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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes – Election Update Edition

FiveThirtyEight’s Nathaniel Rakich provides an update on “The 16 Races That Are Still Too Close To Call,” which notes “As things stand right now, Republicans have picked up two seats in the Senate, but that net gain could be anywhere from zero to three when the races in Arizona, Florida and Mississippi get resolved…Of the 12 unresolved House races, Democrats lead or look like they’re in good position in nine of them…the gubernatorial race in Georgia remains uncalled — not because Democratic former state House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams has a chance at taking the lead, but because Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp needs to win at least 50 percent plus one vote in order to avoid a rematch with Abrams in a Dec. 4 runoff.” It looks like we can add the Florida Governor’s race to this list, now that additional votes have Democrat Andrew Gillum approaching recount range.

Among the many revealing observations from Ed Kilgore’s “The 2018 Electorate Wasn’t All That Different. It Just Voted Differently” at New York Magazine: “The example that jumps off the page in reading the exits is voters over 65. Republicans won them 57-41 in 2014, but only 50-48 in 2018. That’s about the same margin as in 2006, the last Democratic “wave” election, before the tea party movement-driven realignment of the electorate made “old” all but synonymous with “Republican.” White college graduates shifted from 57-41 Republican in 2014 to 53-45 Democratic this year. By contrast, white voters without a college degree changed marginally, from 64-34 Republican to 61-37. White women didn’t trend as massively Democratic in 2018 as some of the anecdotal evidence suggested, but did go from 56-42 Republican to 49-49 this year. The 2014 exits didn’t provide a breakdown by race, gender, and education-level, but given the relatively low change in the vote of non-college educated white voters generally, you can figure this year’s 59-39 Democratic margin among college-educated white women was a pretty big shift.”

While at New York, also check out Kilgore’s three “All the Key Results” posts on the Senate, House and Governors races, which provide some background nuggets for individual races, posted as the stories broke. Among the upsets of 2018, Kilgore notes of Democrat Kendra Horne’s ‘shocker’ victory in OK-5 over incumbent Republican Steve Russell that “The race in this Oklahoma City-based district that Trump carried by double-digits was rated Likely Republican by the Cook Political Report.” For Max Rose’s NY-11 upset of Republican incumbent Dan Donovan on Staten Island, Kilgore writes “Pollsters figured that the former district attorney and Staten Island borough president would be able to beat back a “blue wave” in a district that went for Trump by nine points in 2016. But army veteran Max Rose rode Democratic mobilization (and, possibly, gentrification-induced shifts in the district’s demography) to a narrow win.”

Ruy Teixeira and John Halpin roll out the demographic breakdown of the vote at The Center for American Progress web page, noting that “the overall House popular vote shifted from +6 Republican in 2014 to the current estimate of +7 for the Democrats this election…Notably, women went heavily for Democrats, with a +19 margin in the NEP exit polls, while Republicans had a +4 margin among men. Comparable figures for 2014 were +4 for Democrats among women and +16 for Republicans among men. The gender gap is alive and well…Turning to the white vote, these exit polls indicate that Democrats lost the white congressional vote by 10 points this election, a substantial improvement over their 22-point loss in 2014. Among nonwhites, Democrats improved their margin among Hispanics from +26 to +40 across the two elections, from +79 to +81 among blacks overall (with black women at +85 in 2018), and from a mere +1 among Asians to +54 this election. Again, we await further data to evaluate these changes, but this is the story told by the NEP exit polls…While possibly affected by changes in methodology, these exit polls indicate a very strong pro-Democratic shift among white college voters, improving from a 16-point deficit in 2014 to an 8-point advantage in this election. Democratic performance also improved among white noncollege voters but only modestly, moving from a 30-point deficit in 2014 to 24 points in 2018. Other data indicate that Democrats did particularly poorly among white noncollege voters in the South…White college women were particularly good for the Democrats, supporting their candidates by a 20-point margin; white college men gave Republicans a 4-point advantage. White noncollege men were the worst for the Democrats—they lost this group by a whopping 34 points. Democrats did better among white noncollege women, losing them by a comparatively modest 14 points…Young voters may not have increased their share of voters but, according to the NEP exit polls, they were very pro-Democratic this year, increasing their support for Democratic candidates from +11 in 2014 to +35 this year. Notably, the 18- to 24-year-old group, which now includes a healthy share of post-Millennials—the pro-Democratic Millennials’ successor generation—actually voted more Democratic (+37) than the 25- to 29-year-old group (+33).”

At Vox, Ella Nilsen argues that “Progressive Democrats running in competitive House districts had a bad night on Tuesday: Progressive energy helped moderate Democrats win on election night. But progressive candidates weren’t so lucky.” As Nilsen eplains, “Moderate Democratic candidates were the big winners of swing congressional districts in the 2018 midterm elections, flipping most of the 28 key House districts from Republicans’ control and winning key gubernatorial races, including Michigan, Wisconsin, Kansas, and Illinois. Democrats’ net gain in the House was 26 seats…Progressive candidates flipped few of those seats. For the most part, the biggest upsets for the left occurred during the summer primaries; most of those districts were already blue and primed to elect Democrats. Many of the left-wing candidates who tested the theory of turning out their base, even in more conservative districts, lost on election night.” However, Nilsen ads, “Even with these losses, election night wasn’t a total disaster for progressives; in the House, the Congressional Progressive Caucus will likely get high-profile new members. Some of the notable wins include: Ayanna Pressley in Massachusetts’s Seventh Congressional District; Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in New York’s 14th Congressional District; Deb Haaland in New Mexico’s First Congressional District; Rashida Tlaib in Michigan’s 13th Congressional District; Ilhan Omar in Minnesota’s Fifth Congressional District…A bright spot for progressives was Democrat Katie Hill defeating Republican Rep. Steve Knight in California’s 25th Congressional District (the race was close, but Knight conceded on Wednesday afternoon). Hill is in favor of Medicare-for-all, a key progressive litmus test.” Looks like both progressive and moderate Dems have ample bragging points.

Also at Vox, Sean Illing has an instructive interview with David Daley, author of Ratf**ked: The True Story Behind the Secret Plan to Steal America’s Democracy, a 2016 book about the GOP’s REDMAP strategy, which gerrymandered House districts across the nation. “What the Republicans created, Daley writes, was a firewall against the popular will of voters by carving out districts that systematically favor the GOP and neutralize support for Democratic candidates. What’s more, district lines are only drawn once a decade, in conjunction with the census, so there aren’t many opportunities to reverse them. (The next census is in 2020 and the following one will be in 2030.)..One of the big questions heading into the 2018 midterm election was whether the Democrats would gain enough power — particularly in state legislatures — to redraw some of these district lines and level the playing field. As Vox’s Andrew Prokop recently explained, Democrats have a plan to win the redistricting game, but much of it turns on winning elections.”

In the interview Daley explains, further, “What’s important to understand is that flipping the House doesn’t do anything to change who draws the maps after the 2020 census. That process, in most states, is run by state legislatures and governors. What the Democrats needed to do last night was win themselves back seats at the table for a redistricting after 2020, seats that they simply did not have in 2010…They won a handful of those seats. They appear to have won the governorship in Wisconsin, which will give Democrats a seat at the table in a state where Republicans have been able to win super-majorities in the state legislature even in years when Democrats won 175,000 more votes statewide…Democrats also won the governorship in Michigan, which is one of the key states. Michigan, however, also passed a redistricting reform ballot initiative on Tuesday night, so that the process there will be conducted by an independent commission for the first time, which is great news for reform and competition…Democrats simply got wiped out in Ohio. There were three key races on the ballot that would have given them seats at the table on the redistricting commission, and that’s the governor’s race, the secretary of state, and the state auditor, and not a single one of them even turned out to be close…What we know is that when one side has complete control of the process, the lines always end up more extreme. When both sides have a seat at the table, you end up with some semblance of a compromise. It’s not always perfect, but the maps tend to be at least slightly more representative of the state when both sides have seats at the table.”

In her NYT op-ed, “Democrats’ Biggest Wins Are in Statehouses: Forget Congress. State legislatures are where real progressive action is most likely to happen,” Bryce Covert writes “Democrats made strides in a number of statehouses. They seized control of seven legislative chambers, flipping the State Senates in Colorado, Maine, and New York; the House in Minnesota; and both chambers in New Hampshire. Connecticut’s Senate, previously evenly split, is now held by Democrats. They broke Republican supermajorities in Michigan and Pennsylvania’s Senates and both chambers in North Carolina…Democrats also flipped seven governorships on Tuesday. They now completely control all three statehouse branches in 13 states and Washington, D.C., compared to the seven statehouses where they held trifecta control before Election Day…These victories arguably hold the same, if not more, heft than the inroads Democrats made in Congress. At the federal level, legislative achievements have ground to nearly a complete halt in recent years…They seized control of seven legislative chambers, flipping the State Senates in Colorado, Maine, and New York; the House in Minnesota; and both chambers in New Hampshire. Connecticut’s Senate, previously evenly split, is now held by Democrats. They broke Republican supermajorities in Michigan and Pennsylvania’s Senates and both chambers in North Carolina…Democrats also flipped seven governorships on Tuesday. They now completely control all three statehouse branches in 13 states and Washington, D.C., compared to the seven statehouses where they held trifecta control before Election Day.”

Also at FiveThirtyEight, Amelia Thomson-Deveaux has some good news about coming improvements in voter access in several states: “In addition to Florida’s constitutional amendmentrestoring voting rights to many felons, several measures that could make it easier to vote were successful: Automatic voter registration passed in Nevada and Michigan, where people applying for driver’s license will now be automatically registered to vote, unless they affirmatively opt out…Michigan voters also approved several other sweeping changes to their election laws, adding same-day voter registration, making it easier to request absentee ballots, and reinstating the straight-ticket voting option that was nixed by the Republican legislature a few years ago…Maryland voters approved same-day registration.” Unfortunately, notes Thomson-Deveaux, North Carolina and Arkansas tightened up voter i.d. requirements.

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