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Will Donald Trump at the top of the ballot help Michigan Democrats?

Donald Trump is now the presumptive GOP presidential nominee so, what does that portend for Republicans further down the ballot?

For Donald Trump to win the presidency, he’ll have to change the Electoral College map to win states Republicans don’t usually win. And, based on Trump’s apparent appeal to blue collar voters in old Rust Belt states, Michigan is high on that list.

Michigan Republican Congresswoman Candice Miller endorsed Trump last week.

“In this case, with Donald Trump, I think Michigan is very much in play. I think the entire electoral map is going to be changing as evidenced by the recent poll that showed that he was neck and neck in three critical states, uh, literally, a dead-heat in Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania, and if that is happening in Pennsylvania, I believe it is going to be happening in Michigan, as well. And, certainly in Macomb County, home of the Reagan Democrats,” Miller said last week.

But, at the same time, Democrats are hoping a lightning rod candidate like Trump will hand them opportunities.

In Michigan, we’re specifically talking about some congressional seats and control of the state House of Representatives.

That’s a big deal when you consider it’s been six years since Democrats controlled the state House. Control would put Dems at the table for the final two years of Governor Rick Snyder’s administration and it would break the complete GOP hegemony in Lansing.

So, the question is: what is the net effect of Donald Trump at the top of the ballot? The definitive answer is: we don’t know.

This election year has been a wild, unpredictable ride and there’s no reason to believe that’s going to change. But, that won’t keep us from sorting through the possibilities.

First off, Bernie Sanders won the Michigan Democratic primary, at least partially, because of opposition to free trade deals that he says have outsourced U.S. jobs overseas. Well, Donald Trump won Michigan’s Republican primary also slamming trade deals. Might there be some crossover appeal?

Meantime, this election, of course, won’t be decided just by who turns out, but by who doesn’t. And that means something in 2016 when both top candidates - Trump and Clinton - have high negative ratings in most polls.

Trump’s got the bigger problem in the aggregate, but Republicans say in most of the state House and congressional districts they’re competing in, Clinton’s got the higher negatives. Democrats say they expect the Trump effect will mostly turn in their favor.  

So will voter distrust of either or both candidates suppress turnout? And, if so, which side loses more?

Zoe Clark is Michigan Public's Political Director. In this role, Clark guides coverage of the state Capitol, elections, and policy debates.
Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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