Operatives of the Democratic party have noted a surge of voter turnout in primary elections this month, piquing their confidence that it may deliver to them the Congress and several important governorships in November. Despite their confidence, a veteran political observer and publisher in Michigan told Spero News that Democrats’ calculations may be inflated. But some Democrats foresee a blue wave this November. Bolstering Democrats' bullish predictions, the Pew Research organization found in a poll released this week that eligible voters favor Democrats in Congressional races by 7 points. A Reuters/Ipsos poll shows Democrats leading by 9 points.
In Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, voters broke records for primary turnouts. Democrats came out in bigger numbers than Republicans in numerous primary fights. In was in those states that President Trump led Republicans to a win in 2016. Democrats assert that such a big turnout shows that voters are interested in the races, and thus bodes well for Democrats.
In Michigan, for example, Republican turnout increased from about 618,000 in 2014 to 985,000 this month, thus representing an increase of 60 percent. However, Democrats showed a jump of about 120 percent, going from 513,000 in 2014 to more than 1.1 million. In Wisconsin, Democrats were slightly less enthusiastic: both Republican and Democrat parties saw their turnout increase by more than 200,000. However, Minnesota saw a clear sign of interest on the part of Democrats: Democrat turnout rose to almost 583,000, up from just 191,000 in 2014. In the case of Republicans, turnout rose from 184,000 to 320,000.
According to the Washington Times, pollster Steve Mitchell said that turnouts in primary races depend on internal party competition and the number of candidates running for nominations in desired seats. Mitchell, who is based in Detroit, admitted that Democrats will go to the polls in great numbers in November, but warned against concluding that they have the general election in the bag. The big question, he said, is whether or not Republicans will likewise come out in numbers.
In an interview with Spero News, publisher and political analyst Jake Davison of Inside Michigan Politics cautioned that midterm elections traditionally see gains for the party that is not controlling the White House. Asked whether Republicans should be worried about losing control of the House of Representatives, Davison said that they shouldn’t worried except for “the normal reasons.” During a president’s first two years in office, Davison said, the general election may mean a “bad year” for that president and his party. The only exception, he said, was in 2002 and during President George W. Bush’s first term and in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. The only time that a sitting president did especially well in a first mid-term election was in 1934 when President Franklin D. Roosevelt was in office. Republicans “overplayed their hand” in 1998, Davison said, regarding President Bill Clinton’s relationship with intern Monica Lewinsky and lost undecided voters as a result.
While November may see some gains for Democrats, Davison told Spero News, “Things may not be that great for Republicans, but they’re not any worse than normally.” Bill Clinton 1994, Ronald Reagan in 1982, George H. W. Bush in 1990, and Barack Obama in 2010, Davison said, shows that while they were not “good” years for sitting presidents, “it’s not that bad.”
Republicans who voted for Donald Trump, Davison said, know that the president is not a “wacko.” He recalled that Michigan favored Trump in the 2016, albeit by a narrow margin, “but that was before he was president.” Davison said, “Now he is president, and the economy is as good as it has ever been in history. There is no blue wave here.”
Michigan's bellwether 11th Congressional District
As for the competitive 11th Congressional District in Michigan. Davison said he is confident Republicans will be victorious in November. Rep. David Trott (R) is the incumbent; he is not running for re-election, even while he was re-elected in 2016 by 13 points. The August 7 primary resulted in a race to November by Republican Lena Epstein and Democrat Haley Stevens. The 11th district went for Barack Obama (D) in 2008, Mitt Romney (R) in 2012, and Donald Trump (R) in 2016. Now considered a bellwether for the nation, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has the district in its sights for 2018. Considerable resources can be expected to pour in the suburban Detroit district because it is home to GOP chair Ronna Romney McDaniel, the sister of Mitt Romney.
In another signal of Michigan’s mood, the August 7 primary saw significant losses for left-wing Democrats in Michigan and Kansas. Despite efforts by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Democratic Socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Muslim Democrat Abdul El-Sayed was bested by in a gubernatorial bid in Michigan by former state Senate Democratic leader Gretchen Whitmer. The boost from Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez only nudged El-Sayed to second place, with 30 percent of the vote. A late robocall broadcasted by Hillary Clinton endorsing Haley Stevens in the 11th District helped Steven rise from second place to the winner’s circle and defeat Muslim Democrat Fayrouz Saad, who was backed by Ocasio-Cortez. Two other House primaries in Michigan saw victories for candidates backed by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee instead of those who supported Sanders’ Medicare for All proposal.
In Kansas, the defeat of progressive Brent Welder was also politically significant. Welder worked for Sanders’ 2016 campaign and had hoped to represent the Republican-controlled 3rd Congressional District in Kansas. Clinton won the district in 2016. Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez gave their full support to Welder in the face of the national party’s more moderate candidate, Sharice Davids, a lesbian Native-American.