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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Teixeira: How Did Jon Tester Get Re-Elected?

The following article by Ruy Teixeira, author of The Optimistic Leftist and other works of political analysis, is cross-posted from his blog:

As you may recall, Jon Tester’s re-election in Montana did not exactly seem like a sure thing. This was a state that Hillary Clinton lost by 20 points in 2016.

In the end, Tester pulled out his re-election by 3.5 points over Republican Matt Rosendale. How’d he do it?

Catalist recently dropped a detailed synthetic analysis of the 2018 Montana Senate election–one of their invaluable series they are posting on Medium–along with comparable time series data going back to 2008. These data make clear the basis of Tester’s victory.

As summarized in the Medium piece, Tester triumphed by:

* “In an environment of lagging Republican enthusiasm, converting a significant share of the Republicans who did vote, along with many Independent voters, to support him

* Maximizing his support among more traditional elements of the Democratic coalition, including young voters, single voters, and those in urban areas

* Mitigating historical deficits among more challenging audiences, including voters without a college degree and voters in rural communities”

Repeating a pattern we’ve seen in a number of other states, Tester actually got a bigger pro-Democratic swing (relative to 2016) among white noncollege voters than among white college voters and a bigger swing among rural than among non-rural voters. Given the demographic composition of Montana, where rural and especially white noncollege voters dominate, that’s pretty darn important!

These data can be fruitfully perused along with Andy Levison’s essay on the three notions Democrats must discard to be successful in 2020 (previous posted).

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