50-state rundown of a divided America


 50-state rundown of a divided America


By David Weigel

November 8 at 6:43 PM

It sounds like a cliche, but it’s true: The 2018 elections are revealing just how divided the country is and how much the divisions have widened.

That’s not to say that nothing budged since 2016. Across the country, with just a few exceptions, Republicans fell back from the highs they’d attained from 2015 to 2017. Every Senate race saw incumbent Democrats run ahead of the party’s 2016 ticket, even when they lost; in the two Minnesota House seats that Republicans appear to have flipped from blue to red, Democrats nonetheless ran five to 10 points ahead of Hillary Clinton.

But the result of those changes across the country has been Republicans making gains in rural America and Democrats making gains everywhere else, their progress slowed only by gerrymandering. Democrats who assiduously appealed to rural voters ran only marginally better than Democrats, like Clinton, who were seen to have ignored them. The party noticed that.

“I think the most important one — of the most important reasons — to have a 50-state strategy is the United States Senate,” Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez told reporters today at a breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor. “If you cede 20 to 25 states to the other side, it’s very hard to sustain a Democratic majority in the U.S. Senate.”

Yet prized Democratic recruits in the Senate and the House, such as Tennessee’s Phil Bredesen and Ohio’s Ken Harbaugh were, shellacked with rural white voters. Harbaugh, for example, spent $2.7 million in a red Ohio district where the last Democratic nominee had spent less than $8,000. The result? Republican Rep. Bob Gibbs’s total vote inched down from 64 percent to 59 percent.

In the states, the result of all this is that Democrats gained hundreds of legislative districts but only occasionally knocked Republicans out of power. The reason? Mostly, a continued sorting effect, which saw Democrats make huge inroads in suburbs and lose ground elsewhere.

Here’s a rundown of state legislative outcomes in all 50 states:

Alabama. Democrats improved their margins in a number of suburban seats but lost ancestral districts that had grown more Republican: the 3rd House District in northwest Alabama, the 28th House District in northeast Alabama, the 65th House District in the southwest.

Alaska. Perhaps you heard about the plucky independents who flipped control of the state House? They lost, and most tellingly, an incumbent independent lost by 19 points in the rural Kenai peninsula. The state seems to have reverted to voting for true Republicans, who may take control of the state legislature — the only state legislature they have a chance of picking up.

Arizona. There’s plenty left to count, but Democrats appeared to have come closer, without flipping strongly Republican districts in the Phoenix metro area.

Arkansas. Republicans took over the rural 61st state House seat for the first time, while Democrats flipped the 84th in suburban Fayetteville.

California. Democrats appeared to be on the cusp of regaining a supermajority in the state Senate, with leads in the 12th and 14th districts; both are semirural, but with huge numbers of Latino voters turned out by competitive House races.

Colorado. Democrats picked up the state Senate by carrying districts in Denver’s suburbs, especially the 16th District in Golden. Narrowly won by Republicans in 2014, it swung by 16 points to Democrats.

Connecticut. Republicans had hoped to gain the state Senate and governor’s office here; instead, the suburban 13th, 24th and 26th state Senate districts all went blue, locking in a Democratic majority.

Delaware. Democrats, for the first time in generations, wiped out every Republican running for statewide office and picked up one seat in both houses of the legislature; both are in the suburbs of Wilmington.

Florida. Democrats expected to do better, but they flipped at least two House seats in the suburbs of Orlando.

Georgia. Democrats grabbed at least two state Senate seats in metro Atlanta while losing at least two state House seats in rural Georgia.

Idaho. After bottoming out in 2016, Democrats gained House seats in Pocatello and suburban Boise.

Illinois. Democrats continued to grow their dominance in the suburbs, winning the 48th and 61st House districts in the greater Chicago area and leading in other suburban seats.

Indiana. On a terrible night for Democrats at the top of the ticket, they gained the 29th state Senate district in Indianapolis’s suburbs.

Iowa. Democrats flipped a Senate seat in Sioux City while losing one in rural northeast Iowa; at the same time, they appeared to gain nearly every House seat in the suburbs of Des Moines.

Kansas. Even while losing the governor’s mansion, Republicans gained some rural seats, and Democrats rolled over them in the suburbs of Kansas City; where for years House districts had sent moderate Republicans to Topeka.

Kentucky. Republicans knocked out the Democratic chair of their state Senate caucus in rural western Kentucky, while Democrats flipped a House seat near Louisville; they were struggling to take back seats lost in the 2016 wave.

Maine. Democrats wiped out Republicans in suburban seats, taking both houses of the state legislature for the first time in a decade.

Maryland. Republicans actually did worse with Gov. Larry Hogan winning reelection than they’d done four years earlier, when he narrowly won; in suburban counties, Republicans lost ground and fell short of breaking the Democrats’ supermajority.

Massachusetts/Rhode Island/Vermont. The pattern was consistent across these states, where Democrats have basically maxed out their legislative control; some blue gains in the suburbs and some weakness or losses in areas won by President Trump in 2016.

Michigan/Ohio/Wisconsin. These states showed the limits of Democratic suburban strength on maps drawn by Republicans; they also found Republicans gaining back ground in rural areas, even where they had lost special elections. Earlier this year, Democrats had seized Wisconsin’s 1st state Senate district; they lost it on Tuesday by nine points. They lost ground in rural eastern Ohio, where John Boccieri, a former state senator and congressman, lost the district he used to represent.

Minnesota. The results here mirrored the federal election, with Democrats winning far into the suburban counties that used to be split between the parties, and by margins that won them the state House.

\. Democrats had hoped that without Trump on the ballot, they could gain back ground; they did so by only inches. The party was leading in uncalled races for state House seats in the Kansas and St. Louis suburbs, but it failed to flip some high-profile races with strong challengers; a cousin of former congressman Ike Skelton lost by a landslide in a district that included some of his old territory.

Montana. Democrats did make gains here after years of decline, but only in Democratic strongholds: a Senate seat in Gallatin County, two house seats in Cascade County.

Nevada. No state was stronger for Democrats relative to their 2014 performance; here, the party’s surge in Clark County continued, leading to Senate gains. In the 20th District, one Democrat is within 28 votes of gaining a seat that had gone red by 21 points in 2014.

New Hampshire. Democrats flipped the entire state legislature in their best electoral year since 2012. They did so by flipping four Senate seats, all in increasingly blue areas around Manchester and the seacoast.

New York. Democrats won the state Senate outright by taking eight seats, giving them their biggest majority in decades, by wiping out Republicans in the New York City suburbs.

North Carolina/South Carolina. Democrats made meaningful gains in the North Carolina suburbs, breaking a supermajority; they gained one seat in the Charleston, S.C.,  suburbs as they picked up the Charleston-area 1st Congressional District.

North Dakota/South Dakota. One of the Democrats’ favorite recruits of the cycle was South Dakota State Sen. Billie Sutton, who ran for governor from a red rural district. Sutton lost his race; Democrats lost his district. North Dakota Democrats gained a Senate seat in the suburbs of Grand Forks.

Oklahoma. Just as they were taking the 5th Congressional District, Democrats made gains in state legislative races in the same area, around Oklahoma City.

Oregon/Washington. Democrats continued to push Republicans into irrelevance in the Pacific Northwest by gaining seats in both houses, making their majority in Oregon into a supermajority. In both cases, that was powered by gains around the biggest cities.

Pennsylvania. Democrats gained a net 15 seats here, at least, while losing one they’d picked up in a special election.

Tennessee. Democrats picked up the 56th state House district, vacated by former state speaker of the house Beth Harwell; a telling sign of how the Nashville suburbs have moved. They gained a seat in suburban Knoxville, too. But they never came close in the ancestral Democratic areas that Democrats had hoped Senate candidate Phil Bredesen could carry.

Texas. The Beto effect was real, pulling down Republicans in seats that had been gerrymandered to elect them in suburban seats until at least the end of this decade. That helped them break a supermajority Republicans seemed to win in the Senate after they had picked up a rural seat in a September special election.

West Virginia. Democrats lost both legislative chambers here in 2014 and have not come close to gaining them back. But they appeared, by Thursday, to have seized state Senate seats that cover Wheeling and Charleston, and state House seats around Morgantown,  the least-rural parts of the state.

Wyoming. Republicans gained a rural Senate seat; Democrats were on the verge of flipping one rural state House seat.

If you’re noticing a pattern, it’s that Democrats had a good election night, but with very few dramatic gains in the states. Where they gained, it almost always came in suburbs that had been trending blue in a way Republicans did not expect when the maps were drawn, years before the Trump candidacy and presidency. And as Republicans boasted on Thursday, 10 seats in Trump country that had gone blue in special elections flipped back to Republicans.

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