Back on Tuesday there was a special election in Wisconsin for an open state Senate seat. Wisconsin’s 10th Senate District, which spans several counties near the Minnesota border, went strongly for Donald Trump in the 2016 Presidential election by 17 points over Hillary Clinton. On Tuesday, however, Democrats spurned those results and turned the area deep blue as Patty Schachtner handily defeated Republican state Rep. Adam Jarchow by a whopping 63% to 36%, a 27 percentage point advantage.
The LA Times picks up the story from there:
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, who is head of the Democratic Governors Assn., said: “Democratic voters are fired up and making their voices heard in record numbers. That should terrify every single Republican on the ballot this year.”
Well, yes and no. Analysts caution recent wins by Democrats do not necessarily foreshadow what’s to come in the months ahead. They add that for all the talk about Democratic victories in recent months, Republicans have won many elections, too.
Still, the results in Wisconsin’s 10th District, which spans several counties near the Minnesota border, came as a surprise, if not a shock. Democrat Patty Schachtner, a local medical examiner, handily won a special election over Republican state Rep. Adam Jarchow.
Republicans had held the seat since 2001, raking up easy victories. Two years ago, Donald Trump won the district by 17 percentage points over Hillary Clinton. Trump went on to narrowly win the state by about a percentage point.
Schachtner’s victory kicks off a 2018 election season where Democrats hope for major gains in state legislatures nationwide, as well as in House and Senate races. Historically, the party in control of the White House loses ground on the ballot during midterm elections.
There is a lot of analysis on this that begins with something like, “if the election were held today, Republicans and President Trump would have a serious problem holding the House, and maybe the Senate…” That is probably true, but the 2018 midterm election does not happen today, or this week, or this month. What is blatantly obvious, however, is that Donald Trump has been one of the biggest motivators for Democratic Party voter participation in decades. Not even George W. Bush seemed to be able to get angry Democrats to the voting booth like Trump can. On the other side, Trump can also motivate Republicans as well, but the 2018 wave, thus far, is all blue.
As noted by the Times, Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin is calling the results a “wake up call” for Republicans when viewed in the context of 2018, and even 2020. Sentiment on the recently passed tax reform plan are improving, but that still hasn’t fully taken shape for most voters.
The greater significance about the Wisconsin Senate District 10 results are that the district has been a swing district in recent years. The seat has been held by both parties over the past few decades. Therefore, the concern for Republicans in other swing districts and swing states is that the swing is happening almost entirely to the left, with Democratic candidates making double-digit gains over 2016 results in the same areas.
House Speaker Paul Ryan says Republicans need to pay attention:
“I know this district fairly well. It’s not my district. It’s over in western Wisconsin. But typically, we’ve held this seat. And we lost this seat last night,” Ryan told reporters in Washington on Wednesday. “So yeah, I think we should pay attention to it.”
Saying “I think we should pay attention to it” is probably an understatement. Then again, they used to say all politics is local, so maybe it has no national repercussions. But more and more, all politics are becoming national. Just look at the Virginia state house where Republicans enjoyed a huge majority before the November elections, and now hang by a thread with a split of 51-49 in the House of Delegates.