The GOP’s Midwestern peril

When I arrived at the Minnesota Republican Party’s election-night headquarters on Tuesday night, I found a festive, crowded celebration.

Five hours later, I left a lightly attended wake.

Despite some important gains in the Senate, that was largely the story for Republicans nationwide, especially in the states that gave President Trump a surprise win two years ago — and that should have the GOP very, very concerned about 2020.

After a near-miss by Trump in Minnesota two years ago, the party believed it had momentum to return to competitiveness again. Instead, Republicans lost across the board, including control of the state House. Even in the contest that looked the most promising — the attorney general race against Keith Ellison, dogged by domestic-violence allegations — Democrats won by four points. They won the governor’s race by 12 points, and a special election to fill the remainder of Al Franken’s Senate term by 11. While Republicans did turn out better than four years earlier, increasing Jeff Johnson’s gubernatorial tally by 200,000 votes, Democrats turned out even more. Tim Walz added over 300,000 votes to Mark Dayton’s 2014 re-election bid.

Republicans didn’t get entirely skunked in Minnesota. They picked up a congressional district in northern Minnesota where mining remains a key industry, and another in the rural south, both of which went solidly for Trump in 2016. However, they failed to convert another district where Trump won big two years ago, and also lost two Twin Cities suburban districts that had been trending Democratic over the last several years. The big Democratic turnout reverted the state to where it had been before Trump — a Democratic stronghold.

Nor was this the only state that reverted back to its political identity. Trump won the presidency by winning the so-called “blue wall” states: Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. Democrats had good nights in all three, winning gubernatorial, Senate, and congressional races in each. Gov. Scott Walker narrowly lost his bid for a third term in Wisconsin three years after running for president, even though he got more votes than four years ago while winning the state by five points. But it wasn’t enough to top Democrat Tony Evers.

In Michigan, the turnout issue was even more pronounced. Republican Bill Schuette got 1.8 million votes for his gubernatorial bid, 300,000 more than Rick Snyder won four years ago — but fell more than 400,000 short of Democrat Gretchen Whitmer. Gov. Tom Wolf won re-election in Pennsylvania with 2.8 million votes, almost a million more votes than he got four years earlier in beating then-incumbent Republican Tom Corbett.

In all these states, Republicans did better than four years earlier, but Democrats got fired up as well. This points to a key weakness that many forget about Trump’s 2016 win, especially in the blue-wall states. Trump didn’t win by turning out a new segment of disaffected voters as much as Hillary Clinton lost by failing to turn out Democrats.

In 2016, Clinton won 1.37 million Minnesota votes. Barack Obama had won 1.55 million four years earlier. …read more

Source:: The Week – Politics


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