The question left from the 2016 election was how much the results are explained by the policies of the Democratic party and how much could be attributed to the awful candidacy of Hillary Clinton.  In an evenly divided country small considerations can impact the outcome.

Many of those right of center held their nose to vote for Trump in 2016 because they thought the unknown and the inexperienced even housed in a boorish container was a better alternative.  Hillary alienated many of the soft-core Democrats just by her record and flexible ethics, and deeply alienated many Bernie Sanders supporters who felt they were robbed.  Selena Zito wrote in The Great Revolt about the counties in the Midwest who that shifted from double digit support for Barak Obama TWICE to double digit support for Trump. She wrote of the alienation they felt from the elites; Trump was not favored as a Republican but as an anti-elite.

But they may have been propelled simply by a broad dislike and distrust of Hillary.  If they did not vote for Trump they stayed home or voted for the other offices. The number of Michigan voters who voted for the down ticket offices and left the Presidential slot blank was higher than normal.

Hillary also suffered from a strong shift of Democratic voters from rural to urban populations. Bill Clinton won half of the counties in America twice; 1519 counties in 1992 and 1526 in 1996.  The Democrats have yet to win over 1,000 counties since.    Obama won his first term in 2008 with 875 counties and in 2012 with only 693 (out of a 3113 total counties), the fewest number of counties to ever elect a U.S. President.  He retained the urban areas with enough electoral votes to win, but the party was becoming increasingly vulnerable.  The Democrats could not afford to lose any constituency.  States were increasingly red, allowing the Republicans to build a big back bench.

In hindsight the Democrats were foolish to ignore this trend even in light of their victories in 2008 and 2012.  Even though this midterm blue wave was weak it was real, and the underlying numbers should not be ignored.

Obama clearly benefited from the financial crisis in 2008, but he proved able to hold the office in 2012 against Mitt Romney who was a very credible candidate. The Democrats lost the House in 2010.  The GOP should have taken the Senate in 2012 but ran some weak candidates with no credentials other than the Tea Party, but they did take the Senate in 2014, picking up nine seats.

Campaigns are impacted by big events immediately before the election.  Without such events in 2016 it was a battle between two personalities, both generating visceral reactions from their opposition and frustration from the independents.  While the left hollered excuses and accusations of Russian meddling, Comey’s interference, gerrymandering, voter fraud and the unfairness of our Constitutional system the larger question was why was it even close?

Hillary was vastly experienced, well connected, and had the majority of big media solidly behind her. She outspent Trump substantially and still lost.  Trump had never held any elective office, had a checkered history, well publicized character flaws, refused to release his tax returns, and had a weak grasp of the facts related to the job.

Why was it even close?

I asked this same question after the midterms as Stacey Abrams came within a few points of Brian Kemp for governor of Georgia, a state Trump carried easily in 2016.  Republican Karen Handel was defeated by her Democratic opponent in New Gingrich’s district. Let that sink in.  Kemp won the nomination with a low IQ campaign, posing with a shotgun, a chainsaw and a pickup truck to haul illegal aliens back to the border. I live in Georgia and illegals rarely come up as a serious problem.  But it polls well.

The race was also close between Beto O’Rourke and Ted Cruz in Texas, and between Ron DeSantis and Andrew Gillum for governor of Florida.  Ben Nelson and Rick Scott are still counting votes and retaining lawyers over the fraud and incompetence in Florida.  Beto, Stacey and Andrew are not centrist Democrats. They propose hard progressive policies; Gillum is a Bernie Sanders Democratic Socialist.

So, why was it even close?

Hillary wasn’t on the ticket.  She was a terrible candidate and her campaign was terribly run.

Trump’s performance in office was much better than expected. The disasters predicted by the Democrats did not happen, and the Republicans who rolled the dice saw a far more conservative president than they had reason to expect. Solid growth policies were put in place, he fulfilled promises on foreign policies and court appointments, and the economy is humming nicely.

His combative tone is welcomed by his supporters and hated by the opposition.  He is solidifying his base and turning his reluctant supporters into committed supporters, but Trump is less effective at getting new supporters.

The Kavanaugh hearing hurt him among the suburban housewives, and that proved to be a big voting bloc.  The Democrats’ sinister manipulations of the hearing and the mob reactions certainly energized the Trump base, but that did not expand his base as much as it energized his opposition.  Would the Republicans have done better if the Kavanaugh hearing had never occurred?

Henry Olsen notes in the Washington Post :

The party’s devastation in traditional, high-income suburban bastions is unmistakable. Nearly every House seat it lost was in these areas. Districts in suburban Atlanta, Houston and Dallas that voted for Mitt Romney in 2012 by between 15 and 24 points went Democratic. Districts that Republicans had held for decades outside Chicago, Los Angeles and Philadelphia fell. The blue tide even swept away a GOP seat in Oklahoma City. This trend was more than a coastal fad.

I speculate how much the tragic shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue affected the election. While few would blame Trump, we did pause in the wake of the most blatant and violent anti-Semitic act in America to consider our tone.  I think the tone from the left is worse, but this would have energized turnout more from the left. Those who even minimally fault Trump were never supporters anyway, but could it have impacted the independents?

Trump’s combative tone energizes his base and his opposition. With independents now the largest voting bloc, the question is how it affects them. The results should tell the Republicans they are vulnerable even if the blue wave proved weak.  Any number of critical events could derail their majority, particularly if close to the next election.

Weak Trump supporting Republicans like Karen Handel did worse than strong Trump supporting Republicans like Ron DeSantis.  Moderate Democrats did better than the strong progressive wing, but that strong progressive wing did remarkably well in Texas and Georgia and Florida, even if they lost.  The Republicans would be wise to consider why such elections in solid red states were so close.

for more insight :

Shooting the Stragglers  by Jonah Goldberg

Many — most? — of the people who think Trump Is Great are not primarily driven by public policy. The folks who watched that press conference and said, “This is awesome!” or shouted, “What a statesman!” do not think Trump is great because of policy X or Y. They think policy X or Y is great because Donald Trump says so.

The opposite is true as well. The voters who are horrified by Trump’s style, rhetoric, or personality are not going to be won over with policy. The college-educated suburban women who fled the GOP because of Trump aren’t going to be won back with child-tax credits, at least not as long as Trump is around.

The Blue Wave Breaks Gently  by Allen Guelzo the WSJ:

Women in the Whole Foods suburbs were unimpressed by Mr. Trump’s good economic news because they had never experienced the brunt of the Great Recession: Their mortgages had never been underwater, and their men were not killing themselves with opioids. They saw nothing in Mr. Trump and Republicans but misogyny and indifference to health care.

The third factor was money. Democrats overwhelmed Republican spending on House races, $292 million to $247 million, between September and November. Lauren Underwood’s campaign outspent Mr. Hultgren 2 to 1. In California’s 48th District, a 15-term Republican incumbent, Dana Rohrabacher, disappeared under a blizzard of Democratic money—$11.3 million to his $4.14 million.

This demonstrated an admirable investment savvy on the part of the Democratic leadership—but it also underscored how far Democrats had drifted into a kind of political schizophrenia, becoming simultaneously the party of big dollars and of democratic socialism, of Tom Steyer and Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.