(Reuters) - Democrats took control of the U.S. House of Representatives in the Nov. 6 elections and Republicans held onto a majority in the U.S. Senate, but eight federal races remain undecided more than a week later. In Mississippi, Republican Senator ...
Nearly two weeks after Election Day, a recount is continuing in the Florida Senate race, but most of the other outstanding races from the midterms have been resolved, and we have a much clearer picture of how the election turned out. On Friday evening, Stacey Abrams, the Democratic candidate in Georgia’s disputed race for governor, announced the end of her candidacy without conceding the race to the Republican Brian Kemp. Trailing Kemp by eighteen thousand votes, Abrams, who was bidding to become the first black woman elected as governor of any state, announced her decision at an event in the Kirkwood neighborhood of Atlanta. “As a woman of conscience and faith, I cannot concede,” Abrams said. “But my assessment is that the law currently allows no further viable remedy.”
My colleague Charles Bethea, who was on the scene, noted that Abrams’s speech was “unapologetic” and “pointed in its criticism of Kemp,” who, as Georgia’s secretary of state, oversaw the election and the run-up to it. Repeating charges she had made earlier, Abrams asserted that “more than a million citizens found their names stripped from the rolls by the secretary of state, including a ninety-two-year-old civil-rights activist who had cast her ballot in the same neighborhood since 1968.” Abrams also announced her intention to create a political-action committee called Fair Fight Georgia, which will be filing a federal lawsuit against the state “for the gross mismanagement of this election,” Bethea reported.
In Florida, meanwhile, it seems unlikely that the manual recount of some votes in the Senate race, which is supposed to be completed this weekend, will change the outcome. After an initial machine recount, which finished on Thursday, the Republican Rick Scott was leading the Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson by 12,603 votes—a margin narrow enough to justify a manual recount, according to the state’s election laws. Nelson’s main hope was to pick up votes in Broward County, where the machine count indicated that large numbers of people voted in the governor’s race but not the Senate race—a phenomenon known as an “undercount.” But Broward officials completed the manual recount on Friday morning, and a report in Saturday’s Times said, “it appeared that while Mr. Nelson had picked up some votes, they were not enough to put him over the top.”
If Scott’s lead holds up, it will mean that the Republicans picked up four seats in the Senate (Florida, Indiana, Missouri, and North Dakota), and the Democrats picked up two (Arizona and Nevada), which is a net gain of two for the G.O.P. Clearly, this was a positive outcome for the Republicans, even if a favorable electoral map aided them mightily. However, the G.O.P. did a lot worse in the House of Representatives than initial impressions suggested—indeed, it got a drubbing. According to the latest tally from the Times, the Democrats gained thirty-six seats, but this could well go up to thirty-eight or thirty-nine by the time all the counts and recounts are completed. To fall back on cliché, the blue wave materialized after all.
In Orange County, which thirty years ago was a bastion of suburban Republicanism, it was a tidal wave: all four of the G.O.P.-held districts appear to have gone Democratic. On Thursday, the Associated Press called the race in the Forty-fifth District for the Democrat Katie Porter, who narrowly defeated the two-term Republican incumbent, Mimi Walters. There has been no call yet in the Thirty-ninth District, where the Republican candidate, Young Kim, built up a considerable lead on Election Night, but, with most of the mail-in votes now having been counted as well, the Democrat Gil Cisneros holds a lead of more than three thousand votes. As the Los Angeles Times noted on Friday night, the G.O.P. is facing the alarming prospect that, “for the first time since the Great Depression, there will be no Republican in Congress representing Orange County.”
Coming on top of Democrats’ big gains in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, the results in Southern California reinforce the conclusion that I and many other commentators reached immediately after the election: Donald Trump has turned the suburbs, or large swaths of them, against the G.O.P. Although most of the post-election analysis has focussed on how this process played out on the coasts, it was important in the interior of the country, too. The Democrats made impressive gains in the Chicago suburbs and exurbs, for example. And, as I pointed out in a piece earlier this week, suburban voters, especially suburban women, played a key role in the impressive victory that the Democrat Kyrsten Sinema pulled off in the Arizona Senate race. Sinema won “by running an extremely disciplined campaign focussing on what we call the swing demographic—college-educated women in the suburbs,” Andy Barr, a political consultant who has represented numerous Democrats in Arizona elections, told me.
Another way of seeing what happened is to note that the Republican districts where Trump ran weakest in 2016, which tended to be suburban districts, were the areas where the Democrats did best this time. “Of the 47 districts where Trump took less than 51 percent of the vote, Democrats have (so far) won 32 of them,” the Cook Report’s Amy Walter noted. After running through some more numbers, Walter concluded that “the enduring antipathy to Trump cost the GOP the House.”
The only counter-argument I have seen made is that the losing Republican candidates were buried under a tide of Democratic money and the superior campaign infrastructure it paid for. A piece in the conservative Washington Examiner noted that Kim, who would be the first Korean-American woman to be elected to Congress if she somehow retakes her early lead, was outspent by five-to-one. “To blame the president is to remain in denial about the real causes of California Republicans’ staggering setbacks,” the piece argued. But absolving Trump of responsibility surely raises the question: Why was the Democratic Party able to raise so much money and recruit so many campaign volunteers? In Orange County and other places, the answer is surely that Trump’s presence in the White House produced a mass mobilization on the other side.
In the past week or so, there have been some interesting analyses of the voting patterns that this mobilization produced. One of them was carried out by the research firm Catalist, whose chief scientist, Yair Ghitza, presented its findings in a piece on Medium, and some of them were startling. In the eighteen-to-twenty-nine demographic, Democrats led the Republicans by a margin of forty-four percentage points. Among voters aged thirty to forty-four, the Democrats led by twenty-seven percentage points. The only reason that the Republicans were at all competitive was that these two groups comprised less than a third of the electorate on November 6th. More than two-thirds of the voters were forty-five or older, and the Republicans led (fairly narrowly) in this older demographic. But youth wasn’t the only factor favoring Democrats. “On the one hand, turnout reached record levels, with especially high turnout among young people, communities of color, and people with a college degree,” Glitza wrote. “On the other, there were big changes in candidate preferences, almost across the board. The biggest changes came from young voters, college-educated voters and women. It seems that among people who have historically been ‘in the middle’ or harder to predict, they both voted at higher rates and voted more for Democrats.”
The Democrats’ ability to pick up centrist voters bodes well for the Party in the 2020 Presidential election. Of course, there are a lot of politics to play out between now and then. If you want to hear my preliminary thoughts on how the results of the midterms might figure into the forward-looking strategies of Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill, and into how Trump may act, you can listen to The New Yorker’s weekly political podcast, where I talked about these things with my colleague Eric Lach, who writes The Current column for NewYorker.com. I hope you will find it an informative discussion. Have a good weekend.
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