The reasons offered for Democratic losses last week are numerous; low turnout, voter stupidity, economic concerns, the improved GOP ground game, the list goes on. But one facet that I have only seen touched on by a few analysts is the most straightforward. The GOP did better with the groups it neede too. Particularly women and minorities.
Most Democrats have settled on the rather simplistic and partisan answer that low turnout fueled by voter ID laws resulted in low turnout. Now, while it is true national turnout was lower than any election since 1942, turnout in crucial Senate and Governor’s races exceeded 2010. Democrats didn’t exactly present new ideas either.
Let’s look at one example, the Colorado Senate race. The state has tabulated almost 2.1 million votes so far, over 300,000 more votes than 2010 and approaching the 2.57 million votes cast in 2012. Want another example? Take the Maryland Governor’s race. Democratic Lt. Governor Anthony Brown lost to Republican Larry Hogan by over 5%, or slightly less than 77,000 votes. According to the Washington Post, “In Maryland, Brown simply got beaten. This wasn’t turnout; we don’t need any complex divinations to determine what happened. Maryland voters preferred Republican Larry Hogan, and voted him into office….If you increased turnout three percent only in counties that Brown won, he’d still lose by almost 67,000 votes. If you increased turnout by three percent only for Brown in counties that he won, he loses by almost 62,000 votes. If you increase turnout by three percent only for Brown and in every county … he still loses by over 52,000 votes.”
Exit polls and county level voting data also point to GOP success. In Georgia’s Governor race, Nathan Deal received 47% of the Hispanic vote. In Texas, Abbott received 44%. Nationally, the congressional exit poll says the GOP came within a point of winning the Asian vote. Still, there are dissenters on the validity of the exit polls in terms of how the polling is conducted among Hispanics and Asians (predominately language and geographic bias).
This is where county level data comes in. In Texas, Greg Abbott ran stronger in the heavily Hispanic Rio Grande valley than Rick Perry did in 2010. He did not win any new counties but his vote totals were better. Likewise, Abbott won Harris and Bexar counties while Perry lost both. Colorado’s Senate results are also instructive. Republican Corey Gardner ran stronger than Mitt Romney and 2010 Senate nominee Ken Buck in traditionally heavy Hispanic counties.
The GOP did not just improve its performance among minorities however. It did much better among younger voters. The national exit poll shows only a minor difference in the voting habits of the young from 2010 to 2014. However, Democrats did not get near the 60% vote among 18-29 year olds they received in 2012.
In key races, the GOP performed strongly among the young. In Colorado, no exit polls are available for 18-29 year old voters but among 30-44 year olds he won 52%-42%. In Iowa, Joni Ernst only lost the youngest voting cohort 51%-44% and crushed Braley among all other age groups.
Perhaps the least noted GOP struggle with voters has been the income divide. Democrats continuously carry low-income voters (predominately minorities and the young) while losing the middle class and the wealthy. Barack Obama crushed Romney among those making less than $50,000 in 2012. But this cycle the tables turned. Ernst only lost by 12% among those making less than $30,000 and she won all other income groups. Udall crushed Gardner among the less than $30,000 crowd but lost by a stunning 9% those in between $30,000 and $50,000 as well as all other income groups. In other states this dynamic was also apparent.
None of this is to say the GOP has fixed its issues with low-income and minority voters. Further, some polls showed a more conservative, younger electorate was likely to show up at the polls perhaps tainting the result. Regardless, the GOP has more to crow about from this election based on demographics than they did in 2010. More importantly, it gives the GOP an idea how to appeal to a younger and more diverse electorate heading into what is sure to be a barn burning 2016 Presidential election.
Oh. And I almost forgot. Working class voters nationwide really, really didn’t like Democrats.