Days of Change

Hybrid Election | November 11, 2016

I jumped the gun a little in my analysis of the vote totals in 2012 because I did it a day or two after the election. I’m going to wait for the popular numbers to firm up, but I wanted to write about one trend that seems pretty obvious.

Democrats outnumber Republicans, but the nearly 70 million voters for Barack Obama in 2008 did not show up this time. The 60 million or so Republicans who voted for John McCain and Mitt Romney, however, did show up for the third time and it was finally enough. If there were secret Trump voters who came out for the first time, there must have been an equal number of Romney 2012 voters who decided not to vote for Trump.

Over the last 25 years, the Republicans have had a fighting chance in the Congress, unlike the decades before where even a Senate majority was rare. The GOP has seen gains in 1994, 2002, 2010 and 2014 along with a stable majority in 1998. The theory is that Republicans are consistent voters while the Democrats who win presidential election popular votes don’t bother showing up in off-year elections. However, in the last 6 quadrennial elections, Republicans saw Congressional gains in two of them, while maintaining the majority in both houses this week.

Between 2008 and 2012, there was a 3 million voter drop-off. This year is actually on course to run close to the popular vote total of 2012. The difference is in the mix. This is the first year since 1996 that third parties passed 4% of the total popular vote. In fact, Gary Johnson alone got over 3% of the vote, beating Ralph Nader’s percentage from 2000.

In many ways, this presidential election mimicked an off-year election in that Democrats had no interest in voting for Democrats. If this indicates that the Obama spell wore off and those voters want something different like a third party, it bodes well for Republican candidates in the future. However, if Hillary Clinton simply lost those voters because of Trump’s negative campaigning and Clinton’s overall unpopularity, a backlash from the left could be swift and brutal. Let’s not forget 2006.

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