One pattern I’ve been following the past few months is the tendency of Republican Senate candidates to run stronger in their states than the man at the top of the ticket. Well, with the final results in, we can take a look at how that pattern played out with statewide candidates in both the Senate and Governor’s races. The table below includes all the states with a significantly contested Senate race (plus Utah, where I included Mike Lee’s race as a comparison for Donald Trump’s struggles to win the state’s Mormon majority) and every state with a Governor’s race:
Note that I’m comparing margins of victory/defeat, not vote share, since there were third party candidates in the presidential race.
As you can see, Trump didn’t always run behind. In two states (Indiana and Missouri) it can fairly be said that Trump probably helped the GOP sweep the contested races down the ticket, as Trump ran between 9 and 16 points ahead of the Senate and Governor candidates (partly because their opponents were more suited to those states than Hillary Clinton was; also only one of the four Republicans, Roy Blunt, was an incumbent). In four Senate races (Colorado, Nevada, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania) the GOP Senate candidate ran more or less even with Trump – a surprising recovery by Darryl Glenn in Colorado, although Pat Toomey was the only one of the four who won his race (Kelly Ayotte’s race is headed for a recount).
All the other GOP Senate candidates in contested states – incumbents, all – ran measurably ahead of Trump, and all but Mark Kirk won, in each case with a majority of the vote. Even if you back out Utah, they averaged 2.2 points better than Trump. In the Rust Belt states at the epicenter of Trump’s victory, he ran behind Toomey, Ron Johnson, and Rob Portman. In states with significant Hispanic electorates, he ran well behind Marco Rubio, John McCain and Johnny Isakson. Even giving Trump his share of credit for an improbable upset, it’s hard to interpret that as an unqualified solo victory for Trumpism; the voters were frequently as receptive, if not moreso, to more traditional Republicans.
The Governors races are, naturally, more erratic given the ability to localize races with more custom-tailored candidates, thus the GOP electing a new Governor in Vermont and the Democrats in West Virginia, while holding it in Montana. In the other four contested races, Trump ran well ahead of Pat McCrory (the controversial North Carolina governor who had won in 2012 and lost in 2008) and Colin Bonini in Delaware, while running behind the GOP’s candidates in New Hampshire, Oregon and Washington.
As the returns come in, the story seems to repeat in the House and state legislative races. This was a big night for Republicans and a terrible one for Democrats, and that extends far beyond the personalities of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.