Analyzing the midterms

1.  The country’s demographic changes favor Democrats.  The groups which are growing in size, blacks, Hispanics, Asians, all vote overwhelmingly for Democrats.  College educated  whites are also growing, though not as quickly in  number or percentage of the total voting population.  They also increasingly favor Democrats, especially women.  Non-college educated whites are as Republican as they have ever been, though the size and share of the total voting population represented by this group is declining.  Trump’s appeals on certain issues strike gold with the last group, but drive away some college educated voters, who normally are Republican.  This trend will continue, and suggest that long-term, the Republicans will have to increase their vote share among minority groups, or win back some of the college educated whites to remain a competitive national party.

2.  Florida was a pleasant surprise for Republicans last night.  The closeness of the Senate and Governors races was not a surprise (except to  the many pollsters who had Democrats leading  in both races by 5-7  points).  Rick Scott always wins, and always by 1 point or less.  Quinnipiac and CNN were among the polling firms who had the worst record this year, in Florida and elsewhere.  The most important result in Florida Tuesday night may have been the referendum on allowing felons to vote.  The referendum surpassed the 60% barrier, and so by 2020, another 1.4 million more Floridians will be eligible to vote.  About a third of the number are African Americans, who vote abut 90% for Democrats.  Felons have a very low participation rate where they are allowed to vote (10-15%), but in Florida, a small boost for one party can be enough to swing the state.  It is hard to see Trump winning in 2020 without carrying Florida again.  George W bush would never have won Florida in 2000 if felons had  been able to vote.

3.  Pending the outcome in Arizona, Republicans will have 53 or 54 Senate seats, assuming the Mississippi runoff holds to form.  This will be a big advantage for the president as far as judicial and executive branch appointments.  If there is another Supreme Court opening, Democrats and their allies will not have the same ability to pressure  the Republican duo of Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski to drive GOP numbers below 50 votes.  For the record, Collins’ announcement of  support for Judge Kavanaugh was a first-rate act of statesmanship.

4.  America is changing demographically, and so are individual states.  Two heavily Hispanic states have moved away from Republicans in 2016 and again in 2018: Arizona and Texas.  If Texas becomes a dogfight every 4 years, like Florida, the GOP is in big trouble.  On the other hand, some states are becoming more Republican -- West Virginia, Missouri, Iowa, Ohio.  Joe Manchin survived , winning by 3%, and only after voting for Judge Kavanaugh.  Had Republicans nominated Evan Jenkins as their  candidate, Manchin would likely have lost regardless of the Kavanaugh vote.  In Ohio, Sherrod Brown survived primarily because his strongest potential opponent, Josh Mandel, withdrew for family reasons.

5.  Dianne Feinstein, Chick Schumer and the Democrat rejectionists on the Senate Judiciary Committee, likely were responsible for at least two GOP Senate wins, in Indiana and Missouri, and likely aided Marsha Blackburn in Tennessee.  Democrats were preening for the cameras for their 2020 test drive, but also seemed to believe they could defeat Kavanaugh with their fake sleaze stories from 30-plus years back.  As a result, they needed every Democrat to vote no, and Heitkamp, Donnelly and McCaskill were not free to maybe save their seats by voting yes.  Manchin, of course, only announced his vote after it was clear Republicans had he bare minimum to confirm Judge Kavanugh.

6.  There were dozens of very close House races.  Democrats could have won 20 seats, or 50, had most of the races gone one way or the other.  In the end, the close races pretty much split down the middle.  Democrats were successful for several  major reasons:

  • Pent up emotion by the resistance to punish President Trump resulted in high turnout from those most obsessed with Trump Derangement syndrome.
  • Democrats nominated many good candidates, including veterans, to challenge some Republicans in moderate districts.  The flakes who won on the Democratic side, were in districts where Democrat always win. 
  • Democrats had much more money in several dozen of the close races.  It is very unusual for challengers to out-raise incumbents or the incumbent party where there was an open seat.  You also do not hear many Democrats complaining about big money in politics these days when more than a quarter billion in campaign cash came  from the likes of Tom Steyer, George Soros, and Michael Bloomberg, plus the Hollywood "thought leaders”. 
  • Democrats vastly expanded the competitive playing field, and Republicans were not prepared in many cases to face the challenge until it was too late..  Democrats targeted 70-80 seats and won about half of them.
  • Democrats proved that it is far easier to campaign against what the other Party did or tried to do on healthcare, than  it is to defend what you did or tried to do.  Republicans did not try to eliminate protections for those with pre-existing conditions, but after a billion dollars in ads saying that they were in fact proposing to do this, many believed it. 
  • Republicans had no clear coherent message.  The economy is roaring with the highest growth rates in many years, and the tax cuts Congress passed, and the deregulatory effort,  had a lot to do with it.  But the GOP did a poor job after the tax bill was passed promoting its benefits, and Trump largely ignored the issue to focus on immigration- popular with his base, but not an issue gets moderates or swing voters to move towards the Republicans.

7.  The next cycle of redistricting will allow Democrats to jigger districts in several states where they had no role in redistricting after the 2010 census.  Winning control of 7 or 8 state legislative branches, plus the governor pickups , and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court-ordered redistricting, means Democrats will be in better shape when the next census redistricting process begins.  Expect more court challenges in states where the GOP still has a redistricting advantage.  Eventually the Supreme Court may have to decide whether redistricting which favors a winning political party is OK.

Graphic: Pixabay

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