As the vote totals rolled in on Tuesday, and Democrats chalked up election wins in Virginia, New Jersey and other states, the outcome sparked an immediate flurry of predictions about what will happen in the 2018 mid-term elections, and whether it would mean an electoral rebuke for President Donald Trump, with Democrats hoping to win back control of the House and Senate.
Here’s a look at some of the election clues:
1. Is the GOP edge in Congress going to end in November 2018? This will be the biggest story line over the next year. Typically, there are losses in the first mid-term election for a President. And historically, we have seen the off-year election predict that type of outcome. Eight years ago, we were mulling the Republican victories in Virginia and New Jersey, and whether they indicated a big win for the GOP in 2010. They did – as 2010 was the year of the Tea Party wave, as the GOP won back the House in the first mid-term for President Obama. History shows us that President Trump has an uphill fight with history in 2018.
2. One GOP counter – blame Gillespie, but not Trump. From the other side of the world, President Trump quickly threw Virginia’s Republican candidate for Governor under the bus for the 2017 election loss in the Old Dominion. “Ed Gillespie worked hard but did not embrace me or what I stand for,” the President tweeted from South Korea. But to many who watched the Virginia race, Gillespie did try to embrace a number of political issues which were tied to Mr. Trump – and it didn’t work. But you aren’t that likely to hear such a message today on conservative talk radio and television.
3. Don’t ignore the Virginia House of Delegates. Most people will focus on the Democratic wins for Governor in New Jersey and Virginia – but to me, the most important results of last night were the big gains that Democrats made for the state House in Virginia. The day began with a GOP advantage of 66-34 – with some recounts expected in close races, the scoreboard reads 50-50 at this point. That’s a huge gain for the Democrats. What does it show? It shows a distinct edge for the Democrats in terms of energy, voter excitement, and maybe most importantly – local organization. The GOP had the edge in those categories in 2010. The pendulum could be swinging the other way for the Democrats in 2018.
4. What did the exit polls show about the 2017 elections? Back in 2016, President Trump was able to generate a big turnout of White Republicans. In 2017, it looks like Democrats were able to get their people to the polls. This is a simple kind of game – it’s called turnout. The exit polls in Virginia showed an electorate that was identical in makeup to 2016 – 67% White, 21% Black, and 6% Hispanic. 2018 will be another election that boils down to a simple matter – which party can motivate their voters to get to the polls. Usually, mid-terms excite the party that is not in power in the White House. And just as Republicans used the Obama health law and his agenda to motivate their voters in 2010, Democrats will try to do the same in 2018.
5. A message on the Obama health law from Maine. Voters in Maine left no doubt where they stand on the issue of expanding Medicaid coverage under the Obama health law – they were strongly for it, as a statewide referendum went in favor of that Medicaid expansion by a 59-41 percent margin. That’s not a small victory, in a state where the GOP Governor was against the idea. It’s also a reminder that despite a lot of Republican efforts over the last seven years, they still can’t get rid of the Obama health law.
A lot could happen in the next year. But for now, Democrats seem to be on offense, and the GOP is playing defense.