Pri­maries of­fer lessons for Nov.

Elec­tion could shake up Congress, state­houses

USA TODAY International Edition - - FRONT PAGE - Mau­reen Groppe

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.

Pro­gres­sive un­der­dogs

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.

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