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Trump Is a Big Issue in US Congressional Elections

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump arrives to speak at a campaign rally, Friday, Oct. 21, 2016, in Johnstown, Pa. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump arrives to speak at a campaign rally, Friday, Oct. 21, 2016, in Johnstown, Pa. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
Trump is Big Issue in US Presidential Election
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Republican Party candidates for seats in Congress must decide what to do about Donald Trump.

Trump, the Republican candidate for president, has many loyal supporters. They crowd into his campaign events and cheer his promises to make America great again.

But the popularity of the businessman has been dropping in opinion polls ever since the release of an 11-year-old recording. On the recording, Trump could be heard talking about touching and kissing women without their permission.

Trump has said the recordings are embarrassing. He has apologized. He denied doing the kind of things he talked about on the recording.

Some women have come forward to say that Trump had made unwanted sexual advances years ago. He said their claims are not true.

“Those stories are all totally false, I have to say that,” Trump said, at the presidential debate in Nevada on Wednesday. “And I didn’t even apologize to my wife, who’s sitting right here, because I didn’t do anything.”

Difficult Decisions for Some Candidates

All the news reports about the Trump recording left some Republican congressional candidates with difficult decisions.

If the candidates say they will vote for Trump, Democrats will criticize them for supporting a man who has made widely criticized comments about women. But if the candidates say they do not support Trump, they anger his supporters, who make up a big majority of Republican voters, according to the polls.

Republican John McCain has represented the southwestern state of Arizona in the United States Senate since 1987. He is seeking a sixth Senate term against Ann Kirkpatrick, a Democrat.

Sen. John McCain, left, debates Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick during recent Senate debate.
Sen. John McCain, left, debates Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick during recent Senate debate.

McCain recently said that he will not vote for either Trump or Hillary Clinton, the Democrats’ candidate for president.

“I have wanted to support the candidate our party nominated,” McCain said. But he said Trump’s “comments about women and his boasts about sexual assaults, make it impossible to continue to offer even conditional support for his candidacy.”

Congressman Todd Young of Indiana, a Republican, is a candidate for a U.S. Senate seat. Young is backing Trump, just as he says “most Hoosiers are.”

A Hoosier is the informal name for someone who lives in Indiana.

“My position is the same as their position,” Young told The Washington Post newspaper. “Most Hoosiers intend to support the Republican nominees. Most Hoosiers believe leaders like myself should speak out when we disagree.”

Most Republican candidates for Congress are doing what Young is -- supporting Trump, while offering criticism of some of his comments and proposals.

Congressional Elections Are a Big Deal

The congressional elections are important. The newly elected president would have a better chance of getting his or her proposals through Congress if their party holds the majority.

Currently, Republicans control both the House of Representatives and the Senate. Democrats need to gain at least four seats in the Senate and 30 in the House to get the majority. Political watchers say the Democrats have a better chance of winning the majority in the Senate than the House.

Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania is seeking re-election to the U.S. Senate. Toomey is the only Republican in a difficult race who has refused to say if he will vote for Trump, according to Reuters. He has called Trump’s recorded comments on women “outrageous.”

Sen. Pat Toomey.
Sen. Pat Toomey.

Toomey told Pennsylvania voters he will serve as a “check” on Hillary Clinton’s nominations to the Supreme Court. If Trump wins, Toomey said, he might help win Senate approval of his court nominations.

Larry Sabato is the director of the Center of Politics at the University of Virginia. He said Toomey and other Republicans in difficult races are making the case that they can serve as check on Clinton. They hope to stop or limit her proposals. Sabato calls that argument “one of the only good ones” some Republican congressional members have.

Brian Brox teaches political science at Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana. He said that the 2016 congressional elections are hard to understand, even for the candidates.

Brox said that is because it is difficult to say who will show up and vote on Election Day. For Republican members of Congress, the question is whether some of the party’s long-time supporters might stay home because they do not like Trump, he said.

Also, will more Democrats worried about a Trump presidency show up to vote?, Brox wonders. Or will young voters, who supported Barack Obama, stay home because they wanted Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders as president?

Sanders lost the battle for the Democratic presidential nomination to Clinton.

Kevin Arceneaux teaches political science at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Here is what he expects from many Republican congressional candidates:

“Distance yourself from Trump, while trying to make the race about stopping Clinton’s agenda -- for example, reminding GOP and GOP-leaning voters that they do not like Clinton. Whether this works, only time will tell,” Arceneaux said.

I’m Bruce Alpert.

Michael Bowman reported this story for VOA News. Bruce Alpert adapted this story and did additional reporting for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

poll - n. an activity in which several or many people are asked a question or a series of questions in order to get information about what most people think about something

boast - n. to express too much pride in yourself or in something you have, have done, or are connected to in some way

assault - n. the crime of trying or threatening to hurt someone physically

intend - v. to plan or want to do something

outrageous - adj. very bad or wrong in a way that causes anger

agenda - n. a list of things to be considered or done

remind - v. to cause someone to remember something

leaning - n. a preference for something or tendency to do something

advance – n. forward movement

GOP- n. short for Grand Old Party (meaning the Republican Party)