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Turnout in California and Democratic Pickup in Missouri Special Election Continue the Trend: The “Coalition of the Decent” is Winning and the GOP’s Anti-Immigrant Scapegoating is Not

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Yesterday’s electoral results confirmed two trends in evidence since Trump’s election in 2016:

  • Energy and enthusiasm remains high for voters who make up the “Coalition of the Decent” and are intent on electing Democrats and checking Trump.
  • Republican attempts to use anti-immigrant fear mongering fails again, this time in a  special election for a Missouri state senate seat that flipped to the Democrats.

California turns even bluer

Despite pre-election predictions of Democrats being locked out of California House contests, it appears that Democratic candidates were successful in navigating the state’s “jungle primary” and secured spots on the November ballot. An analysis by the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative found that Democratic performance in California increased markedly from the 2014 primary, indicating that intensity and enthusiasm is strong for Democrats and against Trump.  

UCLA Political Science professor Matt Barreto and his colleagues find:

Preliminary analysis of June 5, 2018 ballots cast for California Governor  [early votes] suggest substantial increase in party preference from June 3, 2014  cast for California Governor [all ballots]. Two major changes occurred…: 1) Most Large California counties experienced increases in the number of Democratic ballots cast, including double-digit increases; and 2) Three major California counties saw a change from Republican majority to Democrat majority in ballots cast for Governor between June 2014 and 2018.

Double-digit increases:

  • Merced County (+12% in Democrat Ballots)
  • Orange County (+10% in Democrat Ballots)

Shift from Republican majority to Democrat majority:

  • Merced County (41% in ‘14 to 53% in ‘18)
  • San Diego County (47% in ‘14 to 55% in ‘18)
  • Ventura County (46% in ‘14 to 55% in ‘18)

24 percentage point swing in Missouri special election despite anti-immigrant scapegoating

Meanwhile, in a Missouri special election, Democrats picked up an open Missouri State Senate. Just a year and a half ago, Trump won the district by 5 points. Yesterday, Democrat Lauren Arthur won by 19 points. In a strategy central to the GOP approach to 2018 midterms, the Republican Kevin Corlew and his backers ran ugly anti-immigrant ads against his Democratic opponent.

As the Kansas City Star reported:

Robin Martinez, a 54-year-old attorney from the Village of Oaks, said that the attack ads against Arthur, including ones that linked illegal immigration to violence, turned him off Corlew’s candidacy. “It was unseemly and uncalled for,” he said about radio ads and mailers attacking Arthur.

“I’m really proud of the people of the district,” Arthur said Tuesday. “I think they looked into their better angels and they rejected the attacks, which I think were racist and misogynistic.”


To date, the GOP has attempted to use this ugly politics of fear around immigration to distract and divide the electorate in off-year and special elections in Virginia, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Arizona and Florida. In almost all of the general election contests, it either has not worked, or it has backfired.

Read our recent political memo for more, including analysis on our 2017 election eve poll of Virginia voters.

We should expect more ugly Republican campaigning throughout this election cycle. As we recently noted, House Republican candidates are using anti-immigrant ads and messages in unprecedented fashion. According to a USA Today analysis by Alan Gomez, House Republican candidates are spending more money attacking Democrats on immigration than on any other issue.  

Of course, the GOP politics of fear is coming from the top. President Trump stated at his recent Tennessee rally that it’s the heart of the GOP midterm strategy. This is from the Washington Post coverage of the event:

Though Trump has repeatedly talked about immigration in recent events — for instance, at roundtables in Washington and on Long Island — he explicitly framed the issue in political terms Tuesday night, calling it a boon for Republicans in November.

“The Democrats want to use it as a campaign issue, and I keep saying I hope they do,” Trump said. Accusing Democrats of wanting “open borders,” Trump added: “That’s a good issue for us, not for them.”

He focused on the Central American and U.S. gang MS-13 and what he claimed is Democratic inaction to confront it, asking the crowd at one point to repeat his characterization of the gang as “animals.”

This echoes what White House aide Stephen Miller told Breitbart:

“The big fight this summer is going to be with the open borders Democratic caucus in Congress,” Miller tells Breitbart News.

“That is the fundamental political contrast and political debate that is unfolding right now. The Democratic party is at grave risk of completely marginalizing itself from the American voters by continuing to lean into its absolutist anti-enforcement positions.”

Matt Hildreth, Political Director of America’s Voice said:

The Republican midterm playbook is ugly and divisive. And, to date, it’s been ineffective. Trump and his party seem to think that when all else fails, blaming immigrants, dividing Americans and ‘othering’ everyone who is not a Trump supporter will somehow rescue them. Well, it hasn’t worked in off-year and special elections in Virginia, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Florida, and now Missouri. While a number of factors were at play in the Missouri state Senate race, the fact is that, once again, the Republicans relied on immigrant-bashing down the stretch – and it failed miserably. It seems that voters across America – even in red states and districts– want to send the message that, as Americans, we are better than this.