MJC Managing Partner Steve Jewett is serving as Senior Advisor to Democrat Ned Lamont's campaign for Governor of Connecticut. He previously ran campaigns for the Democratic Attorneys General Association and continues to consult with the group nationally in many 2018 battleground states. Below are his thoughts on the 2018 election in Connecticut.
2018 has been a volatile year in electoral politics across the nation. Normal models of turnout and expected winners continue to be turned upside down. Nevertheless, Democrats are expecting a big year. History indicates they are on track to win congressional seats in a midterm election which will amplify the opposition to an erratic Republican President. Trump is driving increased turnout among women, with many further galvanized by the #MeToo movement.
Early signs say November 6
should be a good night for the Democrats. The Virginia 2017 Governor's race serves as an example of a race in which both sides were equally matched, well-funded, and featured strong candidates. Surveys had Democrat Ralph Northam up 2 points. He won by 9 points, surprising everyone. Exit polls and data showed the +7 point election day bump came out of Northern Virginia with more educated women showing up in higher-than-usual numbers, while depressed Republican moderates were sitting at home on a rainy election day.
Since that election we have seen this trend continue during 2018 in special elections and primaries. In Illinois' primary, Democratic turnout was up 30%, while Republican performance was down 30%. A Governor's race between two wealthy candidates that was once considered competitive has now fallen into the category of a safe Democratic seat. Swing battleground states that went for Trump - such as Pennsylvania, Florida, Ohio, Wisconsin, Iowa and Michigan - should make for at least competitive races for Democrats, if not winners (Michigan Democrats have nominated an historic all-female ticket).
After Doug Jones' U.S. Senate win in Alabama against Roy Moore, Democrats in southern states perked up. Georgia Democrats are making their best play at statewide office in modern history with an African-American woman, Stacey Abrams, at the top of the ticket. A changing demographic in that state favors Democrats. If the Illinois turnout model is replicated in Georgia, expect Democrats to control most the offices there. This would be a watershed moment in national politics. Democrats have largely been eliminated from offices in the deep South. Even Texas Democrats, who have further to go than Georgia to catch up, are excited as they doubled their turnout from the last mid-terms.
Connecticut's recent primary turnout was approximately 30 percent, the highest in the state since 2006. This bodes well for Team Lamont and the entire Democratic ticket. Unlike Texas, Connecticut Democrats start with a built-in voter registration advantage of about 10 points. If Trump continues to be "hot" and addicted to Twitter (he will be), this will continue to keep the fire going for a strong Democrat turnout. The best thing that Trump could do for Connecticut Republicans is go on vacation and let just the stock market talk, but there are no signs of this happening; Trump publicly endorsed Republican Bob Stefanowski the day after the gubernatorial primary.
Once the campaigning ends on November 6, if Democrats in Connecticut turn out in slightly larger than usual numbers, the Democrats will be hosting the victory party.