The midterm elections saw voters turn out in record numbers and elect the most diverse freshman class in the history of the U.S. Congress. But what do these results suggest about where the United States is headed politically—especially looking toward the presidential election in 2020?
At a recent John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum moderated by Rick Klein, political director at ABC News, a panel of experts from across the political spectrum discussed the election results and their broader implications. In response to questions from both Klein and the audience, the panelists analyzed the new political landscape and highlighted the challenges and opportunities presented by the elections.
Former Chief Executive Officer, Democratic National Committee
Institute of Politics Resident Fellow
“I think one of the untold stories…[is] the significant chambers we were able to flip in the state legislatures. Eight chambers flipped, over 350 seats won. That will have a significant impact when you’re building a national campaign. I don’t underestimate how difficult it will be to run against Donald Trump, but I think these victories and winning in some of these places are going to have an impact on the map in 2020. It’s a different map.”
Executive Director, Donald Trump for President Campaign Committee
“Reading historical trends into the outcomes of elections that Trump is participating in, I think, is folly, because he ran his first campaign on such a different model. This presidency has been totally different from any other. His reelection campaign will be the same. It is important who the governors are, I think, but I also think that there is a large block of people who are Trump voters. ... My theory very early on, which I think largely turned out to be true in the primaries and the general election in 2016, is that the pollsters were asking the wrong people the wrong questions. There was a large mass of people who did not participate in past elections or were not motivated by past politicians or had been turned off by the system and turned out by other politicians. I think that’s still the case. ... The Trump phenomenon is unique to him being on the ticket. The Democrats were successful in many states that were important to us in 2016. I don’t know how much that matters to that block of voters that have very consistently stuck with him.”
Maria Teresa Kumar
Founding President, Voto Latino
“In 2014, the midterm was the lowest participation rates for 70 years. Fast forward to this midterm, it was the highest in 100 years. When you look at the Latino vote, the Latino vote is usually really very much suppressed when it comes to participation. This past midterm we had presidential participation numbers. ... We’re expecting 12 million new young voters coming in by 2020. A quarter of them are going to be Hispanic. The median age of a white voter, of a white person in the United States, is 54. The median age of a Latino is 19 years old. So the Republican Party is going to have to reshift and reimagine how they look if they actually want to get a road to the White House.”
Former Campaign Manager, Mitt Romney 2012
Fall 2013 Institute of Politics Resident Fellow
“We have to figure out a way to tell every woman—white, brown, black, young, old—that they have a place in the Republican Party. I think that is a place that perhaps the Trump administration has not done as well as they could’ve done.”
President, EMILY'S List
“As the Democratic majority comes into the U.S. House of Representatives and gets organized, they recognize that what the vast majority of these candidates won on was really a conversation about access to healthcare. ... They cannot, cannot lose sight about this issue of health care and trying to find solutions. ... We know that when we see more and more women leaders, you inspire additional women leaders. And we just saw a historic gain of women in the U.S. House. It’s all on the Democratic side, and we’re going to see one of the lowest numbers of Republican women in the U.S. House that we’ve seen almost since EMILY’S List was started in 1985. And I think it’s important to hear more women’s voices coming through the leadership of the Republican Party because I think it matters for inspiring next generations of women.”
Photo by Martha Stewart