Voters who backed GOP governors helped keep the Senate blue

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Voters who backed GOP governors helped keep the Senate blue
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And in Georgia, the Democratic senator. Raphael WarnockThe very thin GOP race is heading for a runoff in December after GOP Governor Brian Kemp wins re-election.

The results are enough to give the impression that this year’s midterms represented a throwback to the old days of depolarized statewide politics, when large numbers of voters would back the presidential candidate. one party in the Senate and the other party in the governorship.

But it was actually the opposite. A POLITICO analysis of the results shows ticket splits in these races have declined to the lowest point of any mid-term since at least 1990.

Still, the relatively few voters who split their tickets helped sway the Senate. Their decisions are a collective rebuke of Republican Senate candidates, especially those endorsed by former President Donald Trump who embraced his false claims that the 2020 election was stolen.

“In historical terms, it may be low, but [ticket-splitting] has been absolutely critical in many races this fall,” Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster for more than 30 years, said in an interview. “Voters have made many judgments about the quality of nominees, and that’s why Democrats still control the Senate.”

As partisanship has increased and elections have become more nationalized, fewer voters are willing to cross party lines on the same ballot. In 2020, only one state, Maine, split between its presidential and U.S. Senate races. A POLITICO analysis of general election results in the 2022 Senate and gubernatorial races found that the number of voters willing to buck party lines has declined for the third consecutive midterm cycle.

Ticket splitting is more common between gubernatorial and Senate races, as voters often have different priorities at the state and federal levels — but rates continue to drop.

In 1990, the median gap between gubernatorial and Senate results in states that held both elections that year was nearly 25 percentage points, according to an analysis by POLITICO. But this measure has been steadily declining, from 16.6% in 2014 to 10.3% in 2018 and 7.4% this year.

(POLITICO’s analysis excluded results from Alaska this year due to the use of ranked voting, and it also excluded historic elections where the top two candidates were not a Republican and a Democrat. )

The decline in ticket sharing this year has come despite some subtle efforts to encourage it in key states. In Pennsylvania, a GOP super PAC appeared to encourage those backing Democrat Josh Shapiro for governor to keep voting for Republican Senate candidate Mehmet Oz. Shapiro, the state’s attorney general, edged out Democratic Senate candidate John Fetterman in public polls.

“Fetterman is way more radical than Shapiro,” said an American Crossroads TV ad that aired in late October and cost the group more than $1.2 million, according to AdImpact, an ad-tracking service.

Pennsylvania has seen more ticket splits than the average state this cycle. Shapiro – whose opponent, Doug Mastriano, had little money and was all but dropped by national Republican groups due to ties to far-right extremists – won by more than 14 points, from a margin of 4 .5 points for Fetterman.

Fetterman’s campaign had also sought to link Oz to Mastriano, citing the gubernatorial candidate’s views on abortion and a moment of debate where Oz suggested ‘local political leaders’ should decide abortion laws. .

“Mastriano, by any definition, was the most extreme left-wing or right-wing candidate to ever run for statewide office in Pennsylvania, period,” said Democratic consultant Neil Oxman. and Pennsylvania-based ad designer, in an interview. “There are enough rational people who have rejected madness.”

The results in Pennsylvania and elsewhere also underscore differences in how voters rate candidates for different offices.

“Governors are actually making life and death decisions,” said Ayres, the Republican pollster. “People are looking more for common sense and good judgment in governors than in senators or congressmen, where increasingly they’re just looking for someone to join Team Blue or Team Red.”

This trend has been particularly salient in New England, the region where ticket sharing has been most common over the past decade.

Half of New England’s current governors are moderate Republicans, while nearly all members of Congress in the six states are Democrats. In Vermont, Republican incumbent Governor Phil Scott won with more than 70 percent of the vote this year, while Rep. Pierre Welchthe Democratic-elect senator, won his race by a similar margin.

The number of voters willing to balance their ballots on the New Hampshire battlefield helped Hassan win re-election by 10 points in a contest that public polls showed was one of the toughest Senate races. of the electoral cycle.

Hassan, a former governor, won her first Senate race in 2016 with just 1,017 votes. But voters backed Hassan more forcefully this fall against far-right pro-Trump Republican Don Bolduc.

“Sometimes it’s the circumstances: we had a popular incumbent governor. If it had been a free seat, would we have witnessed the same phenomenon? Probably not,” said Fergus Cullen, former chairman of the New Hampshire Republican Party, in an interview. “But it says pretty clearly, at least in New Hampshire, that … it’s not just about transforming your base. There is a significant number of voters who are open to candidates from either party.

Voters in Deep Blue Massachusetts have elected moderate Republican governors for nearly 30 years while sending increasingly liberal Democrats to Congress. But, due to the same “candidate quality” issues that plagued Republicans across the map, Massachusetts voters resoundingly rejected this year’s Republican nominee for governor – a former conservative state representative. endorsed by Trump, in favor of Democratic State Attorney General Maura Healey.

Voters responded similarly to the Trump-endorsed Republican gubernatorial candidate in blue-leaning Maryland. After splitting tickets at high rates to support limited-term Governor Larry Hogan, a moderate Republican, in the state’s last two gubernatorial races, Democrat Wes Moore easily triumphed over Dan Cox this fall.

Georgian voters rewarded their governor, who has emerged as one of the faces of opposition to Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election results, by returning Kemp to power by an 8-point margin. But in a state with relatively few swing voters, the small share that voted for Kemp and Warnock — instead of the embattled Walker — proved enough to send the Senate race into a runoff on Dec. 6.

Warnock is now looking to capture those voters again. His campaign ran an ad this week featuring a split-ticket voter, a woman who identified as a lifelong Republican who was “proud to support Brian Kemp” – but could not vote for Walker.

“At the end of the day, I have to vote for someone I can trust and who has integrity,” the woman said. “And I don’t believe it’s Herschel Walker.”

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