Republicans need to focus on grassroots
Jordan Ryan | Monday, February 12, 2018
This past week, a Missouri state house election, which could be viewed as largely immaterial outside the “Show Me State,” received national attention. Democrat Mike Revis flipped the seat in a district President Trump won in 2016 by an astounding 28 points. Revis won the election with nearly 52 percent of the vote, while Republican David Linton received 48 percent. The district saw a 31-point swing as compared to the 2016 Presidential election.
Though a state house seat may not alone represent a national trend, it is indicative of strong voter trends across the country. This week’s win marks the 35th seat that has flipped since President Trump’s election. In Virginia, Democrats flipped 15 Republican-controlled seats in the November 2017 elections. In Oklahoma, Democrats picked up three GOP-held state legislative seats since Trump’s win. In New Hampshire, two Republican seats went to the Democrats. Finally, in December 2017, Democrat Patty Schachtner flipped a state Senate seat in Wisconsin, which had been held by the Republicans for over 100 years. President Trump had carried that district by 17 points in the 2016 election.
These results should serve as fair notice to Republicans for the upcoming 2018 midterms. The trends are indisputable. According to a study complied by Daily Kos, in 70 special elections in 2017, Democrats ran 10 points ahead of Hillary Clinton and seven points ahead of Barack Obama’s 2012 results. Things have only gotten worse for the Republicans in 2018. In nine races, Democrats are running 27 points ahead of Clinton and 12 points ahead of Obama.
What should be especially alarming for the Republicans is that the Democrats seem to be beating them at their own game — voter turnout. And the demographic Democrats appear to be better energizing is the millennials. The Democratic National Committee has been pouring money into areas with high youth concentrations, such as college areas. This strategy is credited with carrying Doug Jones to victory over Roy Moore in Alabama. Though Jones won by a relatively slim 1.5 percent margin, he carried voters aged 18 to 29 by a 60- to 38-point margin.
Similarly, Democrats appear to be winning the battle for first-time voters. This was evidenced in Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District special election in June 2017. Though Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff lost and Republicans were able to retain the seat, the turnout rate among voters who never voted in a primary was 34 percent, a large percentage of whom were democrats. How these trends will impact the 2018 midterms is difficult to predict. Historically, Republicans have fared much better during mid-term elections. This political reality proved especially true in the cycles in 2010 and 2014. Recall that President Obama admitted to being “humbled” in November 2010 by the worst Democratic mid-term defeat in 70 years.
Will President Trump suffer a similar fate in November 2018? Perhaps. What is clear is that Republicans cannot take voter turnout for granted. Democrats are generally well-funded and motivated. As seen in Alabama, this reality is especially true among millennial voters. Republicans must see these results for what they are, a wake up call for the party. The political pendulum, which swept President Trump into office, has mobilized a massive opposition movement. Republicans need to focus on grassroots politics, including voter turnout, if they expect to maintain their majorities in November 2018.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.