A Good Night for Democrats - 2018 Post-Election Analysis

Prior to election day I wrote a series of pieces about the election and American politics which are good companions to this analysis .They are: Election Day 2018 Reflections and Predictions, $38m for Beto and Why It Matters, A New and Exciting Democratic Party Is Emerging, and  Some Thoughts About the Caravan.   This analysis was originally posted at 1150am, Nov 7th and was last updated on Nov 10th, 8am. 

A Good Night For Democrats – The Democrats now appear to have won between 36 and 39 House seats, the biggest election year gain for House Democrats since 1974, 44 years ago. Democrats also won 7 governorships, close to 400 state legislative seats (5.4% of total), flipped 8 state legislative chambers and ended GOP super majorities in MI, NC and PA.  No question the losses in the US Senate hurt, but national Republicans have to come to terms with what was an extraordinary repudiation of their politics in the 2018 election. The NYT currently estimates that Democrats won the popular vote by 7% and exit polls show a victory of 8%. Both results would put 2018 at the upper end of recent midterms considered waves - 1994: R+7.1% 2006: D+8.0% 2010: R+7.2% 2014: R+5.7%.  It was a very good election for Democrats indeed; and count me in as one those who argued at the time, and believe today, that the President's decision to close with the inflammatory and absurd caravan - particularly after the two domestic terror incidents - rather than a more surburban oriented close was a huge mistake, one which cost him and his party dearly. 

While the Donald Trump and the Republicans still has a great deal of power, they will have far less of it next year. The allocation of political power in the US will more accurately reflect a nation where Democrats consistently win more votes than the Republicans  (6 of 7 last Presidential votes, all time US record).  The House will be Democratic, a majority of Americans will have Democratic governors, wildly gerrymandered GOP supermajorities will have finally been ended, and Democrats will control more state legislative chambers.  What remains remarkable, and perhaps dangerous, that the GOP will have between 51 and 53 seats in the Senate despite losing the popular vote in Senate races in 2016 54%-42% and 57%-42% in 2018. 

GOP Lost Ground in Critical 2020 Battlegrounds – Democrats had strong nights in both the Midwest/Rustbelt and in the Southwest, the regions of the country which will decide the 2020 Presidential election.  Democrats won the MI, MN (2), PA and WI Senate races and MI, MN and PA governors race by very huge margins.  The region's wunderkind Scott Walker was defeated.   Democrats will pick up at least 9 House seats in this region, and while they came up short in the Iowa Governor’s race they now control 3 of the 4 House seats there. Reviewing it all the total collapse of the GOP in MI and PA should be of particular concern to Trump and the GOP

The Southwest, on the other hand, has never been friendly territory for Trump and it got a lot worse this election. As background, the three states which saw the biggest movement towards the Democrats in 2016 were, in order, CA (7pts), TX (6.8pts) and AZ (5.5pts). Last night we saw Beto get within 2 1/2 points in Texas, and help Dems win many down ballot races. Sinema seems to be in process of winning the AZ Senate race and Dems now have a 5-4 advantage in the AZ Congressional delegation. Democrats had very good nights in Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico.  Dems are on track to pick up at least 13 House seats in these states including California, a state where the GOP didn’t even have a Senate candidate on the ballot and where voters with no party preference now outnumber Republicans in registration. We saw intensity too.  AZ, NV and TX all saw more people vote early this year than voted in all of 2014, the only 3 states to see that level of increase. All of this adds up to a night of dangerous erosion for the GOP in this region.  Recall that as recently as 2004 Bush won AZ, CO, NM and NV.  Kerry didn't even contest CO that year.  Trump has accelerated the movement of this region to deep blue and purple now.

Over the last two years there was always this sense that while the President’s thunderous championing of white nationalist, xenophobic and anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies was hurting him in the heavily Mexican-American parts of the US, it was the key to unlock the Rustbelt and Midwest.  Given the really bad night the GOP had in the northern part of the US that no longer appears to be true  Trump may have used the caravan to win in very red and rural places like Indiana, Missouri and Tennessee, but in the states he needs to win in 2020 Democrats will be far more powerful in just about every state.  Looking at both vote share, and the partisan representation in the state, let's see how the terrain looks for Mr. Trump in 2020: 

Much more Democratic - AZ, CO, MI, MN, NM, NV, PA, VA, WI.  Will be interesting to see if Trump even contests CO, NM, NV and VA in 2020.  AZ now clearly a purple state.

More Democratic - GA, IA, NH.  Georgia now likely to be in play in 2020. 

Not much change - FL, NC (Florida is still up in the air).

More Republican - OH. Will be questions about whether OH remains a battleground state.

My broader point is that Trump barely won the election in 2016, and as of today, the map looks even harder for him in 2020 than 2016. 

Young Voters and Hispanics Continue to Show Their Potential For Democrats – Much will be written about the huge and consequential gender gap this year, but I want to drill down a bit on another huge yawning gap – those over and under 45 years old.  The exits found 18-29 year olds going 67%-32% for Democrats last night, under 45s 61%-36% and those over 45 just 49%-50%.  By comparison, 18-44s went 53%-39% for Clinton in 2016, and over 45s went 52-44% for Trump.  But remarkably the share of the electorate for those under 45 dropped from 44% in 2016 to just 35% in 2018.  Imagine the outcome last night if Democrats were able keep the under 45 participation rate in the 40s – would have been an even bigger blow out.  Given the margins we see here, national Democrats must literally become obsessed now with speaking to and maximizing the turnout of voters under 45.  It is simply one of the highest strategic priorities we have.  And to do so we will have to continue to embrace a post-television politics, as this age cohort essentially no longer watches conventional television.  I wrote about the disappearance of television earlier this year, and also why Beto’s campaign helped show us the future with his remarkable people-centered, social media heavy campaign. 

Latino voters went 69%-29% for Democrats in 2018, slightly up from 2016’s 66%-28%.  This 40 point net showing was among the best in recent elections, and reminds us that in the age of Trump investments in speaking to and turning out Latinos will pay enormous dividends. Or as Democrats in Florida may have just been reminded, failure to do so can cost you close elections. 

We just put together a new memo summing up this and other data.  The bottom line - Democrats had their best showing ever with Asian-Americans, 18-29s, 18-44s and their second best showing with Hispanics.  The Democratic Party's "new coalition" is clearly alive and well, and delivering powerfully six years since the last time Barack Obama was on the ballot. 

More - I published a related piece, "The midterms show Trump might not get re-elected in 2020," on Thursday, November 8th on the Al Jazeera website.  You can also find my thinking about the 2018 election in these stories in the AP, The Houston ChronicleUS News, The Washington Post and this new Washington Post frontpager which refers directly to this analysis.