What the 2018 Elections Tell Us About Campaign 2020 -- Sunday Political Brunch June 9, 2019


FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Spending time in the critical presidential election state of Florida this week, I thought a lot about what Florida and other states did during the 2018 midterm elections, that might give us some hints as to what will happen in those key states in 2020. Let’s “brunch” on that this week:

“A Florida Frost?” – President Trump won Florida 2016 with 49 percent of the vote, to 47.8 percent for Hillary Clinton. The raw vote margin was a tight 130,000 votes. It’s a state the Democrats could win back (with 29 Electoral College votes), but right now the trend seems to be red. Republicans won a close race for governor here, and took the U.S. Senate seat long held by former Sen. Bill Nelson (D) Florida. Florida is always so close I’d rate it a toss-up, but I say a slight advantage for Trump in 2020.

“Penn Station Stall” – Right now I would rate Pennsylvania as the best and biggest chance for a Democrat pick up in the 2020 presidential election. Donald Trump won the Keystone State in 2016 with 48.2 percent of the vote to 47.5 percent for Hillary Clinton. The raw margin of victory was just 44,000 votes. Fast forward to 2018 and Sen. Bon Casey (D) Pennsylvania and Gov. Tom Wolf (D) Pennsylvania were easily reelected. The big story was in the U.S. House where Democrats flipped four House seats held by Republicans, while Republicans took out one incumbent Democrat. So, the net gain was three U.S. House seats for Democrats, who are now in the majority. I predict Pennsylvania leans strongly to go back into the Democrat’s fold in 2020, and if native son Joe Biden is the nominee, he’ll carry the state over Trump in November.

“Ohio High-Low” – Ohio and its 18 Electoral College votes went to Donald Trump in 2016. It’s a state that is the best predictor of all fifty states. Win Ohio and you’re president. The 2018 election produced mixed results. Call it the status quo election. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) Ohio easily won reelection. On the other hand, Attorney General Mike DeWine (R) Ohio was elected governor, replacing term-limited Gov. John Kasich (R) Ohio. Democrats and Republicans both kept their incumbent seats in the U.S. House and so that balance stays the same. I rate Ohio as clear advantage for Republicans in 2020.

“Badgering Voters” – Donald Trump really shocked the political world by winning Wisconsin and its 10 Electoral College votes in 2016. But in truth, Hillary Clinton lost the Badger State by simply failing to campaign here in person after winning the Democratic primary in April 2016. The much-heralded Foxconn deal here has yet to hit pay dirt and that may hurt Trump, but the promise of lots of new jobs beyond 2020 may help him. Also, in 2018, Incumbent Gov. Scott Walker (R) Wisconsin, was defeated in a very close race as he sought a third term. But none of Wisconsin’s U.S. House district flipped, so I say Wisconsin leans to Trump in 2020.

“Carolina (North) on My Mind” – North Carolina has become a key toss-up state in past few presidential election cycles, after being a solid red state for decades. But 2018 offered some mixed results. Democrats won the governor’s race beating a Republican incumbent. On the other hand, Democrats and Republicans each held their incumbent U.S. House seats, with one exception. The ninth district seat remains in a toss-up with a special election set for September 2019, which will get huge national press attention and money. Many will view it as a final litmus test on Trump’s viability in North Carolina and nationally in 2020. Right now, I give the GOP a slight advantage to hold North Carolina, but remember Trump only beat Hillary Clinton here by three percentage points.

“Virginia is NOT for All Lovers!” –The sea of “red” hearts in Virginia has indeed turned “blue.” Between 1952 and 2004, this was a reliably Republican state. But like so many of the Southern States, people began moving in from elsewhere and things changed. Democratic presidential candidates won handily here in 2008, 2012 and 2016. Virginia has elected two successive Democrats as governor, and in 2018 came within one vote of tying Republicans for control of the House of Delegates, and within one vote of controlling the State Senate. Look for Virginia to stay in the “blue” column in 2020.

“’Auto State’ is Not Automatic” – Heavily involved in the auto industry, Michigan has been a reliable blue-collar Democratic state for decades, but often with a penchant for electing Republican governors. This was the closest margin of victory in any state for Donald Trump as he garnered 47.5 percent of the vote, to 47.27 percent for Hillary Clinton. The difference was just 10,704 votes out of 4.5 million votes cast. Democrats kept a U.S. Senate seat, picked up the Governor’s mansion and flipped two U.S. House seats. I rate the state as leaning to flip back to the Democratic side in 2020.

“Why All of This Matters” – Right now I am predicting the Democratic nominee for president will win back Pennsylvania and Michigan in 2020. While that adds 36 Electoral College votes to the blue column, it does not put Democrats back in the White House. If my prediction holds true, and all other states vote the way they did in 2016, Democrats would have 263 Electoral College votes, 7 shy of taking the keys to the White House. They’ll have to flip either Wisconsin, North Carolina, Ohio, or Georgia. It’s going to be an uphill fight!.

Who is ahead in your state? Who are people chatting about? Just click the comment button to add your voice to the chorus!

Mark Curtis, Ed.D., is the Chief Political Reporter for the five Nexstar Media TV stations that are providing coverage of the 2020 presidential campaign in West Virginia, its five neighboring states of Ohio, Virginia, Kentucky, Maryland and Pennsylvania, and most of the Washington, D.C. media market.

© 2019, Mark Curtis Media, LLC

Photo courtesy: Getty Images

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