Five Takeaways from the 2018 Election*

1) House Majority matters: OK, this one is obvious. The House will make life “interesting” for the POTUS over the next two years. However, unless Mueller provides a smoking gun, Democrats would be wise to not approach impeachment with any haste. Frankly, it’s a better campaign issue for 2020 and I believe that will be their strategy. If so, they’ll use the findings in the Mueller report to disrupt the President’s agenda over the next two years while appearing to be cautious and deliberate. The goal would be to create a slow buzz that won’t render him unable to win the Republican primary while leaving him wounded in the eyes of Democrats and Independent voters in the fall of 2020. So, if you’re tired of this issue, divided government isn’t going to be your friend. AND this doesn’t mean there won’t be a lot of talk about impeachment and likely even drafting of Articles of Impeachment. Just don’t expect the House to actually complete the process, at least not before late summer/early fall of 2020.

2) Florida Ballot Initiative: Florida approved a ballot measure that restores the voting rights of more than 1 million felons and the measure passed overwhelmingly with >64% of votes cast in favor. Of course, many of these individuals will never vote and some that do will not vote for the Democrat candidate. However, let’s assume that 50% vote and 70% of those who do, vote Democrat. Because Florida’s voting population is so evenly divided, this one change would give Democrats a net increase of 200,000 votes in a statewide election. For perspective, in 2016, that would have meant the loss of Florida for President Trump and this year, the governorship and Senate seat Republicans just won.

3) State Governorships and Legislatures: Democrat gubernatorial pickups in three battleground states – Michigan, Nevada, and Wisconsin – bode well for them as the table is set for the 2020 Presidential race as well as the all-important redistricting process in 2020-21. For Republicans, governorship holds in Florida and Ohio provide a bit of balance in those key states. Democrats also saw improvements in state legislature elections, though gains were not nearly as large as they’d hoped for coming into the 2018 election cycle.

4) The future: Voters under age 40 break significantly for Democrats while the older a voter is, the more likely s/he is to vote Republican. Not a long-term favorable strategy for Republicans.

5) Health care: This was the #1 issue for voters and it’s clear that Republicans played this issue poorly with their single-minded focus on “Repeal and Replace.” Full repeal is supported by only 1 in 4 voters. In fact, more than 1 in 3 voters want to see the law expanded. Republicans would have been far better off focusing on repealing specific, unpopular parts of the law and replacing those parts with what they viewed as improvements. NOTE: In large measure, this is what the President did via Executive power after the Congress failed repeatedly to fully repeal the law.  This conclusion follows the assumption on my part that such a strategy, while not liked by the repeal crowd would have been viewed as at least a partial victory. In fact, a majority (52%) of voters want either full OR partial repeal of the Affordable Care Act (aka “ACA” or “ObamaCare”). Unfortunately, what happened over the last few years is that Republicans have been branded as unable to achieve a marque goal (repeal) while getting very little credit for the changes that have been made, even from those groups that should be applauding. Going forward, Democrats would be wise to learn a critical lesson on health care politics both from their losses in the 2010 midterm elections and this data from the 2018 election. Instead, they would be wise to focus on surgical repairs and improvements and not on obstructing legitimate efforts to enact popular proposals to improve the ACA. Further proof can be found in the states with ballot initiatives that approved their state’s adoption of the ACA’s Medicaid expansion as well as the election of Democrat governors in states (KS) where the current governor was standing in the way. Of course, we now have divided government, so passing anything at all will be a challenge.

* Much of this report is derived from an analysis of publicly-available research from a host of pollsters and political researchers. For more information, here are a few suggested web pages accessed on Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018.