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Election 2017 showed Democrats are fired up to vote

Judy Woodruff sits down with Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report and Stu Rothenberg of Inside Elections to get a close-up look at Tuesday’s off-year election results and how the “Trump effect” is motivating Democrats.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    And now that we have heard from both political parties, from the White House and from the Democratic Party, let’s get a close-up look at yesterday’s results with Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report and Stu Rothenberg of Inside Elections.

    Welcome back to both of you.

    Let’s just get a sense from each one of you about, you know, your main takeaway from this election.

    Across the country, Amy — we know we have been spending a lot of time talking about Virginia. But, across the country, Democrats say, yes, look at this, we’re pretty pleased at what happened.

    Should they be?

  • Amy Walter:

    No, they should be.

    The enthusiasm factor is significant. Their voters are fired up at every level, and they are ready to come out and vote. A lot is organically. I know, Tom Perez, the head of the DNC, talked about organizing. I think that’s important.

    But I think these are voters who are just incredibly motivated to vote. And that’s the second piece, which is what they are motivated to vote for is not necessarily what’s happening in their district or their state. They’re motivated by Donald Trump.

    And, clearly, that was happening in Virginia, because it’s not just the governor’s race. When you look down at the state legislative races, Republican legislators who held on to their districts when Hillary Clinton carried their districts in 2016 or when the current governor carried their districts, they lost their seats.

    So, it is clear that there is a big Trump effect going on right now. It’s a referendum on this president, and that’s what we saw across the country.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Stu, what would you say?

  • Stuart Rothenberg:

    I agree.

    The Democrats as a party are divided between the Bernie Sanders wing and Hillary Clinton wing, the pragmatists and ideologues. But they have one thing in common. None of them like Donald Trump. And they wanted to turn out to vote, and they did.

    So, it was — I agree. It was enthusiasm and it was Donald Trump. That’s what defined this election.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, let’s talked about who turned out and what they cared about, Amy.

    And I think we have some graphics here to look at that. Part of it was women.

  • Amy Walter:

    Yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And looking at women based on their different education levels, women and race, what do we see?

  • Amy Walter:

    Judy, do you remember, 2016, we talked a lot about white suburban women, especially white suburban women with college degrees?

    And those were the folks that Hillary Clinton was hoping were going to turn out and support her in big numbers. They didn’t support her in big enough numbers to win in places like Pennsylvania or Wisconsin. And even in Virginia, Ralph Northam outperformed where Hillary Clinton did with women, with married women, with college-educated women.

    In essence, it was, this election in Virginia was really about the suburban — you can call it a sort of suburban women’s revenge, that they came out at a level that was really pretty amazing for what it gave to Ralph Northam.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    How much of a surprise was that, Stu?

  • Stuart Rothenberg:

    Well, there was still a significant gender gap. We have had that for many, many decades.

    And the Democrats continue to benefit. But we’re seeing the parties change in terms of education and the coalitions. And so what I think we saw last night is just the trend, an ongoing trend where the Republicans are moving more downscale and the Democrats are moving upscale, certainly in terms of education.

  • Amy Walter:

    And that’s what we saw too, that Ralph Northam didn’t do any better in rural parts of Virginia — the Democrat — didn’t do any better in rural parts of Virginia than Hillary Clinton had.

    It’s just that he did a lot better in the bluer parts of the state, so in those suburban Washington…

    (CROSSTALK)

  • Judy Woodruff:

    They got their vote out.

  • Amy Walter:

    Absolutely.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    The Democrats got their vote out.

  • Stuart Rothenberg:

    But the Republican vote held. The Trump vote held among white evangelicals, rural voters and older working-class voters.

  • Amy Walter:

    That’s right. That’s right.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    It’s just that, this time, the Democrats did turn out in numbers that Northam needed.

  • Stuart Rothenberg:

    That’s right.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Stu, what about when you look at the age of the folks who voted? What does that tell us in Virginia?

  • Stuart Rothenberg:

    Well, again, this is a split that has developed over a number of years.

    And what you see is younger voters, 18-44, Northam with a huge advantage over Ed Gillespie. These are voters who many of them, the youngest voters, 18 to 29, who didn’t turn out a year ago in the presidential election.

    And there was some question, I think, whether they would turn out this time. Northam isn’t not exactly Mr. Charisma. There’s the divide within the Democratic Party, as I mentioned, on pragmatism and ideology.

    But they did turn out in big numbers. Voters 45 and older, the two oldest demographic cohorts, much more than closely divided between the two parties, but with an advantage to Gillespie. And they also, of course, gave an advantage to Donald Trump last year as well.

  • Judy Woodruff:

     And it made a difference, Amy. I was just looking at this, because the younger, the under 45s were 37 percent of the electorate. They were only more than a third of the electorate, but they were a big enough margin to make a difference.

  • Amy Walter:

    That’s right, and giving the margins that we didn’t see Hillary Clinton get.

    In fact, this has been the argument that Democrats have been struggling with since 2008, which is, how do we get that coalition that turned out for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 to come and turn out when Barack Obama’s not on the ballot?

    And in this case, they gave Ralph Northam, who Stu is exactly right, he’s not the most charismatic, energizing kind of candidate, the kind of margins that they gave Barack Obama.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    We also saw some interesting — and we reported on this early, Stu — and that is transgender were elected. You had one elected to a state delegate post in Virginia, other transgender candidates around the country.

    Is that the younger voters coming out?

  • Stuart Rothenberg:

    I think in part.

    I think the advantage for the Democrats is that younger voters are more open-minded, more tolerant. They value diversity and multiculturalism.

    Guys  50-, 60-, 70-year-old white working-class voters are stuck in their ways. Their ways may be fine, but they’re not as receptive to change. And these young voters participating, it’s a huge boost for the Democrats. And, if you think about it, these people are entering the political system now or they have involved in the last 10 years.

    They are going to continue to vote over the next 20 to 30 years with their values.

  • Amy Walter:

    Right.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Which raises the question everybody has, Amy, what does this mean, if anything, for next year for the big midterm elections?

  • Amy Walter:

    Yes. So, the enthusiasm factor is significant. We have talked about that a lot on this show, that people who are energized, especially people who are angry, turn out and vote, that you don’t necessarily need to have perfect message — this is for Democrats.

    They don’t need to have the perfect message. What they do have is Donald Trump. And he is a great motivator to get their voters to the polls. But the next question’s going to come down to structure. Where Democrats did very well last night was in suburban Washington, places that Hillary Clinton had already carried.

    Can they win in places that Hillary Clinton didn’t win? Can they do better among those white working-class voters, rural voters? And as Stu pointed out, the margins there for the Democrat weren’t any better than they were for Hillary Clinton.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And you heard me ask Tom Perez to — what are you doing to appeal to these Trump voters, to these voters in red states and red places?

  • Stuart Rothenberg:

    Well, in part, we have to see what develops. They’re a year away.

    These were relatively a handful of races in a handful of states.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Right.

  • Stuart Rothenberg:

    And let’s see what happens with the economy, with foreign policy, with the Mueller investigation.

    But Democrats have to feel upbeat and enthusiastic right now. And we will see what mistakes or successes the president has.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    We will let them feel good for a day.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Stu Rothenberg, Amy Walter, thank you.

  • Amy Walter:

    Thank you, Judy.

  • Stuart Rothenberg:

    Thanks, Judy.

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