Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Post-Op Thoughts on Tonight's Elections

With one major exception -- the Kansas Republican gubernatorial primary -- most of the big races from tonight have been called. The biggest, of course, is the special election in the Ohio 12th, where Republican Troy Balderson looks to have just eked out a victory over Democrat Danny O'Connor to keep this seat red. That about exhausts the good news for the GOP, though -- a sub-1% win in an ancestrally Republican district that voted for Trump by double-digits can hardly be thought of as good news. If the country swings the way this district did, the Democrats take back the House by a comfortable margin.

That's the obvious takeaway. But what else have we learned tonight?

  • O'Connor improved on Hillary Clinton's numbers pretty much everywhere in the district (save Balderson's base of Muskingum County) -- which you kind of have to, in order turn a double-digit deficit into a near-dead heat. But where he really outperformed is in juicing turnout in the most Democratic part of the district: Franklin County, home to The Ohio State University. What does that mean? Well, on the one hand it supports those who argue that the route to Democratic success lies in exciting the core base rather than chasing swing voters. But on the other hand, it also suggests that the core base is perfectly happy to get energized about a relative moderate like O'Connor (at least in the right district).
  • The other tea leaf we're seeing is that Democrats are casting more ballots in these primaries than Republicans, even in locales that have generally been thought of as Democratic stretches. So far, more Democrats than Republicans have cast ballots in the WA-03 and WA-08 primaries, and are tight in the WA-05 -- all GOP districts (Reps. Jamie Herrera-Beutler and Cathy McMorris Rodgers hold the WA-03 and WA-05, respectively, while in the WA-08 Dino Rossi will be looking to hold retiring Rep. Dave Reichert's seat). Ditto the MO-02, where incumbent Rep. Ann Wagner was thought to be a tough, if reachable, target for Team Blue.
  • Gretchen Whitmer's victory over Abdul El-Sayed in Michigan's Democratic gubernatorial primary shows what should be obvious: sometimes Sanders-style progressives win primaries, and sometimes they don't. Democratic Party voters are neither implacably opposed to left-wing candidates nor are they congenitally averse to them.
  • Finally, Missouri voters soundly rejected proposed "right-to-work" anti-union legislation, overturning the legislatively enacted bill by a crushing 2-1 margin. There's been a noticeable trend of union and working-class victories in some traditionally red-territories (think the teachers' strikes in Kentucky, West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Arizona), and this seems like further evidence of a shifting tide on the issue.

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