Primaries offer lessons for Nov.
Election could shake up Congress, statehouses
WASHINGTON – Now that primary voters have had their say in New York, New Hampshire and Rhode Island, the sprint is on toward the Nov. 6 general election.
We’ll know in less than two months who voters want to lead the House, the Senate and the 36 states with gubernatorial elections.
Democrats have a lot of reasons to be optimistic. But Republicans say that President Donald Trump defied conventional wisdom before and will lead his party to do so again. One way or the other, it’s clear the elections will be about Trump, experts say.
Here’s what we’ve learned so far:
“There is certainly a path for Democrats. It’s just a very narrow and rocky one.” Stuart Rothenberg, political analyst
A wave, but how big?
Democrats are poised to win up and down the ballot this fall, despite the strong economy and Republicans’ advantages on the electoral map. The only question is how big the gains will be.
Democrats have a good chance of capturing the House and are expected to pick up gubernatorial seats and expand their footprint in state legislatures. The Senate is a tougher battleground because Democrats are defending many seats, including in 10 states Trump won.
But a recent round of polls indicates some of the closest contests could break Democrats’ way, and Republicans have had to throw resources into the deep red states of Tennessee and Mississippi.
“There is certainly a path for Democrats,” political handicapper Stuart Rothenberg recently wrote. “It’s just a very narrow and rocky one.”
Women shattering records
Women are driving much of the voter engagement, and it shows in the winning primary candidates. Record numbers of women are running for governor, House and Senate.
Dave Wasserman, who analyzes House races for the Cook Political Report, projects between 30 and 40 new women will win this fall, shattering the previous record of 24 set in 1992. In the Senate, however, the number of women could barely rise – or even fall, according to political scientist Eric Ostermeier, author of the Smart Politics blog.
Racial minorities, LGBT candidates
Women are not the only ones breaking records. Democrats also nominated a record number of minority candidates, according to the Associated Press. There are eight Democratic candidates of color running for governor. Michigan and Minnesota could put the first Muslim women in Congress, and New Mexico could send a Native American woman.
A record number of lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender candidates are running for office.
Underdog wins from progressives taking on the establishment drew big headlines, most notably Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s defeat of Rep. Joe Crowley, D-N.Y., and Ayanna Pressley’s defeat of Rep. Michael Capuano, DMass. The upsets also sparked speculation that Democrats are experiencing an uprising of angry grassroots activists. But the number of progressives who won their primaries was not overwhelming, according to experts at the Brookings Institution. And because many of the winning progressive candidates are in Republican-leaning districts, they might not win in the fall. That lessens the chance of a Democratic civil war erupting after Nov. 6.
Top kitchen-table issues
For Democrats, it’s primarily health care. Building off the public pushback that helped sink Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Democrats are particularly hammering Republicans over one of the law’s most popular provisions: protections for people with pre-existing conditions.
Republicans prefer the conversation to be about the strong economy or about border security, an issue particularly important to their base.
Those three issues – health care, the economy and immigration – top polls when voters are asked what topic they most want candidates to address.