More thoughts to come, but a striking pattern from Tuesday’s election is how the Republicans made significant gains just about everywhere but in major urban counties. You could call it a wave, but it’s also as if most of America stepped back from the big cities and academic enclaves that had enjoyed renewed clout with the election of Barack Obama in 2008. Call it a quarantine election.
Here are a few quick examples of the urban vs. suburban schism:
In Colorado, Democratic incumbent Sen. Mark Udall carried Denver County with 70 percent, a bit below the 73 percent he got in 2008. Up in Weld County, on the Wyoming border, Udall skidded from 44 percent to 32 percent. Statewide, he went from a nine-point win to a four-point loss.
In North Carolina, Democratic incumbent Sen. Kay Hagan won Chapel Hill’s Orange County with 73 percent, up from 70 percent in 2008. In smaller Caswell County, just to the north, she fell from 57 percent to 48 percent. Overall, her nine-point win turned into a two-point loss.
In Illinois, Democratic incumbent Sen. Richard Durbin was never thought to be in a competitive race, and he won with a margin of 350,000 votes. But he won Chicago’s Cook County by 550,000 votes, meaning that he lost the rest of the state. He lost suburban DuPage and Will counties, which he carried in 2008, and his statewide victory margin fell from 39 points to 10 points.
In the Georgia U.S. Senate race, Democratic nominee Michelle Nunn won Atlanta’s Fulton County with 65 percent of the vote, up from the 63 percent the Democrats won in 2008. But she was stuck at 42 percent in the suburban powerhouse Cobb County, the same as in 2008, which doomed the Democrats’ best shot at capturing a Republican seat this year.
In the Wisconsin gubernatorial race, incumbent Republican Scott Walker won 52 percent, the same as in 2010. Challenger Mary Burke took Milwaukee County with 63 percent, compared with 62 percent for the Democratic nominee in 2010. But Walker won the three biggest suburban Milwaukee counties with more than 70 percent in each, and in each case doing a smidge better than in 2010. His confrontational style paid off in a state with one of the sharpest divisions between urban and suburban voters.
Yesterday’s results do not foretell the outcome in 2016, but Democrats have got to be worried that their gains in first-ring suburbs, so important to their successes in 2008 and 2012, were largely washed away. And the more anti-urban, anti-safety-net wing of the Republican Party, must be relieved to learn they don’t have to improve on their terrible showings in the most densely populated counties in order to win nationally.
In other news, two pastors and a 90-year-old man were cited last week for violating Fort Lauderdale, Florida’s ban on feeding the homeless. Proponents on the city law claim that nonprofit groups like Love Thy Neighbor “sanction” people living on the street. Expect more of this thinking over at least the next two years.