[The last two paragraphs of this post have been updated.]
On Wednesday I posted in a facebook group about the elections in Virginia, where the Democrats lost the governorship, and in New Jersey, where it turns out that they won a close race. I said at that time that those elections showed that large numbers of Republicans who had refused to vote for Donald Trump--including many who had voted Democratic--had returned to the Republican fold. I have now looked at figures for the last three elections in each of those states--2017 (governor), 2020 (president), and 2021 (governor.) It turns out that I was wrong.
Let's look at New Jersey first. In 2017, the Democratic candidate for governor, Phil Murphy, won over Carlos Rendo, with 1.2 million votes to 900,000. a 56-42 per cent margin. In the 2020 presidential election, the total vote more than doubled, and Joe Biden beat Donald Trump, 2.6 million votes to 1.9 million, a 57-41 per cent margin. The turnout of 4.5 million represented a very substantial increase from the 3.9 million turnout in 2016, and Donald Trump increased his vote by nearly 300,000 votes. What happened in this year's election is quite astonishing. The Republican vote dropped from 1.9 million for Trump last year to 1.2 million for the Republican gubernatorial candidate. The Democratic vote dropped from 2.6 million for Biden to just 1.3 million for Governor Murphy--a drop of more than 50%. Republicans felt much more motivated to vote than Democrats. The comparison with the 2017 gubernatorial election is even more striking. Murphy polled less than 100,000 votes more in 2021 than in 2017, while the Republican vote increased by about 320,000 votes.
The Virginia results are similar, but even more striking. In 2017 Ralph Northen (D) received 1.4 million votes against Ed Gillespie's 1.2 million, winning by 54-45 per cent. Last year, turnout was up about 10% from the 2016 presidential election in Virginia, and Biden totaled 2.4 million votes to Trump's 2 million, winning 54-44 per cent--the same margin as in the governor's race. This year, the Democratic vote for Terry McAuliffe increased by 180,000 votes from four years ago, reaching 1.6 million. The Republican vote grew by almost half a million votes in four years, and Glenn Youngkin beat Terry McAuliffe by 1.7 million to 1.6 million votes. Comparing the vote to last year's, we find that that the Republican vote declined only 300,000 votes--while the Democratic vote fell by 825,000 votes. One in every three Democratic votes for Biden either failed to show up at the polls or voted Republican. Think about that.
The CNN exit polls for 2020 and 2021 in Virginia show another interesting story. In 2020, the voters they polled--presumably reflecting an attempt to get a representative sample--were 67 per cent white, 18 per cent black, 7 per cent Hispanic, and 4 per cent Asian. This year those figures read 73 per cent white, 16 per cent black, 5 per cent Hispanic, and 3 per cent Asian. The Republican share of the white vote rose from 53% for Trump to 62% for Youngkin, while Youngkin's percentage among the minority groups actually increased.
Both county-by-county data from Virginia and a CNN exit poll that I had not noticed confirm my essential conclusion: Republicans crushed \Democrats in turn-out. In Bath County, a white, rural area featured in a New York Times story on Sunday, November 7, Trump beat Biden by 1834 votes to 646. Youngkin beat McAuliffe by 1534 to 395. The Republican vote fell by 1/6, the Democratic vote by more than 1/3. In Chesterfield county, a Richmond suburb that showed the biggest swing in its vote in the state, Biden won by 107,000 to 93,000, and Youngkin won by 82,000 to 74,000. The Republican vote fell by a little more than 1/8; the Democratic vote fell by more than 1/4. And in largely black Richmond, the Democratic vote fell from 92,000 to 60,000--essentially the same percentage as the Democratic vote in the state as a whole--while the Republican vote fell from 17,000 to 15,000. Last but not least, the CNN poll asked voters not only for their vote this year, but last. 95% of Biden voters voted for McAuliffe; 98% of Trump voters voted for Youngkin. That, I believe, amounts to a net shift of about 1.5% from Democrats to Republicans, within an overall shift of 6% statewide.
This data suggests that Donald Trump may have left behind a far more united and determined Republican Party, one whose voters will turn out in much higher percentages than Democratic ones this fall, even in blue and purple states. Barring unforeseen events--of which there is rarely a shortage these days--the Democrats, who look more divided than ever this week in Congress, do seem likely to lose both houses of Congress in November, putting an end to any hopes of new legislative achievements and setting the stage for two years of gridlock.