Trump Effect Ignites Democrats in State, Local Elections

Call it the Trump effect, call it luck, call it a good ground game, but the Democratic Party had a night to celebrate on Tuesday when the party won the governor’s races in both Virginia and New Jersey, picked up mayor and council seats nationwide, and picked up more seats in the Virginia House of Delegates in a single election since 1899. All while running the most diverse group of candidates in any election cycle in American history.

Americans are not happy with the political situation in Washington and increasingly see President Donald Trump as untrustworthy and unqualified to do the job. That frustration was shown last Tuesday when exit polls showed that most voters came out 1) to support Democrats but 2) to stick it to Trump.

President Donald Trump attends a joint news conference with South Korean President Moon Jae-in at the Blue House in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Don’t forget, Mr. Trump did not win the popular vote. In fact, 54% of Americans voted for someone other than Mr. Trump, including candidates like Jill Stein and Gary Johnson, in addition to Hillary Clinton, who received in excess of than 3 million more votes than Mr. Trump.

Whilst Mr. Trump is sightseeing and relationship-building in a two-week tour of Asia, Democrats are preparing to use their momentum from Tuesday night’s win towards the midterm Congressional elections. According to a recently published Gallup poll, voters prefer Democrats over Republicans 48-44% heading into next year’s elections. If Democrats can keep their base energised and Trump’s approval continues to tumble- already historically low for a president at this point at 36%- they can be looking at a very good year.

In what is sure to be an exciting prospect, there are 23 House Republicans representing districts Clinton won, which provide solid pickup opportunities. However, there are also 12 Democrats representing districts Trump won who would have to play defence. Experts say the House is within reach, particularly in states like Virginia, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Arizona, where Republicans hold slim margins but the district is trending Democratic.

The Senate, however, is likely out of reach. Republicans hold 52 seats in the Senate, and in theory, Democrats only need a net gain of three seats to take back the chamber. Their problem, though, is that the group of Senate seats up in 2018 is overwhelmingly their own members. The party will be defending a massive 25 seats, compared with just eight for Republicans.

Even more frighteningly for Democrats, 10 of their seats at risk are in states Trump won, and five of those are in states Trump won by 18 points or more. In comparison, only one Republican senator in a state Clinton won (Dean Heller in Nevada) is on the ballot. (Map below).

A map of all 34 Senate seats up for election in 2018. Tough map for Democrats, but not impossible. (Credit, CNN.)

It’s still too early to talk about 2018. But there was plenty of history made Tuesday night. America’s first two openly transgender candidates won their elections in Virginia (House of Delegates) and Minnesota (Minneapolis City Council). Virginia also elected its first two Latina Delegates, its first African American Lieutenant Governor, and Charlotte, North Carolina elected its first African American and female mayor. Hoboken, New Jersey, elected its first Sikh mayor and Manchester, New Hampshire has its first woman ever and Democrat since 2005.

Democrats have a lot to be excited about. The diversity of the party’s electorate is astonishing. Young voters, ages 18-35 supported the party by huge margins, while white, college-educated suburban women and men broke for the party by significant margins as well. If these trends tell Democrats anything, it’s that the Obama coalition is very much alive, and eager for a fight.

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