Tuesday’s election results were certainly interesting and in many ways, they were a tale of two states. If you only followed the special elections in New York, you are likely convinced that the red wave has subsided and that Democrats are going to defy history in the mid-terms. On the other hand, if you had your eyes on Florida, things look absolutely great for the GOP.
And if you kept tabs on both, you are probably thoroughly confused right now as election analysts proclaim doom and gloom for Republicans in November. Should you concur? That’s the big question. Walk with me.
In New York, a special election in NY-19 (currently held by a Democrat who won by 11 points in 2020) is stealing the headlines as a major bellwether. It featured a “good” Republican named Marcus Molinaro who was supposed to be a sure winner. Molinaro was establishment approved, a hard worker, and was billed as exactly the kind of candidate GOP voters should be getting behind if they want to win elections going forward. In the end, though, Republicans did not turn out for him, especially in rural areas.
The recriminations are going to center on why that happened. Was Molinaro just not exciting enough for the voters in the district? Or was there something else at play? I think it’s probably a little bit of both, and I’m going to point out something that I’m not seeing others mention. Namely, that this is a special election that is going to be redone in a little over two months. Would you be excited to go to the polls knowing that it means essentially nothing? Especially when you live in a deep blue state where the topline primary battles (i.e. other possible motivations to vote) are meaningless? Lee Zeldin isn’t going to come within a dozen points of beating Kathy Houchel in November.
Am I making excuses? I instituted my cope over low-turnout special elections in blue states weeks ago, so I suppose I am. But isn’t the other side doing the same thing by choosing to ignore results that go against their narrative?
— Corey A. DeAngelis (@DeAngelisCorey) August 24, 2022
It seems pretty noteworthy to me that GOP voters turned out in droves in Florida to sweep dozens of conservatives into formerly liberal-held school district seats. It also seems important that overall turnout by Republicans exceeded expectations, outpacing 2018 by several points. The Sunshine State looks increasingly red, with Gov. Ron DeSantis being a powerhouse, and that is going to lead to a lot of wins in November that will offset losses in places like New York.
So for the preliminary two party vote, when compared to 2018, here's what I have:
2018: 3141K voted (1519K Dem, 1622K Rep)
2022: 3241K voted (1524K Dem, 1717K Rep)
Overall turnout: +3%. Dems +0%, Reps +6%
— John Couvillon (@WinWithJMC) August 24, 2022
So what should we take from all these conflicting results? I think it means the states are just that polarized. You simply aren’t going to get Republican victories in deep blue states in close elections anymore. Almost all these “bellwether” special elections have happened in California, New York, and Minnesota. What do those states have in common? Mass emigration to red states. Republican voters are leaving, and those that remain know the status quo will remain.
The enthusiasm in rural New York is not going to be there compared to the enthusiasm in rural Ohio. That means red states will get redder and blue states will get bluer. In the overall scheme of things, given how House districts and Senate seats are apportioned across the nation, that may actually be a good thing for Republicans.
Still, the GOP can blow this in November (probably not in the House, but definitely the Senate) if they take things for granted. The same high turnout Republicans have shown in these primaries must be replicated, and the national GOP message must be consolidated as we head into the September/October campaign season. Mitch McConnell going out and dooming over candidate quality is not how to win the mid-terms.
In other words, ignore the noise and get out there and vote. Anyone can find a bellwether that fits their narrative if they look hard enough, but at the end of the day, it’s about who shows up at the polls when the real bullets start flying. Republicans should only escalate their efforts as the final stretch approaches.