Confidence, Anxiety and a Scramble for Votes Two Days Before the Midterms
by Christopher Massie
Washington Post Special Writer.
Last week, as the final debate of 2016 wrapped up, the news of the day was a Trump win while the Washington establishment was consumed with dread over the possibility of the election in the rear view mirror. But on the day before the midterms, the same scenario plays out with a twist.
The morning after the debate, the Washington Post’s David Nakamura was on the ground covering Congressional District races throughout the state. In Washington, the top-two primary system has been in place for decades. Candidates compete exclusively on the basis of their party affiliation. So, in 2016, the top two candidates, along with the top three candidates, and the top four candidates, and so on, went to the general election. That system favors Democrats, who hold a majority of the House. More than one in four voters in the state voted for Hillary Clinton (55%) before the debates. But in the months afterward, Republican voters have been voting in greater numbers than Democrats. And so the result of the general election has been a Democratic wave.
As Nakamura told the Washington Post, “For many Republicans, the primary has become more of a hindrance than a help.” But the “hindrance” here is not about Democrats. As the Washington Post’s John Wagner and Robert Costa explained recently, this top two system makes candidates more focused and forces them to address their party’s issues and focus on their party. One Republican presidential candidate, Mike Huckabee, who has run for president twice and once for governor of Arkansas, won his party’s nomination despite only one debate appearance (and he lost the general election).
By the time the general election rolls around, Nakamura explained, “the candidates are very focused on their own campaign.” That’s when things get dicey because everyone has other issues. The Washington Post, in fact, reported in March that Democrats are now in a scramble to flip districts that they thought would be safe for Hillary Clinton. So instead of having just the one debate, campaigns now must respond to multiple candidates with the same issue. “The general election is going to be a scramble for attention,” Nak