Trump's plunge in polls has Republicans starting to panic

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Trump: 'If you don't like me, that's okay, vote for Pence'

Republicans have a message for Donald Trump: If you're going to lose, don't drag down other Republicans with you.

In an interview with CNN on Thursday, Sen. Lindsey Graham chided Trump for his recent decision not to endorse House Speaker Paul Ryan and Sen. John McCain in their primary battles with Republican challengers, noting Trump's sinking poll numbers following the Democratic National Convention.

"If you really focused on Hillary Clinton's weaknesses and the Obama economy's weaknesses, you could change these numbers," Graham said. "That means you have to focus on your opponent. And your opponent is not John McCain or Paul Ryan or Kelly Ayotte. Your opponent is yourself."

See a list of politicians who refuse to support Trump below:

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Politicians who refuse to support Donald Trump
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Politicians who refuse to support Donald Trump

Mitt Romney has been critical of Trump's rhetoric. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart

Senator John Thune (R-SD) addresses delegates during the third session of the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida, August 29, 2012. REUTERS/Mike Segar (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS)
Republican U.S. Sen. Mike Lee speaks during the Utah Solutions Summit Thursday, Sept. 1, 2016, in Salt Lake City. Donald Trump's running mate Mike Pence is scheduled to make his first visit to Utah on Thursday since becoming a vice presidential candidate, and the Indiana governor is expected to use the visit to help bolster support for the Republican nominee. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Former U.S. President George H. W. Bush has not endorsed Trump, and insiders revealed in September he plans to vote for Hillary Clinton.

REUTERS/Richard Carson (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

Former President George W. Bush campaigned for his brother Republican presidential candidate, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush Monday, during the primary, and has taken what many think were subtle digs at Trump. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Jeb Bush, former Governor of Florida and 2016 Republican presidential candidate, was one of Donald Trump's primary targets during the primary season. 

Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Former Republican presidential candidate and Ohio Governor John Kasich stayed in the primary longer than most other candidates, and notably refused to appear at the GOP convention in the same arena with Trump, attending other events instead. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), a close friend to Sen. John McCain, has been a vocal critic of Trump's. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
UPDATE: Although he didn't endorse Trump during the 2016 convention, Ted Cruz eventually changed his mind, saying in September he'd vote for the GOP nominee (Photo by Ida Mae Astute/ABC via Getty Images) 
Pictured: George Pataki participates in CNBC's 'Your Money, Your Vote: The Republican Presidential Debate' live from the University of Colorado Boulder in Boulder, Colorado Wednesday, October 28th at 6PM ET / 8PM ET -- (Photo by: David A. Grogan/CNBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
In this June 9, 2014, file photo, U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk R-Ill., speaks in his office in Chicago. In his fight to keep his Senate seat, Kirk has repeatedly criticized opponent Democratic U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth's service as director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs. His latest attacks come in two new campaign ads. But the ads leave out important facts and context. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green, File)
U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) addresses the second session of the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida August 28, 2012. REUTERS/Mike Segar (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS)
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For months, Democrats have attempted to tie Trump to other candidates running down-ballot from Trump in House and Senate races.

Groups like Emily's List, which backs pro-choice, female Democratic candidates, have tried to link Trump to incumbent Republican candidates, creating digital campaign stunts and pouring money into advertisements linking Republicans with their party's nominee.

SEE MORE: Obama's approval rating is near its highest point ever

For their part, many major Republican donors like Charles and David Koch have chosen to sit out the presidential race, instead focusing their energies on preserving Senate and House majorities.

But polling seems to be bearing out Republicans' worst fears.

While the aggregate polls show a tight race in New Hampshire between Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte and Democratic senate candidate Gov. Maggie Hassan, a new WBUR poll conducted after the Democratic National Convention showed Hassan with a ten-point edge over Ayotte. And in Pennsylvania, where Clinton experienced a bump in the polls following the DNC, Democratic Senate candidate Katie McGinty appeared to gain a slight edge this week over incumbent Republican Sen. Pat Toomey.

Evan Siegfried, author of "GOP GPS: How to Find the Millennials and Urban Voters the Republican Party Needs to Survive," told Business Insider that he's not surprised if Trump's slew of controversies are sticking to Republicans, particularly those who have endorsed the presidential nominee.

"Somebody who isn't paying attention to the intricacies of every single candidate isn't seeing that somebody like Ben Sasse is different than a Donald Trump, they're seeing that Donald Trump is the leader of that party, and therefore they must believe it too, because it falls under that particular brand," Siegfried said.

SEE ALSO: Trump calls Clinton 'close to unhinged,' assures he's pro-baby

Siegfried predicted that if Trump keeps up his controversial comments about veterans and other member of the party, GOP candidates could shift their messaging towards opposing a Hillary Clinton presidency.

"You're going to see a lot of Republicans shift the tone of their ads," he said. "While they might not be coming out and un-endorsing or slamming Trump, they're certainly going to be saying 'You're going to need me to fight against Hillary Clinton.'"

Still, some Democrats caution against getting optimistic too early. A lack of public polling makes it difficult to predict whether Trump's poor performance will have a concrete impact on the race, and many voters remain un-engaged in down-ballot races.

"People won't really start tuning in in any definitive way to these races until a couple or three weeks out," McGinty told Business Insider during an interview on Wednesday. "I certainly am intending to — and will — be out there every day between now and November 8 and fighting for every single vote."

But when a poll released a day later found the Democratic senate candidate with a one-point lead over Toomey, the McGinty campaign was quick to link the senator's drop in the polls to Trump's deficit in Pennsylvania.

"The campaign season hasn't even really started, and Pennsylvania is already saying, loudly and clearly, that the Trump-Toomey ticket is completely unacceptable," McGinty Communications Director Sean Coit said.

"It probably doesn't help that Donald Trump, just in the last week, said that Pennsylvania is 'rusting and rotting' and that Harrisburg looks like a 'war zone.' That's the guy Pat Toomey wants to be our President, so his poll numbers are just going to get worse."

RELATED: See the stars that support Donald Trump:

16 PHOTOS
Celebs Vote: Stars who support Donald Trump
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Celebs Vote: Stars who support Donald Trump

Willie Robertson (of "Duck Dynasty")

(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Dennis Rodman

(Photo by Gabe Ginsberg/Getty Images)

Wayne Newton

(Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for ABA)

Rosanne Barr

(Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for TV Land)

Gary Busey

(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Mike Tyson

(Getty)

Teresa Giudice (of "Real Housewives of New Jersey")

(Photo by: Tommy Garcia/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

Jon Voight

(Photo by Desiree Navarro/WireImage)

Stephen Baldwin

(Photo by Brent N. Clarke/FilmMagic)

Kid Rock

(UNITED STATES - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT)

Tila Tequila

(Photo by Karwai Tang/WireImage)

Stacey Dash

(Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images)

Kendra Wilkinson

(Photo by Robin Marchant/Getty Images)

Azealia Banks

(Photo by Taylor Hill/Getty Images)

Sarah Palin

(Kris Connor/Getty Images)

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NOW WATCH: Watch Trump relentlessly slam Hillary Clinton in his big RNC speech

See Also:

SEE ALSO: Republicans and Democrats are both using the same argument to gin up enthusiasm among jaded voters

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