With all the drama surrounding the White House about the Russian witch hunt and the failing healthcare bill, it would have been easy to overlook the proxy wars that took place in Georgia and North Carolina last week. Wait, what? Yup, there were two special elections held and both were won by Republicans. So why all the fuss, you ask? Because both races were supposed to be easy wins for the GOP – spoiler alert: they weren’t. Democrats poured an unprecedented amount of money into the races knowing that a historic victory in a solid red state would prove that The Resistance was gaining ground against President Trump. Republicans also dumped a ton of cash into the races knowing that a loss would show up their weaknesses for the 2018 midterms, and as a way to keep their base motivated amid the uncertainty of presidential controversies. So, what does this mean? Basically, this is the fourth high-profile special election the Dems have lost since November, and they are having to ask, yet again, where did it all go wrong?
Despite the dedication of the Democratic base, this latest loss, while a nail-biter, is forcing the party to acknowledge that an anti-Trump message is not going to be enough by itself to win seats in 2018, let alone flip the house. And everyone on the left has a different idea of what the messaging approach should be. Some are pushing for a focus on local issues in order to reach voters, since nationalizing every race isn’t proving to be a winning strategy. Some are demanding a more cohesive economic message, including about jobs and growth, since Trump’s promises are having an effect on the majority of voters. And some are challenging the leadership of Nancy Pelosi, insisting that she is damaged goods, out of touch with the base, and that new blood is needed to reinvigorate the party. So what does all this infighting tell us? That the left vs center debate between Sanders and Clinton in 2016 is yet to be settled, and that such a deep divide will ultimately lead to more losses.
So then is everything looking peachy for the Republicans in 2018? Far from it. There’s enough data to indicate that the Dems are poised for a major 2018 upset, and for Republicans to pretend that there aren’t some serious enthusiasm issues with the base AND independents shows that the right hasn’t yet learned their lessons from 2016 any more than the left. For now the GOP can breathe easy again, but the fact that these races were so close, and with the midterms looming, both sides will have to do some serious soul searching and election strategy makeovers before next year.
Feel like you’re struggling to deal with a loss? Movie for your mood: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close