During the 2018 midterm elections, and now after them, there was and has been a lot of examination of choosing the right candidate. Post 2016, political parties, and especially the Democrats, have been concerned with choosing a candidate that fits the district. This idea was presented in a very clear way in an article assigned by the Washington Center. It talked about how the demography of a district and the geography of the district do matter when a certain party wants to run a candidate. In 2018, the Democrats were conscious of this and this is what they did. This is how they were able to expand their presence in the House and take a majority. However, Republicans were also aware of this and it is one of the reasons that they were able to expand their majority in the Senate.
The Democrats capitalized on constituents who are younger, more urban, and female. A new record number of female House members have just been sworn in and it is mainly because of female constituencies where the Democrats ran female candidates. In the Suburbs, large numbers of female voters have been sick and tired of the President, and in a way, the midterms were a referendum on the President. So in this sense the Democrats knew their constituencies and they ran candidates that would appeal to them. These new, often female, candidates were very different than who the Democrats had run in those areas in the past. This is one of the reasons why Conor Lamb of Pennsylvania was able to win in such a red district in the special election of 2017. He was a moderate democrat who appealed to the white working class constituency better than his opponent.
The Republicans in 2018 however did something very similar. In seats held by Democrats, primarily in the Senate, they were able to identify where the President’s base was and capitalize on that location. This theory is also presented and explored in the article that the Washington Center assigned for us. So states like North Dakota, Indiana, and Missouri are all states with very loyal and strong Trump bases. So the Republicans ran candidates that would reflect Trump and at times Trump even campaigned hard for candidates like that.
In 2020 it will be interesting to see what the Democrats do when choosing a candidate. Lara Brown, a speaker from Tuesday morning, talked about women in politics and leadership roles. One of the most interesting things she talked about was that when women were selected as vice presidential candidates (Geraldine Ferraro (1984) and Sarah Palin (2008)), they were often blamed for the loss. This is interesting because both 1984 and 2008 were races neither of them were likely to win. So when it comes time to nominate a Democratic presidential candidate in 2020, it will be interesting to see if the Democrats blame their loss in 2016 on Hillary for being a woman and go with a man, or whether they go with another woman, because of the success of women in 2018, and blame the loss in 2016 on Hillary being Hillary. Either way we will find out soon enough.