Can North Carolina Democrats Duplicate the Virginia Tsunami in 2018? | News

Can North Carolina Democrats Duplicate the Virginia Tsunami in 2018?

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When the results from Virginia started rolling in Tuesday night, local Democrats on my social media were elated—not just because it was finally something resembling a win, but because maybe they can replicate that wave in North Carolina next year, especially with new, fairer legislative districts apparently on the way.
  • “North Carolina Democrats say the election results in and out of state show a rebuke of President Donald Trump and the divisive rhetoric that they say local Republicans employed in races across the state. Furthermore, they see reasons to believe they can gain influence in the state legislature by picking up seats in next year’s election.”
  • “‘I think what we witnessed last night was the match that lit the fuse for 2018,’ said Brad Crone, a Democratic political strategist. Local elections in which Democrats won will help energize the party to recruit candidates and engage voters, Crone said. … With the Republican Nat Robertson losing to Mitch Colvin in Fayetteville, Democrats or left-leaning independents will soon serve as mayor in each of NC’s nine largest cities.”
MEANWHILE: The state’s congressional Republicans, fearing a primary, are seeking to show how close they are to President Trump—who, outside the GOP, is positively toxic.
  • “Incumbent Rep. Robert Pittenger and second-time GOP challenger Mark Harris aren’t shying away from Trump in their Republican primary fight, despite an anti-Trump sentiment that fueled Democratic victories in gubernatorial and local contests Tuesday in Virginia and New Jersey. In fact, the president’s popularity among Republicans could be a deciding factor in a rematch of the 2016 primary that Pittenger won by 134 votes. ‘The reality is I don’t know how you come out of the Republican primary not being a Trump guy with the way the Republican Party is today,’ said Paul Shumaker, a Pittenger campaign consultant.”
  • “Trump won the 9th in 2016 with 54 percent of the vote.” In a wave election, Pittinger’s seat is winnable—especially the tighter they cling to Trump.
WHAT IT MEANS: As I mentioned yesterday, a lot can change in a year, and it’s possible Trump will be more popular then than he is now, which will boost Republican fortunes in the midterms. However, that strikes me as a less likely eventuality. Polling shows that the more people outside of Trump’s base are exposed to the Trump administration, the less they like it. Since the president seems interested only in appeasing his base, it’s hard to see that changing. So, if I had to guess, come November 2018 Trump will still be mired in the polls and the GOP will get smashed all over the country. That tsunami would almost certainly break the GOP supermajority and maybe, just maybe, might give the Dems a crack at winning an outright majority.
  • Assuming that scenario is right, the big question is how much friendlier to the Dems the new, federal-court-drawn legislative districts will be. After all, as Paul Waldman writes for The Week, even the Virginia bloodbath shows how elections are rigged in Republicans’ favor: “When you add up all the votes cast, you find that Democratic candidates won 54.7 percent of the two-party vote, while Republican candidates won only 45.3 percent. Yet Republicans may well retain control despite having lost the popular vote by such a significant margin.”
  • Even if more people vote for Democrats in House and Senate races next year, the maps are currently drawn in such a way that the Republicans would still win. Sure, they’d lose a few seats and probably the supermajority, but they’d maintain control of both chambers. With new maps, though, it’s game on. And that’s why I said a few weeks ago that special master Nathaniel Persily is the most important person in North Carolina politics.
This post was excerpted from the INDY’s morning newsletter, Primer. To read this morning’s edition in full, click here. To get all the day’s local and national headlines and insights delivered straight to your inbox, sign up here.

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