The election is today! The election is today!
And, yes, obviously I am super excited about it. I waited two years for today — when we can see what the country thinks about President Donald Trump, the Republican majorities in Congress, the Democratic minority and the general state of the country.
No election answers every question. And every election poses new questions we weren’t even thinking about 24 hours earlier. But national elections are a pinch point in our long-running national experiment with democracy. They allow us to stop, look and think — about where we were, where we’re going and why, why, why people act and vote like they do. (Like I said, elections don’t answer all of those questions.)
Below, eight questions I hope this election answers. And because you’ve got a lot going on — the election is today! — I’ve added just a single sentence (or two) after each for the sake of context.
1. How hard will women turn against Trump? In 2016, Trump won 41% of women. In the latest CNN poll, his approval rating is just 31% among women; and women choose a generic Democratic candidate for Congress over a generic Republican one by a massive 62%-35% margin.
2. Can Trump’s all-base-all-the-time strategy work? Trump is closing the campaign on immigration with a dash of racial animus thrown in. That formula worked to turn his base out in 2016, but will it do the trick again?
3. Can Democrats win a working House majority? Most Democratic strategists would be perfectly happy to pick up just the 23 seats they need to retake the majority they lost in 2010. But such a slim majority would make the House totally ungovernable; to truly control the House, Democrats would need gains upward of 35-40 seats.
4. Do Republicans cling to the Senate? Two years ago, if I told any Republican Senate strategists that they would gain two Senate seats on November 6, 2018, most would call that a bad night. But expectations have been so lowered now that if Republicans actually add to their 51-49 current edge, Trump — and Senate GOP leaders — will seize on it as a MAJOR victory.
5. Did either side win the turnout war? Remember that in 2014, just 36.4% of people eligible to vote actually voted. That number was only marginally better in 2006 and 2010. We haven’t had a midterm election in almost two decades where more than 4(ish) in 10 eligible voters actually voted; is this the year that breaks that bad trend?
6. Did Trump make a positive difference anywhere? A very smart Republican operative told me in the spring that polling showed that Trump attacking a candidate could do real damage, but Trump endorsing a candidate had much less influence in building that candidate up. Trump’s visits in the final days on behalf of Mike Braun in Indiana, Josh Hawley in Missouri, Matt Rosendale in Montana and Rick Scott in Florida will put that theory to the test.
7. Is this the health care election? The immigration election? The economy election? Democrats want it to be the first. Trump wants it to be the second. Congressional Republicans want it to be the third. Are any of them right?
8. What will Donald Trump do next? Midterm elections are usually tough for the president’s party. There’s every indication this one will be that. Most re-position to reflect the lessons they learned (Clinton in 1995, Obama in 2011) and to get themselves right in the eyes of voters before their own re-election. But Trump isn’t someone who admits he was ever wrong. How will he handle a loss?
The Point: This is a massive moment in our shared political history and future. What we learn today will inform not just the second half of Trump’s first term, but also what Democrats do in response to the chief executive. And, most importantly, how the voters react to it all.