In Defying the Odds, we discuss state and congressional elections as well as the presidential race. The update -- recently published -- looks at political and demographic trends through the 2018 midterm.
Votrs in Mecklenburg County, a suburban stronghold, gave Democrat Dan McCready a margin of 12 percentage points over Republican Dan Bishop, bigger than the nine-point advantage McCready posted there during last year’s invalidated race in the state’s 9th Congressional District.
Bishop won the race based on running up the count in the more exurban and rural portions of the district in the south-central part of the state, continuing the geographical divide in the era of President Trump. That provided a sigh of relief for Republicans worried that defeat would have prompted even more retirement announcements.
But Democrats see the trend going deeply in their favor — in 2016, Republicans won this seat by more than 17 percentage points. “They needed to win it, they squeaked by. I don’t think any Republican in the House, who’s concerned about his or her electoral prospects, can feel better about the situation,” Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (N.Y.), chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, told reporters.
Democrats can still play offense in 2020 as at least 25 Republicans still in office won by less than 5 percentage points last year, including a handful who have already decided not to run again in 2020. History falls on the Democratic side, as the House majority has not changed hands during a presidential election year since 1952.
And Republicans face a conundrum if they are going to try to win back the net gain of 19 seats they need to reclaim the majority. Many of those seats look more like the suburban portions of Mecklenberg County than they do Union County, a rural county along the state border that gave the GOP candidate 60 percent of its vote.
But the party’s current messaging focus — heavily reliant on disparaging Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), along with her “squad” of liberal freshmen — is resonating in rural areas that, for the most part, Republicans already hold.Alan Fram at AP:
Special elections generally attract such low turnout that their results aren’t predictive of future general elections. Even so, the narrow margin in the GOP-tilted district suggested that Democrats’ 2018 string of victories in suburban districts in red states including Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas could persist next year.
Rep. Cheri Bustos of Illinois, who runs House Democrats’ political committee, said the close race showed her party is “pushing further into Republican strongholds” and was in a “commanding position” to do well next year.
Michael Bitzer, a politics professor at Catawba College in North Carolina, said the narrow margin suggests that the country’s other closely divided swing districts “could be still up for grabs.”
There is almost no pathway to Republicans regaining House control next year unless they avoid losing more suburban districts and win back some they lost last year.
Alexander Bolton at The Hill:
A Senate Republican aide said “the suburbs are key” in describing the dynamics on gun legislation.
“House Republicans got rocked in the suburbs in the last election,” the aide added, referring to the key demographic change that fueled the Democratic takeover of the House in 2018.
McConnell told reporters in April that stopping the erosion of support from suburban voters would be central to keeping Republican control of the Senate in the 2020 election.
He noted that Republicans lost control of the House in 2018 because “we got crushed in the suburbs.”
“We lost college graduates and women in the suburbs, which led in the House to loses in suburban Kansas City; Oklahoma City; Houston; Dallas; Atlanta; Charleston, S.C.,” McConnell said in the April interview. “We’re determined not to lose women, certainly not by 19 points, and college graduates in our Senate races. And I don’t think we will.”
A Republican poll of 1,000 registered voters in key suburban districts conducted by Public Opinion Strategies on Aug. 7-8 found that suburban women voters rated working to prevent gun violence as their top priority.
Seventy-two percent of suburban women surveyed by the poll said gun laws should be more strict and 55 percent said they believe that stricter laws would help prevent gun violence.