Elec­tions high­light elec­toral map chal­lenges

The State - - Palmetto - BY DAN BALZ

A few decades ago, Repub­li­cans en­joyed a so-called lock on the Elec­toral Col­lege. Later it was Democrats and a sub­stan­tial blue wall of states that seemed to give them the edge in pres­i­den­tial races.

Tues­day’s midterm re­sults un­der­scored that, for now, those days are gone. Nei­ther party can claim a clear ad­van­tage in the arith­metic that will de­cide who will win the White House in 2020.

Vot­ers de­liv­ered di­vided gov­ern­ment to Wash­ing­ton on Tues­day, oust­ing the Repub­li­can ma­jor­ity in the House while re­in­forc­ing the GOP ma­jor­ity in the Se­nate.

Tues­day’s re­sults high­lighted the fact that the fo­cal point of the strug­gle for elec­toral su­pe­ri­or­ity over the next two years and prob­a­bly be­yond will be in the sub­urbs. Democrats dom­i­nate the big ur­ban cen­ters, and Trump has tight­ened the GOP’s grip on ru­ral Amer­ica. That leaves the one place of true com­pe­ti­tion, the sub­ur­ban vot­ers, many of whom have long fa­vored Repub­li­cans but who staged a re­volt against the pres­i­dent Tues­day by vot­ing for Demo­cratic can­di­dates.

The road to the White House ul­ti­mately de­pends on a hand­ful of states. Two years ago, Trump se­cured his vic­tory by win­ning two big prizes, Ohio eas­ily and Florida nar­rowly, and then car­ry­ing Wis­con­sin, Michi­gan and Penn­syl­va­nia by less than one per­cent­age point in each state.

On Tues­day, vot­ers in Wis­con­sin, Michi­gan and Penn­syl­va­nia backed Demo­cratic can­di­dates for both gover­nor and Se­nate; in Wis­con­sin and Michi­gan, they re­versed eight years of GOP rule in the gover­nor’s man­sion.

At the least, the Demo­cratic vic­to­ries pro­vided a morale boost, and in demon­strat­ing the coali­tion needed to win, may rep­re­sent at least a sym­bolic road­block to the pres­i­dent as he maps his 2020 strat­egy. But party strate­gists ac­knowl­edged Wed­nes­day much work re­mains to be done in those Mid­west bat­tle­grounds.

Tues­day’s re­sults in Ohio and Florida serve as a re­minder to Democrats of chal­lenges their nom­i­nee could face in two states that have pro­vided some of the most hard­fought pres­i­den­tial con­tests of the past two decades. In Ohio, Demo­cratic Sen. Sher­rod Brown won re-elec­tion, of­fer­ing Democrats a model for win­ning a com­pet­i­tive state with a pro­gres­sive record and mes­sage. But in the gover­nor’s race, Repub­li­can At­tor­ney Gen­eral Mike DeWine de­feated Demo­crat Richard Cor­dray.

Trump won Ohio by nine points two years ago, and DeWine’s vic­tory con­tin­ued the GOP’s gen­eral dom­i­nance in statewide races. Ohio long has been a fiercely con­tested state, though one with a slight Repub­li­can edge.

Florida did what it al­ways does, de­liv­er­ing races as close as any in the U.S. Repub­li­can Rep. Ron DeSan­tis claimed the gov­er­nor­ship over Demo­crat An­drew Gil­lum, mayor of Tal­la­has­see, but that race may be head­ing for a re­count, while the Se­nate con­test be­tween Demo- cratic Sen. Bill Nel­son and GOP Gov. Rick Scott is head­ing for a re­count.

As one Demo­crat put it on Wed­nes­day, “We have not fig­ured out Florida, which is a prob­lem.” By that this strate­gist, who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity in or­der to speak about his party’s prob­lems, meant Democrats con­tinue to un­der­per­form among white vot­ers, es­pe­cially those with­out col­lege de­grees.

Re­sults else­where on Tues­day speak to changes un­der­way in other states that tra­di­tion­ally fig­ure into the com­pe­ti­tion in pres­i­den­tial races. Democrats again scored well in Vir­ginia, pick­ing up three House seats, ben­e­fit­ing from strong sup­port from sub­ur­ban vot­ers.

In Colorado, an­other pur­ple state, Democrats main­tained their hold on the gover­nor’s man­sion and picked up a sub­ur­ban House seat. In Nevada, a pur­ple state, Democrats de­feated an in­cum­bent Repub­li­can sen­a­tor (Dean Heller) and cap­tured the gov­er­nor­ship.

Democrats built their new House ma­jor­ity with vic­to­ries in sub­ur­ban ter­ri­tory where Repub­li­cans have en­joyed long-stand­ing sup­port.

Trump’s rhetoric, style and di­vi­sive­ness clearly cost the Repub­li­can Party in th­ese sub­ur­ban House dis­tricts and will com­pli­cate his prospects for re-elec­tion. But Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel ar­gued Wed­nes­day that Democrats must build an ur­ban-sub­ur­ban coali­tion through is­sues like health care and ed­u­ca­tion and thereby prevent the pres­i­dent from driv­ing a wedge be­tween the two con­stituen­cies on other is­sues.

TONY DEJAK AP

Gover­nor-elect Mike DeWine waves to sup­port­ers af­ter speak­ing at the Ohio Repub­li­can Party event on Tues­day in Colum­bus, Ohio.

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