uphill climb to keep control of Congress this November if recent polls are correct, according to political analysts John Heilemann and Mark Halperin.
Democrats could take over the Senate and House of Representatives for the first time since 2010 if presidential nominee Hillary Clinton beats Republican Donald Trump by a 12-point margin, which an ABC poll showed on Sunday, Heilemann said Sunday in a talk at Temple Emanuel in Great Neck.
Republicans’ “incredible gymnastic exercises” to distance themselves from the controversial Trump to appease moderates while trying not to alienate Trump’s supporters would not help if Clinton achieves such a massive victory, Heilemann said.
“It won’t matter how artfully you’ve tried to work your way around the complexities of having Donald Trump at the top of the ticket. You will be washed away,” said Heilemann, who, like Halperin, is managing editor of Bloomberg Politics and host of the Bloomberg Television show “With All Due Respect.”
Halperin and Heilemann appeared at Temple Emanuel about two weeks before the Nov. 8 election in a talk moderated by NY1 host and CNN commentator Errol Louis as part of the temple’s Stephen C. Widom Cultural Arts series.
If Clinton wins by a more likely margin of around 6 percentage points, as many polls have predicted in recent weeks, her party would still probably win control of the Senate, Heilemann said.
In that case, Clinton’s presidency would be helped “enormously” by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), likely to be majority leader in a Democratic Senate, and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the House speaker, two moderate leaders who will be “ready to make some pretty big deals,” Halperin said.
As a New York senator and secretary of state, Clinton developed a reputation for bipartisanship that she would need to maintain in the White House to bridge the gaps President Barack Obama has failed to overcome, Halperin said.
But Clinton will have to surmount obstacles posed by her gender and the public’s tarnished perception of her, Halperin said.
“I think she has the prospect of succeeding as a nonpolarizing, bipartisan figure, even though in the context of this race, that’s not how much of the country sees her,” said Halperin, who has covered every presidential election since 1988.
Some of the North Shore’s Republican congressional candidates have performed their own gymnastics when it comes to Trump.
Republican state Sen. Jack Martins, running in the 3rd Congressional District against Democrat Tom Suozzi, and retired U.S. Marine David Gurfein, running in the 4th Congressional District against incumbent Democratic Rep. Kathleen Rice, have said they will vote for Trump but are not endorsing him, saying he is preferable to Clinton.
Both have rejected some of his controversial policy proposals and condemned his lewd comments about women heard on a 2005 recording.
Democrats are likely to retain the 3rd and 4th District seats, and Republican Reps. Lee Zeldin and Peter King are expected to win in the 1st and 2nd Districts, respectively. Schumer will also probably win a fourth term in the Senate easily.
But in the upstate 19th District race to replace retiring Rep. Chris Gibson, Republican John Faso, a former state Assembly minority leader and a Long Island native, holds just a one-point lead in a recent poll over Democrat Zephyr Teachout, who challenged Gov. Andrew Cuomo in a 2014 gubernatorial primary.