March 30, 2016

“Whack’Em!”

Keith Smith

“Whack’em!”  That’s what candidate Donald Trump said about hedge fund managers whose income is taxed at a more beneficial capital gains rate rather than the higher individual income tax rates.  He was talking about tax reform.  But before we get ahead of ourselves…

Trump has to win the Republican nomination and then he will likely face Secretary Clinton in the general election. 

While I am concerned about whether Trump can win the White House, I am more closely watching what impact his candidacy will have on the races for the U.S. Senate.  Senate elections are influenced by the Presidential approval rating at the time of the election, whether an incumbent is running and whether a highly controversial candidate for either party is on the ballot.  Another factor is whether the Presidential candidates have “coattails” down the ballot.

Democrats need to pick up five seats to regain control of the U.S. Senate (or four if Sec. Clinton wins the Presidency).  Republicans are defending 24 seats this election – an historic number for either party.  Six of those 24 seats are in states that voted for President Obama in both 2008 and 2012.  Senators Ayotte (NH), Johnson (WI), Kirk (IL), Portman (OH) and Toomey (PA) are running for re-election. Senator Rubio (FL) is retiring.

My concern is that a national campaign ticket led by Trump will “whack” some of the Republicans in those Senate races.  At this time, I am worried that Mr. Trump’s verbal record in the campaign and his limited appeal in November could damage the prospects of several Republican Senate candidates.  While pundits suggest that the House is not really at risk of flipping to Democratic control under most scenarios, the Senate certainly could flip under the best of circumstances for the Republicans.

It is too early to know, but this election could be a bumpy ride for Republicans.


Keith Smith

Keith brings over 30 years of public affairs experience to the firm. Managing the firm’s tax lobbying practice, he assists some of the largest multinational companies and some of the smallest business in the United States with their tax concerns before Congress and regulators, in addition to working on international trade issues.