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Splitting the Tickets on Pennsylvania's Down-Ballot Races

Written by Richard Copeland, Producer - Smart Talk | Oct 10, 2016 9:30 AM

Republican candidates on down-ballot races - from the U.S. Senate race to representatives to the statehouse, are facing a serious challenge on Election Day.  Franklin and Marshall Professor of public affairs G. Terry Madonna outlined the obstacles on WITF's Smart Talk on Monday morning:

"They have to figure out a way to get people to vote, even if they're not going to vote for Trump."  The "they" Madonna is referring to is Pennsylvania Republican leadership.  "The Trump people don't have an organization.  They are starting from scratch."  That lack of a ground game has Republican candidates concerned that there is no national effort to drive Republican voters to the booths.  Beyond just using policy in motivating voters, state Republicans have to overcome the toxic rhetoric of the GOP's presidential nominee. 

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G. Terry Madonna, Professor of Public Affairs, Franklin and Marshall College

When asked whether the release of a video showing Trump using vulgar and offensive language about women could hurt the campaign of incumbent US senate candidate Pat Toomey, Madonna said "I don't think there's any doubt they did."

Madonna points to this senate race as an example of just how important it is for down-ballot candidates to compel Republican voters to split the ticket with their vote.

"In 1984, one out of every two of us split our ticket - president for one party, a member of congress from another.  Four years ago, only one out of five of us did."  According to Terry Madonna, party loyalty has overtaken voter commitments to individual candidates. 

"If one of the presidential candidates wins our state by, I'm not saying they will, seven, eight, nine - look at the number of down-ballot ticket splits that have to occur in an era when ticket splitting is in decline."

Yet, this may be the year when that trend reverses.  ". . . we're going to see an uptick in them [ticket splitting] because guess what?  The Republicans are going to work furiously to make sure, in this state, they don't forget Pat Toomey, they don't forget the congressional candidates."

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