2022 US Senate Race

It’s just really, really hard for any President to get his party’s base to turn our during a midterm election, even if they’re generally satisfied with his performance. Content voters don’t turn out in midterm elections – voters who are angry or afraid turn out during the midterms. That’s what fueled Republican surges in 1994 and 2010, and Democrats in 2018. Even the two counter-examples of the President’s party picking up seats in a midterm show the same dynamic, its just that voters has somewhere else to focus their anger and fear. In 1996 voters turned on Republicans out of anger over Bill Clinton’s impeachment, and in 2002 voters still fearful from the 9/11 attacks rallied around Bush and Republicans.

I think the best hope for Democrats is that Republicans nominate enough QAnon conspiracists that voters become genuinely afraid that the party has gone off the deep end. It’d be great if there was one who really stood out as a complete nutball that even Democratic candidates in other races could point to and say “there’s the future of the Republican Party.” MTG’s pretty good for this purpose, but I’m convinced Republicans can do better. You can do this, guys!

My interpretation is different. Democrats. didn’t stay home in 1994 and 2010 because they were content. They stayed home because they were more angry at the Democrats for not being as liberal as they hoped than they were at the Republicans, who had been out of power for 2 years at both of those points and so weren’t doing anything to earn the anger of Democratic voters. In 2002 Republicans were happy and content with the job Bush Jr. was doing (teaching the Muslims a lesson for 9/11), which is why they showed up to support him. I assume you meant 1998 rather than 1996. That year was pretty much a wash, with neither side having an advantage and not much change in the makeup of congress. The senate kept the same overall makeup, and Democrats picked up only 5 House seats, not enough to flip the chamber. The economy was good, and the biggest issue of the day was what the POTUS was doing underneath the Oval Office desk rather than what he was signing on it. There just wasn’t much there for either party to really energize the public with.

I’m not aware of any data that shows that liberal Democrats voted in lower-than-expected numbers in 1994 and 2010 due to disappointment with Democratic Presidents’ failures to enact liberal policies. I’m not saying you’re wrong, it’s just that we don’t really have sufficient information to judge. Based only on my own sense of things, I’d say that the surge in conservative voters in both those elections would have led to sweeping Republican gains even if liberals turned out in average numbers.

Will we see that this midterm? I think the most likely scenario is moderate Republican gains in the House – more akin to GW Bush’s first midterm than Obama’s. Unfortunately moderate gains are all they need to take the House. The Senate will be much more up-in-the-air, since the midterm curse is much less pronounced in that body and the specific states on the ballot present Ds with more opportunities than the Rs.

How well the Ds do in the midterms is going to depend on how much people see it as a vote against Trump. The guy is, by at least an order of magnitude, the most polarizing politician ever in US history. If he’d retired quietly after his loss last year, normal rules on elections would apply. But he hasn’t.

However, since Twitter canceled his account, some voters may not be aware of that. So how big a splash he makes campaigning for others may make a difference. The more he does so, the more Ds will come out to vote.

“Hold my beer :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:” Abraham Lincoln

I’m not convinced Lincoln was that polarizing, at least not personally. Any candidate from an abolitionist party would have elicited the same reaction from the South as did Lincoln.

I’m not sure the latter part is the case, sadly. There are three Democratic incumbents in states that are more Republican than the country as of 2020 (Kelly, Cortez Masto, Warnock), and zero Republican incumbents in states that are more Democratic than the country (I think literally the only one in the entire country is Susan Collins who just got…sigh…a fresh six year term).

Obviously it’s not impossible for the Republicans to flub Senate races that they’re “supposed to” win like in 2010 and 2012, but incumbency advantage and local brand matter less than they did back then too.

I don’t disagree with much that you say here, but this line implies time travel.

In any case, I am hopeful that democrats show up in 2022. They will do so if the democrats that are in Washington deliver.

I am not convinced they will, and fear that they will not.

Yes, I mistyped 1996 when I meant 1998, as @FlikTheBlue already pointed out.

My 2 cents:

2010: Republicans came out in droves, outraged that there was a black president and (gasp) he got the ACA passed. Death Panels! Run for the hills!

2018: Democrats came out in droves because of horror at the spectre of DJT in the White House.

I believe that 2022 is going to have a lot more in common with 2018 than 2010. The horrors of 1/6 and Republican obstruction is going to motivate Democrats while Republicans will be depressed when they see Don the Con in an orange jumpsuit.

I don’t think there’s much evidence that NC is “bluing,” at least not at the federal level. Trump slightly increased his vote share in 2020, and Tillis won with almost exactly the same percent of the vote as his last race in 2014. AZ and GA may be on a better trajectory, but even that is tenuous.

Here is a good article from 538 discussing why NC hasn’t shifted to the left the way that many people expected:


I think the main TLDR is that North Carolina has a very large rural population (I read somewhere that NC has a larger proportion of its population in rural areas than any state other than Texas) and these areas have become more Republican in the past 10-15 years, basically canceling out the Democratic gains in the urban areas. I do think that NC is going to become more Democratic in the long run. The Democratic areas are gaining population and the Republican areas are losing population. But it’s probably going to be a decade or more before the state becomes Democratic-leaning, much less reliably Democratic like Virginia.

It’s not a larger proportion – North Carolina has a larger total rural population than any other state but Texas. Even though North Carolina is the ninth most populous state overall. Texas actually has a smaller proportion of rural residents than North Carolina – only 15 percent of Texas residents live in rural areas.

North Carolina is demographically interesting in that the population is more “spread out” than many other states – the urban areas are not as densely populated and the rural areas aren’t as empty. It is urbanizing, but I agree that it’s not on the precipice of going the way of Virginia.

I see pretty clear signs of NC bluing out, its urban areas are growing, its rural areas mostly are not. Its urban areas (which I include the suburbs in that) are trending in the Dems direction.

One of the big things that happened with Trump in 2020 is he hit really amazing turnout levels in rural counties all across the country. Almost everywhere this was always to his advantage. PA is basically the only outlier in a place where some of the more rural counties, while they didn’t go for Biden, Trump didn’t always improve his margin in them like he had in surrounding states.

However Trump produced voters, not human beings, if that makes sense. If you had taken a snapshot of Trump’s 2020 performance in the suburbs of Columbus and Cincinnati, you would assume given any knowledge at all of Ohio’s political history, Trump had lost Ohio by 2-3 points. But instead, Trump actually slightly gained ground in the inner cities of Cleveland and Cincinnati (and basically stayed the same in Columbus), and he gained MASSIVE ground in all of Ohio’s rural counties. Specifically not just in margin, but in generating turnout. Lots of Appalachian Ohio saw turnout numbers that we basically have never seen before. This was unusual for Ohio, and it was unusual for Ohio that a candidate (Biden) could do so well in the traditionally moderate suburbs of the major cities, but lose such a huge margin in the rural areas.

That represents somewhat how Trump was reshuffling traditional demographic alliances.

But what Trump didn’t do is increase the population of places like Gallia County or Darke County OH. In fact, almost every county in Ohio that meets the definition of a “rural county” is losing population as per the most recent census estimates. The only places gaining population in Ohio are actually associated with the three major cities. Now, Ohio right now has become a fairly conservative place. But this story it is telling, is being told all over the country. In deep red states and deep blue ones, and all the ones in between–the places that are growing are now much more closely associated with Democrats, and the places where population is stagnant or declining are much more closely associated with Republicans. None of this is destiny, but it’s not a good set of conditions for the future of the Republican party, and tying back specifically to North Carolina, it’s fairly easy to see, unless things change (and they could), North Carolina heading in a very similar direction to Virginia.

Virginia had a super charger making its process much, much faster–the seat of the Federal government and the hyper-economically active area of Northern Virginia, that sucks in urban, educated professionals from all around the country. North Carolina has nothing like that, but only a couple other places in the country do. But North Carolina does have smaller versions of that–in the Research Triangle, Charlotte, and even places like Winston-Salem.

FWIW I used the term “rural county” fairly specifically, and I wanted to point out people often miss things a bit because of it. Politics and the census often define urban, suburban, and rural in ways that don’t match public perception. For example, Midland county Texas has 130,000 people. Only about 30,000 of them would be considered “rural” population wise by the census, demographers, or even most political pundits.

If Republicans really only had success in truly rural census tracts, they’d have maybe 95 House seats and 35 Senate seats, and wouldn’t have won the White House anytime recently. Instead a lot of GOP votes come from what I have taken to calling “rural counties.” Midland County is a good example. Midland isn’t part of a major metro area by most people’s reckoning (that gets complex because some demographers consider Midland a metropolitan area), but let’s bet clear–a county centered on a city of around 100,000 isn’t what most of the “public” thinks about in terms of major metro areas. When people think major metros they’re thinking the 50 largest metro areas of the country, or so, and the major cities that anchor them. Midland isn’t one of those.

But 110,000 people is a good chunk of people in Midland proper, and the other 20-25,000 who live in the rural parts of that county, add up too. This county cast like 45,000 ballots for Trump and only 12,000 for Joe Biden. So an overwhelming people who live in the city of Midland, voted for Trump.

The larger point is while they may not be rural, small towns and cities in predominantly rural areas, for voting purposes, track more rural. Knox County Tennessee is another area that is similar, about 30% of the county lives in Knoxville proper (187,000), and the county itself has 430,000 people. Most of the voters in this county went for Trump. Note that unlike Midland, Knoxville proper is a tad more blue, although for a city of its size, a lot of people still voted for Trump. Knox has similarities to places like Midland in that it’s predominantly in a rural area. Contrast to Nashville metro area (pop almost 2 million) and Memphis metro area (1.3m) both of which largely went to Biden.

One reason people who thought Biden could win Texas were off course is they really underestimated the totality of Texans in small cities like Midland. If you added up all the rural farm types on Texas, you don’t get to anything close to a win in that state. But you start adding up basically EVERY mid sized city outside of the mega cities like Austin / Houston / Dallas / El Paso / San Antonio…well Texas is a big state, and has a lot of small cities, the numbers add up when you’re losing the counties that host those smaller cities by 50 points.

Buuut, interestingly in all these examples I’ve given, you see interesting demographic trends. Some counties like this, just like Ohio’s aren’t growing much at all, or are even losing populations. Some actually are growing–Midland County grew by almost 30% in the last decade, Knox county by around 9%. What’s interesting, and I picked these two counties because they are red ‘growth’ counties. Trump did not improve Republican margins in those counties. In fact he lost margin.

He won Midland County by a titanic 56 points in 2020. But Mitt Romney won it by 62 points 8 years prior. Trump won Knox County by 15 points, but Romney won it by 29 points in 2012. This paints to me, a story that population growth has an almost inverse geographical relationship with support for the Republican party. Whether it be in red, purple, or blue areas. The places stagnant or losing population, have increased GOP margins. The places with growth, have decreasing Republican margins. Note that Midland County is interesting as one of the “hearts” of the Texas oil industry, and no doubt a decent chunk of that 29% 10 year population growth that moved to the county are in the oil & gas industry. The fact Trump still lost margin there when compared to Mitt Romney (a losing Presidential candidate who did not enjoy incumbency, running against a much stronger Democrat than Joe Biden), to me says something. Specifically that the GOP’s current posturing is a growth model for the parts of the country that increasingly are ceasing to exist.

Liking the reassuring cut of that jib.
A bit east from there - will Fort Worth be next in joining the other large Texan urban centres in going blue? (I believe FW still has a Republican mayor.)

And now for the non-reassuring perspective!

No, seriously, the trends that @Martin_Hyde cites are encouraging. But I’ve been hearing the “demographics is destiny” argument from Texas Democrats for a looong time. And as much as it is true the increasing urbanization in Texas is going to favor Democrats, it would be folly to think that Texas Republicans are just going to sit back and not try to make inroads with demographic groups that have traditionally favored Democrats.

That’s why the big Republican gains in 2020 among Hispanics in South Texas and along the border should be pants-shittingly worrying for Democrats. This has been the only region that has remained stubbornly blue as the state had slid into the “strong Republican” column. If Republicans can turn the region red, it will substantially offset Democratic gains in the suburbs and mid-sized cities. In a perhaps worrying sign that 2020 wasn’t just a fluke, last week a Republican was elected mayor of McAllen, which is 85% Latino and sits right on the border.

Those regions are also rural, which has traditionally been heading Republican. I’ll trade rural Latinos for urban voters any day, there just aren’t that many rural people.

Sure, if the trade is rural Hispanics for urban voters, I’ll take that trade as well. But voters don’t fit into neat, mutually exclusive demographic boxes that we can tick off as “Republican” or “Democrat.” I wouldn’t call McAllen rural – it’s the heart of a Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSA) of 800k and the Lower Rio Grande Valley has about 1.4 million people. The Valley is 90% Hispanic and 60% age 35 or younger. The gains that Republicans are making in the region aren’t just among rural voters.

I’m not disagreeing with you on the trend line – it’s just that I’ve know too many Texas Democrats who take the demographic trends as some sort of inevitable, unchangeable fate that will put Texas in the D column. When exactly this is supposed to happen gets pushed back after each election.

So many Texas Democrats were convinced that 2020 was the year that the “rising tide” was going to crest and Ds were going to pick up a half dozen Congressional seats, knock off John Cornyn, take over the state House, etc. When exactly none of that came to pass, it was incredibly deflating. It ends up being somewhat like a doomsday cult – you can only have the dates you predict the world is going to end come and go so many times before your followers lose their faith.

I mean McAllen TX is very similar to Midland in terms of the whole urban vs rural debate, most people don’t really mean cities like that when they talk about urban areas, politically speaking. That was a big point of my post–there’s lots of smaller cities that are urban, but are “culturally rural”, the whole urban vs rural concept has never made sense in a political sense because 95% of people have no idea what those terms means. As the Census defines it, any Census Defined Place with more than 2,500 residents is actually considered urban. But someone from say, the Bay Area of San Francisco would not in a million years actually think of most places that meet that definition as being “urban.” That is why I said if the GOP was only winning “actual” rural areas, and losing urban areas, they’d literally be a super-minority party. While the 25-30% or so of the country that is “actually” rural, is a very strong pro-GOP bloc, it’s actually all of the “smaller” urban areas that continue to keep the GOP viable electorally. However the vast majority of those areas fit into a definition of being either growing and bluing, or shrinking and going red.

The Rio Grande valley is actually very specifically called out as an exception to a lot of trends in 2020, so it isn’t super surprising you find that it doesn’t fit the thesis–because it doesn’t. But I think there are a lot of good reasons it doesn’t. For one, I am one who mostly rejects the concept of the Hispanic or Latino voter. I think a ton of bad analysis is done on voting trends by mistakenly treating this ethnic group as remotely cohesive. There is almost no cohesion at all between the people who get lumped into this census category. There’s a broad variance in what n-generation immigrants those people are, what language(s) they speak (many don’t speak a word of Spanish), broad variance in religious tradition, broad variance in cultural/ethnic identification (i.e. 2nd generation Cubans are very dissimilar from 4th generation Tejanos or 1st generation Mexicans in California or 2nd generation Puerto Ricans in New York.) Also a huge % of them self-identify as WHITE which short circuits a lot of assumptions people make about this group as well.

So tying back to the Rio Grande valley, it actually in my opinion is very similar to the Ohio River valley in Ohio, specifically east of Cincinnati up to around Wheeling WV. This is “Appalachian” Ohio, and was a Democratic stronghold until quite recently. Former Governor Ted Strickland was an Appalachian Democrat from this region and this was his political base. These regions of the country are in the midst of a genuine shift from Democrats to Republicans. In Ohio this shift started pretty big about 10 years ago and was fairly complete by about 6 years ago. I posit that the Rio Grande Valley, being a little different, is on that same trajectory just a few years behind.

All of the cultural reasons that lead to Appalachian Ohio turning red are present in the Rio Grande Valley, and frankly it’s explained a lot more logically than by looking at ethnicity. The Rio Grande valley is traditionally working class, lower middle class income, socially conservative, more religious. In many ways Appalachia and the Rio Grande Valley were a little odd as blue areas even 25-30 years ago. However a lot of it was based on the old traditional alliance of working class people with the Democratic party, something that was particularly powerfully associated with union membership.

If you look at this “poverty map” by county, you can actually see similarities to the Rio Grande Valley and Appalachia (although the RG valley is actually even poorer than many areas of Appalachia, eastern Kentucky notwithstanding.) acs-5yr-poverty-rate-all-counties.jpg (2000×1512) (census.gov)

I do think the continuing shift of regions like that away from Democrats is part of why Texas Democrats didn’t meet their lofty expectations in 2020, but bigger than that was just record high turnout in all the counties in Texas that aren’t part of major metropolitan areas. But the vast majority of U.S. counties in that category, and Texas is no different, are not high growth counties. The Rio Grande Valley counties are a little different because they have a lot of growth from immigration and other things unique to being on the border. But in 20 years if all the Texas GOP has to pin a feather on is the Rio Grande valley they’ll be in deep trouble. The population of Texas is such you can’t totally lose all the suburbs + urban core of the big cities and remain viable–and the GOP didn’t in 2020, they were still fairly competitive in a lot of the suburbs, if the trend of the GOP losing ground there continues the math just doesn’t work for them, regardless of more rural places.

Changing demographics doesn’t inevitably mean destiny and big Democratic wins; it’s going to take hard work and good candidates for many years to come.

I would agree, and I did say (in my overly-long post):

None of this is destiny, but it’s not a good set of conditions for the future of the Republican party, and tying back specifically to North Carolina, it’s fairly easy to see, unless things change (and they could), North Carolina heading in a very similar direction to Virginia.

There’s a lot of factors at play in the changing nature of the electorate, and a lot of specific wrinkles that are really hard to predict or understand. In general I say the biggest weakness for the Republican party is it has let far too much of its rhetoric become dominated by white grievance. I think that limits how much it can extend appeal outside of whites without college degrees. However there’s no indication that it can never extend its appeal outside of that group. While minor, Trump did for example improve Republican standing with black males. Trump also did okay with Hispanics–although again, I get very suspicious when talking about Hispanics as a bloc, most prognostications based on such analyses are proven wrong. I.e. if you recall when Bush got 44% of the Hispanic vote in 2004 it was expected to be the emergence of a new part of the Republican coalition. However for 16 years after that they have never repeated that performance. Trump hit 32% which was actually the highest Republican share since 2004. But again, I think the main issue with “Latino” and “Hispanic” groupings is they are “pollster and demographer” groupings, they don’t reflect how people really see themselves in the real world, so making predictions based on them is sketchy at best.

I think the specific weakness the Democrats have going forward is appealing to the working class. This is a problem with the left globally. The bedrock of leftism has its roots in the working class, and this was true throughout the Western world. However in many countries now the left is primarily dominated by the elites–specifically educated elites (not necessarily the financial elites, although the new left is much wealthier as a rule than the 1960s/1970s/1980s left.) You can see this happening in the Democrat party as it sheds working class support but gains college educated support. On one hand, the college educated are higher propensity, more reliable voters. On the other hand, if a lot of the working class is against you and get activated in a high turnout election, that’s trouble.

But the Dems haven’t lost the working class yet. Biden won 55% of the vote share for people earning less than $50,000/yr. Biden won 56% of those with incomes less than $100,000/yr, and Trump won 54% of those earning more than $100,000/yr. However if you compare to prior cycles, this represents a reduction in Democrat share of lower income bands and a reduction in Republican share in upper income bands. If I was running the DNC I’d be doing a lot of soul searching to try and find an answer as to why the Plutocrat and Crony Capitalism party is doing better and better with working class voters.