Morning Digest: Why Biden’s New Hampshire success wasn’t downballot destiny for fellow Democrats

Morning Digest: Why Biden’s New Hampshire success wasn’t downballot destiny for fellow Democrats

The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Stephen Wolf, Carolyn Fiddler, and Matt Booker, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, James Lambert, David Beard, and Arjun Jaikumar.

Leading Off

Pres-by-LD, Gov-by-LD: Daily Kos Elections is pleased to present the first installment in our project to calculate the results of the 2020 presidential election for the nation’s 6,766 legislative districts, starting with the perennial swing state of New Hampshire. Last fall, both the state Senate and state House changed hands in the Granite State, making them the only legislative chambers in the country to flip sides in November. They also offer an important lesson: Despite the record levels of political polarization in this country, the outcome at the top of the ticket is not necessarily destiny further down the ballot.

That’s vividly illustrated in New Hampshire’s gigantic 400-member House, which Republicans recaptured in 2020 with a 213-187 majority. Just two years earlier, Democrats had retaken the House from during the 2018 blue wave, winning 233 seats to the GOP’s 167. Last year’s results, therefore, represented a net flip of 46 seats in favor of Republicans, a remarkable result given that Joe Biden carried the state by a comfortable 53-45 spread to improve upon Hillary Clinton’s slim 46.8-46.5 victory.

Thanks to that 8-point margin, Biden won districts representing 232 seats in the House, while Donald Trump carried just 168. (New Hampshire uses an overlapping combination of single-member and multi-member districts that elect as many as 11 representatives, with 204 districts in total.) Yet in the face of this headwind, fully 50 Republicans chalked up wins in Biden seats while just five Democrats prevailed in Trump seats.

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In the current era, it’s exceedingly rare to see one party control a legislative body despite the other party’s presidential candidate winning a majority of seats. One explanation for this unusual result likely involves Republican Gov. Chris Sununu, who secured a third two-year term in November in a 64-34 landslide over Democrat Dan Feltes.

En route to that victory, Sununu won an extraordinary 366 seats in the House to just 34 for his opponent. As a consequence, fully 153 Democrats sit in seats Sununu carried, more than 80% of the caucus; unsurprisingly, no Republicans occupy any Feltes turf.

Take a look at Hillsborough 19, for instance, a multi-member district that elected one Democrat and one Republican: At 80-18 Sununu, this was this the governor’s best district in the state—and yet it still also went for Biden 56-42, meaning the two candidates’ margins were divided by a startling 76 points. On the flipside, the closest district between Biden and Sununu, the single-member, Democratic-held Cheshire 03, still saw them separated by a wide gulf: Biden won it 52-47, while Sununu prevailed 60-39, a spread of 26 points.

In all, nearly half of all House seats—198 in total—split their tickets for Biden and Sununu, electing 148 Democrats and 50 Republicans. 168 seats went for Trump and Sununu, with all but five electing Republicans, while all 34 Biden/Feltes seats backed Democrats, as alluded to above.

The story was very similar in the Senate, which at just 24 members is one of the nation’s smallest (the House, by contrast, is double the size of the next-largest lower chamber and has by far the most members per capita). There, Republicans reversed the 14-10 majority Democrats won in 2018 and took a 14-10 majority of their own. Biden carried 16 districts and Trump just eight, but Republican senators won six Biden districts. Sununu’s performance was just as dominant, with victories in 22 seats.

Political observers have known for a long time that New Hampshire’s electorate is uncommonly elastic, and this new data only underscores that well-earned reputation. But what happened here was not unique. We saw it in last year’s congressional elections, too, where Biden ran ahead of two-thirds of Democratic candidates in races contested by both parties—and we’ll see it over and over as we bring you more legislative results from more states.

What precisely this foretells for elections this year and next is, of course, difficult to say, especially because redistricting will scramble the lines almost everywhere and Republicans are once more in total control over the process in New Hampshire. But whether running on new maps or old, down-ticket Democrats will always want to bear in mind that just because a district backed Joe Biden doesn’t mean it will do the same for them even though split-ticket outcomes are on the decline overall compared to decades past.

P.S. We’ll be publishing data for new states on a rolling basis. To keep up with each release, subscribe to the daily newsletter you’re now reading, our free Morning Digest. You can also find links to our district-level spreadsheets for New Hampshire and every other state at this bookmarkable permalink.


FL-Sen, FL-Gov: Democratic state Sen. Lauren Book’s colleagues selected her this week to lead the caucus for 2022-2024, a move that takes her out of the running for statewide office this cycle.

MO-Sen: Mark McCloskey, a wealthy attorney who made national headlines last summer when he and his wife aimed their guns at Black Lives Matter protesters, said Tuesday that he was considering seeking the Republican nomination for this open seat. McCloskey told Politico that he had no timeline for when he would decide.


MD-Gov, MD-06: A spokeswoman for wealthy Rep. David Trone recently told the Baltimore Sun that the congressman has been encouraged to run for the Democratic nomination for governor, though she did not give any other information about his deliberations.

While this appears to be the first time that Trone’s camp has publicly acknowledged that he could run to succeed termed-out Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, fellow Old Line State Democrats have known about his interest for some time. Former Del. Aruna Miller even began raising money in January to run for his House seat in the event that he seeks a promotion, and she had $224,000 on-hand at the end of March. Miller, who lost to Trone in the 2018 primary, has said she would not compete against him if he runs for re-election instead, though.


GA-10: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that wealthy businessman Matt Richards is “nearing an announcement” for this safely red open seat, and that the Republican “is likely to seed his campaign with $1 million” to start. No notable Republicans have declared candidates yet to succeed Rep. Jody Hice, who is leaving this east-central Georgia district to challenge Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger for renomination.

NY-11: Army veteran Brittany Ramos DeBarros currently is the only candidate seeking the Democratic nomination to face freshman Republican Rep. Nicole Malliotakis, but City & State’s Sydney Kashiwagi writes that there’s plenty of speculation about others who could get in.  

Kashiwagi says there are “rumors” that 2012 nominee Mark Murphy, who lost that campaign 52-47 to Republican incumbent Mike Grimm, could run again. Murphy, though, is currently competing in the June primary for Staten Island borough president, an office that has been in GOP hands since the 1989 election. Kashiwagi adds that there’s also chatter that nonprofit head Yesenia Mata could run; Mata’s husband, Cesar Vargas, is one of Murphy’s current intra-party opponents.

Finally, some Democrats are still speculating that former Rep. Max Rose, who lost re-election to Malliotakis 53-47 last year, could try again. Rose took a post in the Department of Defense in January, and one unnamed source acknowledged to Kashiwagi that he couldn’t run as long as he’s at the Pentagon. However, this person added that Rose likely could launch a late bid if he wanted to.

NY-23: Defense Department official Andrew McCarthy said this week that he would seek the Republican nomination for the seat held by GOP Rep. Tom Reed, who decided to retire after a woman accused him of sexual harassment. McCarthy, who told the Olean Times Herald he had planned to take on Reed before the incumbent announced his departure, added that he was ready to run for Congress no matter what happens with redistricting.

OH-15: Athens Mayor Steve Patterson told The Athens Messenger on Tuesday that he was thinking about running for the Democratic nomination in the upcoming special election to succeed Republican incumbent Steve Stivers.

TX-06: While Sen. Ted Cruz has not backed anyone in the very crowded May 1 all-party primary, he’s making it very clear which fellow Republican he wants to lose. Cruz put out a statement to the Texas Tribune declaring, “[State Rep.] Jake Ellzey’s financial support from never-Trumpers, openness to amnesty, and opposition to school choice should concern Texans looking for a conservative leader.” That declaration came shortly after Cruz’s longtime allies at the far-right Club for Growth began running a TV spot attacking Ellzey.

From Daily Kos at Read More. This article is republished from DailyKos under an open content license. Read the original article at DailyKos.

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