It’s great that the Republicans picked up Senate seats in North Dakota, Missouri, and Indiana. However, these states won’t decide the 2020 presidential election. Judging by 2016, the most important states in two years will be Florida, Iowa, Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.
What did we learn about these states from Tuesday’s election?
In Florida, the Republican candidates for governor and senator appear to have prevailed, though the Democrats are still fighting. However, the margins were extremely narrow. Thus, there was no Trump-inspired blue wave in Florida, but the state very probably will be hotly contested in two years.
In Iowa, the Republican candidate for governor, Kim Reynolds, defeated her opponent by 3 percentage points. As in Florida, the Republicans hold both Senate seats and the governor’s job. There was no Trump-inspired blue wave in Iowa. The state probably will be hotly contested in two years, but seems to lean Republican.
In Wisconsin, the Democrats finally claimed Scott Walker’s scalp. However, the margin was only 1 point. On the Senate side, the Democratic incumbent, Tammy Baldwin, was reelected. She defeated a relatively weak opponent by 11 points.
Given the tightness of the governor’s race, I don’t think there was a Trump-inspired blue wave in Wisconsin. It may be that the state leans slightly Democratic, but it’s not difficult to imagine President Trump outperforming Scott Walker by more than 1 point, especially against a left-wing Democratic nominee.
In Ohio, left-liberal incumbent Sherrod Brown defeated Rep. Jim Renacci by 6.5 points. The race probably would have been considerably closer if Josh Mandel, the GOP’s preferred candidate, hadn’t dropped out of the race due to his wife’s health problems.
Meanwhile, Mike DeWine defeated Obama/Elizabeth Warren favorite Richard Cordray by 4 points in the gubernatorial race. I think that race is more indicative than the Senate contest of where Ohio is. In any case, there was no Trump-inspired blue wave in Ohio this year.
In Michigan, incumbent Democrat Sen. Debbie Stabenow defeated John James by around 6.5 points. James, an African-American, was an attractive candidate in some ways, but also a political novice.
In the governor’s race, which I didn’t follow at all, the Democrat won by almost 10 points.
In 2014, a good Republican year, the Democratic candidate for the Senate in Michigan won by 13 points. Thus, I wouldn’t describe what happened this year in Michigan as a Trump-inspired blue wave. Republicans are in better shape in Michigan now than they were pre-Trump, in my view.
It’s still a blue state to be sure. But substitute Trump for James and, say, Elizabeth Warren or Kamela Harris for Stabenow, and it’s anyone’s guess who would win in Michigan. I’d probably bet on Trump.
In Pennsylvania, the Democrats won the Senate and gubernatorial races by big margins. The Democratic governor increased his margin from 2014, albeit as the incumbent rather than the challenger to an incumbent. Sen. Bob Casey also his increased his margin of victory. In addition, the Democrats picked up three House seats.
Thus, there is evidence of a Trump-inspired blue wave in Pennsylvania. Still, we can only conjecture about how Trump himself would have fared had he been on the ballot.
Overall, compared to 2016, Trump’s position seems neither significantly to have eroded nor significantly to have improved in the states that are likely to decide the 2020 election. Trump better hope the economy stays strong. Democrats better hope they nominate a non-hard left candidate who is more attractive than Hillary Clinton.