President Trump took a victory lap yesterday to take credit for the Republican gains in the Senate during the midterm elections (as well as taking credit for helping Republican congressmen to survive the blue wave), but one aspect of the midterm results that few have mentioned does not bode well for the president’s re-election hopes. This week’s elections suggest that the Rust Belt states that propelled Trump to an Electoral College victory in 2016 may be once again returning to the Democratic orbit.
In 2016, President Trump swept the upper Midwest states of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Ohio, with 18 Electoral votes, is a swing state, and the other four states, which typically vote Democrat in presidential elections, contain 46 Electoral votes. The loss of Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin would have changed the outcome of the election.
So how did these Rust Belt states vote in 2018?
Ohio held the best news for President Trump. The good news is that the Buckeye State elected a Republican governor to succeed John Kasich. Mike DeWine won a four-point victory over former Consumer Financial Protection Bureau head Richard Cordray. The bad news is that Democrat Senator Sherrod Brown was re-elected by more than six points.
Pennsylvania re-elected Democrats to both the governor’s mansion and the Senate. Voters rehired both Gov. Tom Wolf and Senator Bob Casey by double-digit margins.
In Michigan, voters also selected Democrats in statewide races. Democrat Gretchen Whitmer won the gubernatorial race by nine points and Senator Debbie Stabenow was re-elected by six points.
In Wisconsin, former Republican presidential candidate Scott Walker lost a heartbreaking re-election campaign by slightly more than one point. Democratic Senator Tammy Baldwin fared better, winning her re-election campaign by 11 points.
The Democratic near-sweep of the Rust Belt gubernatorial and Senate races is an indication that Donald Trump may not have permanently expanded the Republican base in those states. At the very least, the president’s coattails did not extend to Republican candidates in the statewide races that are similar to Electoral College races that Trump will need to win in 2020.
Even though the outcome in midterm elections can’t be directly extrapolated to presidential elections, it’s hard to find evidence in Tuesday night’s results that Donald Trump has expanded, or even maintained, his support in the upper Midwest. After having won the 2016 election despite losing the popular vote, failing to grow his support could spell doom for his re-election campaign.
The situation may change over the next two years and the presidential election will also be affected by such factors as who the Democrats nominate and the outcome of President Trump’s trade war. It is also possible that voters in these states will turn out for Mr. Trump even though they failed to do so for other Republican candidates.
The loss of seven of eight statewide races in a vital region this week doesn’t necessarily mean that Donald Trump will lose his re-election campaign, but it does show that Mr. Trump has a tough race ahead of him. Trump has two years to reverse the trend of his declining Rust Belt support. If he cannot win the Rust Belt states, as well as the other states that he won in 2016, he will probably be a one-term president.
[Photo credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr]