GOP pollster Dave Winston sums up the 2018 election, with these key takeaways:
- This was not a base election. Independents decided the outcome, breaking for Democrats by12 points.
- Turnout was higher, but the ideological/party composition remained basically the same. Women and young voters made up the same percentage of the electorate as in previous elections.
- The key to the election was voter groups changing vote preference almost across the board,especially Independents, as Republicans saw significant losses in the suburbs and in rural areas.
- According to ideology and party ID post-election data, there was no radical realignment to the Left. America remains a center-right country.
- The state of the economy had the potential to be the most powerful message, not healthcare, with 68% of voters calling the economy excellent or good, an improvement from 2016 when only 36% called it excellent or good.
- Republicans were not able to capitalize on the economic opportunity by educating the electorate on what was in the tax cut bill and how it was helping them and their families. Only 32% of voters believed the bill reduced tax rates for everyone. Those people who said it would lower their taxes voted Republican 73-26.
- The combination of the immigration and the caravan issues dominated the Republican economic message voters heard by a 2:1 margin.
- The focus on the immigration/caravan issue instead of the positive jobs report in the last days of the campaign had a net result of late deciders breaking for Democrats by 12 points.
- Republicans missed an opportunity to win because they were not able to make the number one issue – the economy – the number one issue.