Reflections on the Midterms

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Promoted from the diaries by streiff. Promotion does not imply endorsement.
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So the 2018 midterm elections are behind us as it now turns to 2020 and the next round of elections that will feature 33 Senate seats, 435 House seats and a seat in the Oval Office.  In anticipation of these elections, this writer ran a 30-part series (or something like that) looking at races in every state using a variety of sources for information.  I predicted that the GOP would narrowly keep the House and retain the Senate and add to their majority.  I guess .500 is a great batting average in baseball, but not so good at political prognostication.

From that series and from the actual results three things became quite obvious to me.  The first is that the Democrats do a better job of mending fences in the wake of primaries than do the Republicans.  When Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in New York’s 14th District and Mike Capuano lost in the Massachusetts 7th District primaries, both incumbents circled the wagons and endorsed the victors.  Some primaries can be bitter affairs and often incumbents take their status for granted.  That is what happened with Joe Crowley in New York’s 14th District.

Meanwhile, when Mark Sanford lost his primary bid in South Carolina’s First District to Katie Arrington, there was public animosity.  One of the issues in that district, which relies on tourism along the South Carolina coast, is offshore drilling.  During the primary campaign, Arrington was for it, but switched her position during the general election campaign.  Instead of just staying silent, Sanford had to basically call her a liar.  In the Michigan gubernatorial primary, outgoing Republican Governor Rick Snyder refused to endorse the primary winner, state attorney general Rick Schuette.  Most of that refusal was personal.  His Lt. Governor, Casey Cagle, was his man, not Schuette.  He further believed that when Schuette went after some state administration officials over the Flint water crisis, it was a political move, regardless of the fact that state officials were asleep at the wheel in Flint.

One does not know what an endorsement from Snyder would have done for Schuette since Snyder was not in the top of the class in terms of approval ratings by his citizens.  However, Nevada is a whole other issue.  Outgoing Republican Governor Brian Sandoval IS a highly popular Governor.  Again, Sandoval failed to endorse the eventual GOP candidate, state attorney general Adam Laxalt.  And why?  Because as he told the New York Times, he thought Laxalt may hurt his legacy.  The result was a 40,000 vote loss for Laxalt and Democratic Governor come 2019 who will hurt his legacy.

The second observation is that the Republican Party did not, in my honest opinion, make a great enough effort in certain races.  At least two or three races in Pennsylvania, one in New Jersey and perhaps a few others were simply written off as losses at an early stage for whatever reason.  New Jersey’s 11th District is a perfect example.  This race received virtually no attention from the national GOP after incumbent Rodney Frehlinghuysen announced his retirement.  I guess it is a testament to eventual GOP candidate Jay Weber that he lost by only 12 points considering the lack of help he received.  Perhaps it is that the national Republican leadership maybe took some seats for granted (for example, Texas’ 32nd District where Pete Sessions lost).  Some of the losses are egregious.

For example, losing the Oklahoma 5th District race comes to mind.  This was an incumbent that won with 60% and 57% of the vote in the past two cycles.  It was a district that Trump won by 13 points in 2016 and that had not elected a Democrat to Congress since Gerald Ford was President.  Yet, the GOP lost it this year.  Another example is Kevin Yoder in the Kansas 3rd Congressional District. He had a scare in 2016, but before that he never pulled less than 58% of the vote.  Today, he is outside looking in.

In a related issue, it perturbs me that the GOP fails to run ANYONE in certain districts.  No matter the Cook PVI rating in any Congressional district in favor of the Republican Party, the Democrats ALWAYS have a candidate.  One realizes that a Republican is not going to win an urban seat like New York’s Sixth District.  But just as partisan a Democratic district that is, there are some equally Republican-partisan district, but you will usually find a Democratic opponent.  How can the Republican Party get a message out in a district if they do not even run a candidate to espouse that message?  By my count, the GOP failed to run a candidate in 33 Congressional districts this cycle.  The Democrats? ONE district.

The third and final observation is that Republicans should not necessarily be discouraged.  Some of these Democratic victories occurred in very conservative states.  A Democratic representative from Kansas or Oklahoma cannot necessarily act and vote like a Democratic representative from urban New York, California or Illinois.  While they may represent the more “urban” areas of conservative states, there is a world of difference between a Democrat from Oklahoma City and one from Chicago, New York City or Los Angeles.  There is another election in two years and voters will be watching.  The Kavanaugh hearings proved the lengths to which the Democrats will go to achieve an agenda and political power.

Granted, it will be a long two years given the expected hearings, investigations, and subpoenas expected from the committees now to be run by the likes of Maxine Waters and Adam Schiff.  And Democrats should be well reminded that voters want action, not some sideshow about Russian collusion or Trump’s tax returns.  That is the purview of the Beltway pundits.  They may have made some inroads into Trump territory in certain states.  But with a humming economy, the world relatively at peace, consumer confidence high and unemployment low anything that will rock that boat may have repercussions in 2020.  And, regardless, we still have the Senate.  Now if only Ginsburg and/or Breyer would retire…