The 2017 Alabama special election for the U.S. Senate kicks off with party primaries this coming Tuesday (Aug. 15). Should one or both parties have no candidate win a majority that day, a primary runoff will take place on Sept. 26. Both sides have crowded fields, but given the dark red hue of the state, most expect the eventual Republican nominee to hold the seat for the GOP. The appointed incumbent, Sen. Luther Strange (R), appears somewhat vulnerable, at least in the Republican primary.
In 2008 Barack Obama carried Virginia’s 13 electoral votes, becoming the first Democratic presidential nominee since Lyndon Johnson in 1964 to win the Old Dominion. Obama’s victory broke a run of 10 consecutive Republican victories in the commonwealth, and 13 of 14 going back to 1952. The 2008 presidential election started a new Democratic streak, which has now seen the party carry Virginia three consecutive times, with Hillary Clinton winning it by 5.3 percentage points in 2016.
There was one close race and one not-so close race in the gubernatorial primaries in Virginia on Tuesday, but the margins were the opposite of what most expected: Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam (D) beat former U.S. Rep. Tom Perriello (D) by about a dozen points in the closely-watched Democratic primary. Meanwhile, 2014 Senate nominee and former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie (R) just squeaked by Prince William County Board of Supervisors Chairman Corey Stewart (R) in the not-as-closely watched GOP primary.
In the immediate aftermath of the 2016 presidential election, many observers understandably focused on the numerous places that swung from Barack Obama to Donald Trump. Because many of these areas congregated in swing states within the Rust Belt and Midwest, they played a pivotal role in Trump’s victory, as shown by the movement toward the GOP in Map 1 below. But how many total voters really switched from Obama to Trump in 2016? Different data sources tell a different story, but the answer is certainly in the millions.
Those looking for electoral drama in the 2018 cycle should pay attention to the 38 gubernatorial races being held this year and next. In our initial ratings of these contests, more than half of them — 20 of 38 — start in the competitive Toss-up or Leans Republican/Democratic categories. That includes a whopping 10 Toss-ups: five of those are currently controlled by Republicans, four by Democrats, and one by an independent (Bill Walker of Alaska).
On election night in November, exit polls provided the first insight into how different demographic groups voted. But months later, other richer data sets are being released, and they provide researchers with new information about the election and the voters that participated in it. One such tool is the Cooperative Congressional Election Study, which is a large-sample national survey. The preliminary 2016 post-election version of the CCES study came out in early March, and it provides a treasure trove of information.
Given the Democrats’ poor down-ballot performances in the Obama years, and the Republican dominance of redistricting following the GOP’s success in the 2010 midterm, it’s somewhat fitting that arguably the Democrats’ most marquee victory in 2016 will not help them in the redistricting battles to come after the 2020 census.
The convention bounce is a long-established pattern in presidential election cycles. Much has been written about it, so we won’t rehash it too much. The main point is that conventions almost always generate an increase in a nominee’s polling numbers during and after his or her convention, but often times the bounce is short-lived. Still, some of that jump in the polls can be maintained; in this environment, a poll bounce will probably signal increased party unity. This is what is important for Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton: The former needs to get his support among Republicans up to and beyond 90% in the polls (he’s currently in the 80%-85% range) and the latter needs Sanders supporters, many of whom self-identify as independents, to more firmly back her (most surveys have shown a sizable chunk of Sanders voters still outside Clinton’s camp).
With four months to go in the 2016 general election campaign, national polls suggest that it’s quite possible that the Hillary Clinton-Donald Trump clash may well set a new record for partisan differences between the sexes.
One striking aspect of the Democratic primary race was the stark role-reversal in Hillary Clinton’s 2016 performance compared with her narrow loss to Barack Obama in 2008’s Democratic nomination battle. Whereas she ran against Obama in 2008, she positioned herself as his successor at every turn during her race against insurgent Bernie Sanders in 2016. It’s very easy to see the effect of this in a county-level map of the change in her performance from eight years ago to this cycle, as shown by the coloring in Map 1 below (a choropleth map). (We recommend clicking on the map for a much larger version.)