Tuesday’s special election results from Missouri show Democrats are quickly making up ground in the places Hillary Clinton struggled most: Mining towns and outer suburbs.
In Tuesday’s slate of special elections for the Missouri state House of Representatives, Democrats continued their national trend of substantially beating both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama’s performances. Democrats have topped past presidential election benchmarks in just about every type of district imaginable, but two of this week’s contests show the party’s recovering the most in places where Hillary Clinton lost ground relative to Obama in 2012: mining towns and outer suburbs.
House District 97 — Democrats Pick Up A Seat In The Outer Suburbs
Democrat Mike Revis narrowly pulled off an upset win in this outer suburban St. Louis district containing Murphy and part of Arnold. The seat sits right at the outer edge of Missouri’s 2nd US Congressional district (represented by Ann Wagner (R)). Wagner’s district has the highest median household income of any in the state (~$75k) and over 40% of adults have a college degree. Many parts of this district swung strongly towards Clinton — Trump won here by 10% after Mitt Romney took it by 17% in 2012.
But the HD-97 portion of Wagner’s district tells a very different story. Trump dramatically improved on Romney’s 13% win, taking the district by a whopping 28%. These outer suburbs, less educated, affluent, and diverse than the places Clinton thrived, were some of Trump’s strongest on election day. Revis’ victory here gives Democrats hope that Clinton’s terrible performance in places like Murphy, Missouri was merely an aberration.
House District 144 — Democrats Nearly Win Deep in Trump Country
HD-144 is located squarely in the “lead belt” region of SE Missouri. Anchored in Iron County (the county seat aptly named Ironton), the district has just about every characteristic correlated with a big Trump victory. It’s almost entirely white, dependent on mining, rural, low educational attainment, and low income. It’s part of Missouri’s 8th Congressional district, where the median income is about half that of the 2nd district mentioned earlier — and only about 15% of adults have a college degree. Mitt Romney won HD-144 by 25% and Donald Trump won it by a shocking 59%.
Democrats nominated a very solid candidate in Iron County Commissioner Jim Scaggs from a deep bench of local talent (almost all Iron County’s elected positions are still held by Democrats, despite Trump’s enormous win here). Chris Dinkins, a former aide to Rep. Paul Fitzwater, ultimately defeated Scaggs 52.5% to 47.5%, but the 54% net swing from the 2016 results was bigger than any other special election this cycle.
Democrats Are Doing Better Everywhere, But Especially In Places Hillary Clinton Struggled
Affluent suburban districts in California, Arizona, Texas, and Georgia will undoubtedly be important targets for Democrats in 2018. But this year’s special election results show that Democrats are doing even better in places Trump thrived in 2016. In fact, Obama’s 2012 margin is more strongly correlated with Democratic candidate performance than Clinton’s 2016 performance. This strongly suggests that Democrats aren’t just more enthusiastic than Republicans — it suggests some Donald Trump voters are voting for Democrats.
One way to look at this is by plotting a graph of the Democratic swing from 2012 to 2016 against the Democratic swing from 2016 to 2018.
The correlation is clear — Democrats are clawing back significantly in places Hillary Clinton struggled. And that has big implications as the 2018 campaign heats up.