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Just before the midterm elections, Politico ran a story titled, “’Trump has hijacked the election’: House Republicans in panic mode. A variety of GOP strategists went off the record to share that they were “profoundly worried that Trump’s obsession with all things immigration will exacerbate their losses … they now fear Trump went overboard — and that it could cost them dearly in key suburban districts, from Illinois to Texas. As one senior House GOP campaign source said, “His honing in on this message is going to cost us seats.””
The 2018 results show – upwards of 40 flipped House seats – that these concerns were justified.
“In the final weeks of the campaign, Mr. Trump led the Republican Party in pumping out dark narratives about the dangers of illegal immigrants. Voter surveys and political analysts say the invective appeared to help Republicans hold the Senate. But it also backfired in places like Colorado and Kansas, where some moderate and highly educated conservatives felt alienated and broke to the left “
An immigrant who voted against Mike Coffman, who lost a suburban Denver seat, said, “Republicans don’t like us. They like people who look like them.”
In Arizona, Trump’s nativist closing argument and caravan focus may have hurt Republicans such as Martha McSally.
A Washington Post story by Dan Balz and Michael Scherer quotes Chuck Coughlin, a Republican strategist and former adviser to Jan Brewer, who noted: “One thing is for certain, that the caravan rhetoric doesn’t resonate in this state as well as it resonates in the Midwest … We have done a lot of research, and we have consistently shown that border security is a big issue, but the immigration reform side of that question is integral to the future of the state.”
The piece then notes, “Republicans in the state, however, have been hemmed in by Trump’s support among Republican primary voters, which forced Rep. Martha McSally, the Republican nominee for Senate, to tack to the right, particularly on immigration. ‘She didn’t ever modulate,’ said Coughlin. ‘She didn’t create any separation.’”
In California, the diverse New American electorate coalition of voters continues to transform the state, defeating immigration hardliner and Trump acolyte Rep. Dana Rohrabacher and making big inroads into the traditional GOP stronghold of Orange County.
LA Times political writer Michael Finnegan tweeted, “Rohrabacher doubled down on Trump & his hard line on immigration. Didn’t work; he lost. Historic gain for Democrats in Orange County.”
LA Times Washington Bureau Chief David Lauter assessed, “California was the state of Ronald Reagan & Richard Nixon. This year, the GOP may be left w just 8 seats of 53. It’s stunning even for those who have watched. Ds weren’t geniuses; Rs did it to themselves … And worth noting that if Trump heads the ticket in 2020, Rs could even lose a couple more seats in CA.”
In Colorado, President Trump and his approach divides the Republican Party, alienates independents, and contributed to a statewide 2018 sweep among Colorado Democrats.
According to the Denver Post, Colorado Republican Senator Cory Gardner’s 2020 re-election prospects “are grim unless the party can develop a new message that appeals to both the Trump loyalists and the independent voters who dislike the president.”
The piece quotes from state Republicans who reflect on 2018 and highlight that Trump and his nativism is popular among the GOP base in Colorado, but alienates the rest of the electorate: “Front Range Republican strategists know Colorado’s swing voters are more receptive to Republican messages about the economy and judges than Trump tweets about a caravan of immigrants hundreds of miles from the U.S.-Mexico border.”
Nevada’s leading political journalist, Jon Ralston, highlights how embracing xenophobia hurt GOP candidates in the state in 2018.
In a “What I learned from the election” analysis for the Nevada Independent, Ralston declares Nevada a blue state and includes as one of his top assessments from this cycle: “The dog-whistlers lose. The GOP triumvirate of Heller, Laxalt and lieutenant governor hopeful Michael Roberson used phony issues, especially sanctuary cities, to try to drive up the white vote in rural Nevada to win their races. It failed spectacularly. Sure, they all won by landslides in the 15 counties between Las Vegas and Reno. But they clearly alienated urban voters and helped rev up the minority vote. Heckuva job, guys. Their toxic brand of politics, so analogous to Trump’s, was repudiated by voters and all three should be consigned to the trash heap of Nevada political history.”
In Texas, Latino voter engagement in 2018 offers hope for statewide competitiveness in 2020 and beyond.
The Dallas News examines Latino turnout in the state in 2018, noting: “The blue wave lapped at the shores of Texas this year — and it was powered by Latino voters. Though Republicans held on against the current in statewide races, Latinos helped send El Paso’s Veronica Escobar and Houston’s Sylvia Garcia of Houston to Washington, D.C. They’ll be the state’s first two Latinas to represent the state in Congress … That has Latino voter mobilization groups and political experts confident that enthusiasm around the 2018 race, paired with natural population growth, is likely to make Texas a truly competitive state by 2020.
Bernard Fraga, an assistant political science professor at Indiana University, said the Texas population is already that of a purple state and the only reason it isn’t a swing state is that many residents don’t vote. But he said that may have changed this year thanks to Latinos. … “What we’re seeing is that it can be done as long as Democrats employ a strategy for reaching Latinos who aren’t registered and don’t usually vote,” Fraga said. “I don’t think it’s guaranteed, but a continued, all-hands-on-deck effort to reach young, Latino voters could make Texas fully competitive.”
In Virginia, an op-ed from leading political observers highlights how the sweeping losses of Corey Stewart, Barbara Comstock and other GOP hardliners in 2018 should cause the state GOP to promote on candidates that can appeal to today’s Virginia:
A joint op-ed in the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star titled, “A Changing Virginia – and An Unchanging Republican Party,” professors Stephen Farnsworth and Stephen Hanna from the University of Mary Washington political scientists argue, “There’s an old saying that there is not much one can learn from the second kick of a mule. In Virginia’s 2018 Senate race, the commonwealth’s voters provided the Republican Party of Virginia with its ninth mule kick in a row … To put it simply, the party cannot do well statewide by acting as if the Virginia electorate of 2018 is the Virginia electorate of a quarter century ago, when voters elected the partisan warrior George Allen governor … Will the highly partisan Republican primary voters get the message that the party needs to retool? Or would they prefer another mule kick?”
According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice, “Trump and the GOP deliberately used racism and xenophobia to try to hang onto power. Whatever turnout effects this despicable strategy produced, it also produced a backlash that helped sweep suburban Republicans out of the House majority and out of winnable Senate seats. Trump and the GOP may think this is the way forward. But with a solid majority of America rejecting the politics of demagoguery, division and dehumanization, they should reconsider.”