The switch of allegiance in partisan politics

Even before the dust had cleared, the Democratic Party could claim victory in Tuesday’s midterm elections.

But whether it was the “blue wave” that some had predicted continues to be up for debate.

Democrats gained majority control of the U.S. House, gaining dozens of seats. Democrats also drastically cut into GOP dominance in the number of Republican governors as well as state legislatures with GOP majorities.

In the meantime, Republicans retained control of the U.S. Senate and might have even added to what had been a razor-thin 51-49 majority, depending on the outcome of a handful of races that remained undecided as of Wednesday morning.

However, just nine Republican senators were up for re-election this year, as opposed to 26 Democratic senators who were on the ballots. It was highly unlikely that Democrats would come out ahead with such a lopsided election map.

In the tri-states, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds won re-election, but the Republican incumbents in Illinois and Wisconsin ­— Bruce Rauner and Scott Walker ­­— were defeated by their Democratic challengers, J.B. Pritzker and Tony Evers, respectively.

In the high-profile local election for the U.S. House, Abby Finkenauer, D-Dubuque, defeated the Republican incumbent, Rod Blum, to represent
Iowa’s 1st Congressional District.

But while numerous legislative seats switched hands, this year’s elections said as much about the voters themselves as they did about the candidates.

First, it’s hard to dispute that this election was “The Year of the
Woman,” which will be discussed more in detail later.

And second, one of the most intriguing patterns to emerge Tuesday was a widening partisan divide between white voters with a college degree and those without one.

According to New York Times’ exit polls, 61 percent of non-college-
educated white voters cast their ballots in favor of Republicans as opposed to 37 percent for Democrats.

Meanwhile, 53 percent of college-educated white voters cast ballots in favor of Democrats as opposed to 45 percent for Republicans.

The education divide is primarily a phenomenon among white voters (blacks and Hispanics ­— comprising 23 percent of the electorate — historically vote heavily Democratic regardless of education).

This divide among white voters, however, is a complete departure from  past elections. Non-college-educated white voters used to solidly belong to Democrats, and college-educated white voters to Republicans. Over the past few decades, these allegiances have flipped.

The education gap is particularly large between college-educated white women and non-college educated white men.

College-educated white women preferred Democratic congressional candidates by 18 percentage points, a Marist/NPR Poll found, while white men without a college degree backed Republicans by 33 points. That’s an incredible 51-point gap between women who have a diploma versus men who don’t have a diploma.

That helps explain both parties’ campaign strategies. Republicans focused on ousting Democrats from states like Indiana and North Dakota, where the population is whiter, older and less likely to have a college degree than states on the coasts. Democrats aimed their efforts at suburban districts across the country where more residents have graduated from college.

Last night’s results confirm that the diploma divide might be here to stay particularly now that health care and immigration were the top concerns of voters on Tuesday. The gap is likely to be one of the most powerful forces shaping American politics for decades to come.

This could signal the start of a realignment between the two major parties, with repercussions for presidential elections down the road. Consider this: 41 percent of white men without a college education strongly approved of Trump, one of his best showings. Among college-educated white women, 56 percent strongly disapproved, one of his worst.

There also has been a widening gap between how men and women vote. I will look at that widening gender gap later.

Second, there is another political divide that is becoming more and more pronounced: The difference between white voters who have a college degree and those who don’t. (Black voters at all education levels typically vote Democratic, as do many Hispanics.)

The education gap is particularly large between college-educated white women and non-college educated white men.

College-educated white women preferred Democratic congressional candidates by 18 percentage points, a Marist/NPR Poll found, while white men without a college degree backed Republicans by 33 points. That’s an incredible 51-point gap between women who have a diploma versus men who don’t have a diploma.

That helps explain both parties’ campaign strategies. Republicans focused on ousting Democrats from \states like Indiana and North Dakota, where the population is whiter, older and less likely to have a college degree than states on the coasts. Democrats aimed their efforts at suburban districts across the country where more residents have graduated from college.

The gender gap – the tendency for women to vote more Democratic than men do – is familiar, a regular feature of American elections since 1980.

This year, however, votes for Democrats outpaced votes for Republicans

This year, dozens and dozens of Democratic female candidates jumped into races across the country. Democrats tailored much of their messaging on health care, on taxes, on everything to female voters — especially in the suburbs. That was clearly the right bet. Women made up 52% of the overall electorate, according to preliminary exit polls, and they went for Democratic candidates over Republicans by 20. According to the Cook Political Report’s Dave Wasserman, there will now be more than 100 women in the House in 2019 for the first time in history.

The elections also were a referendum on President Trump. Two-thirds of voters in USA Today’s exit polls said they wanted to send a message to the president. Of those, roughly one in four to show their support for him, while about four in 10 to show their opposition.

Trump, the single most polarizing President in modern politics. Trump allies will insist that without him, Republicans would have lost the Senate and the House. Trump detractors — including some Republicans — will argue that Trump cost them any chance at keeping control of the House.

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