Opinion

Another wake up call last night for Republicans

The Observer editorial board

Better days for the GOP: Gov. Scott Walker, R-Wis., right, winks as he walks offstage after introducing Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump during a campaign rally at the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire last November.
Better days for the GOP: Gov. Scott Walker, R-Wis., right, winks as he walks offstage after introducing Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump during a campaign rally at the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire last November. AP

Republicans are being woken up, one alarming night at a time.

Hello, Wisconsin Gov. and former presidential candidate Scott Walker.

What’s opened Walker’s eyes? Another night of special elections Tuesday in which Democrats outperformed their numbers from November 2016. Each involved statehouse seats previously held by Republicans. Each had stark but similar results.

The good news for Republicans? They got three wins. In South Carolina, Republican newcomer Nancy Mace won the race for SC House 99 with a comfortable victory in a seat that was very comfortably held by a Republican for 22 years. The GOP also held in Iowa House District 6 with a 12-point victory in a district that went by more than 30 points to Donald Trump 14 months ago. The same happened in Wisconsin’s Assembly District 58, where Republican Rick Gundrum won 57-43 in a district where Hillary Clinton lost by 38 points.

But in Wisconsin Senate District 10, Democrat Patty Schachtner flipped a seat with a 10-point win in a district that went 63 percent Republican in 2016.

All of which is not a new trend. From Alabama to Virginia to Georgia to statehouse races across the country, Democrats are significantly outperforming the 2016 vote and often flipping seats – or at least putting a scare into Republicans. It’s helped contribute to a record breaking number of Republicans not seeking reelection in Congress this year, and it’s why other Republicans in purplish states – like Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina – are attempting the difficult trick of reaching toward the center with one hand while patting President Trump’s back with the other.

A big caveat: We’re still about nine months away from the midterm elections. It’s truly too soon to say a wave is coming, even though history points to such midterm waves when new presidents take office. But elections have always been about pendulums, about the public wanting something different than what we see in front of us. It’s no coincidence that last night’s Democratic winner spoke to exactly that.

We have a vulgar, racist and historically unpopular president. We have a Republican Congress looking the other way so that it can pass unpopular tax reform and gut a popular health care law. We have another night of voters saying what they think about all that. The alarm is buzzing. How long will Republicans continue to cover their ears?

Peter St. Onge

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