2018 Mid-Term Analysis

2018 Mid-Term Elections

Early Analysis for the Missouri Health Care for All Board of Directors and Staff

Jen Bersdale

November 7, 2018

Some wins, some losses, but plenty of reason for hope

In a state and a country as divided as they are today, we shouldn’t be surprised that the midterm elections provided a mixture of disappointing losses and exciting wins. However, as I review all of the outcomes, I believe there are many results that should give us hope.

Please note, for purposes of this analysis: Missouri Health Care for All remains a firmly non-partisan organization committed to working with Missourians and elected officials of all political parties. However, we currently face a landscape where beliefs on health care differ broadly between the two major political parties, especially party leadership. Discussion of “Democrat” and “Republican” wins/losses in this analysis is shorthand for whether power will rest with health care champions or with those who want to cut or repeal our country’s most important programs and protections.

Missouri Candidate Results

Many health care supporters are understandably upset that Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, who has been a reliable health care supporter, lost her seat to Attorney General Josh Hawley, who signed Missouri onto the lawsuit seeking to overturn the Affordable Care Act. This is, indeed, a substantial loss. However, a number of factors about national trends and the race itself lead me to view the loss as disappointing, but not devastating. Most importantly, I think it remains fully possible for Missouri to elect a health care champion as Senator in upcoming elections.

The state did re-elect Nicole Galloway as State Auditor, who is now the only Democrat statewide elected official in Missouri.

No Missouri U.S. House seats changed last night. The closest was the 2nd district (St. Louis County), where Cort vanOstran ran against incumbent Ann Wagner, motivated largely by health care experiences in his family. Cort lost, but he got 47% of the vote in a race where the Democratic challenger got only 37% two years ago. In Southeast Missouri, Kathy Ellis, another health care champion, took on incumbent Jason Smith. Kathy ran an incredibly aggressive campaign in a difficult district, and she also did better than the Democrat two years ago.

Health care champion candidates for State Senate and State House ran far more competitive campaigns in far more districts this year than in many recent years. At the end of the day, Republicans will retain supermajorities in both the Missouri Senate and the Missouri House. Democrats gained one net seat in the state Senate and held the line in the state House.

Ballot Initiatives

The best news out of Missouri is the passage of Amendment 1, or CLEAN Missouri. By decreasing the power of big money and creating fairer, more competitive districts, Amendment 1 will create far more elected officials who have a reason to listen to constituents like MHCFA supporters.

There is exciting news from other states too: Three more states (Nebraska, Idaho, and Utah) voted to expand Medicaid through ballot initiative yesterday. These wins give us hope as Missourians continue looking for ways to close the Coverage Gap for the 300,000 Missourians who would gain coverage.

National Landscape

A Crucial Win in the House: Last night, the Democrats gained control of the House from the Republicans. As of this morning, the Dems have picked up 27 seats, enough to give them a majority. This leadership shift is incredibly important for defending against aggressive Congressional attempts to cut access to health care.

Senate: The Republicans kept control of the Senate, increasing their majority by 2 seats. While many of our supporters would have preferred to see the Senate switch hands, the Democrats went into the election at a numeric disadvantage, with 26 seats to defend, while the GOP only had 9 to defend. Given this, “only” losing a net 2 seats is actually pretty good. This math will flip for the next two cycles, with the GOP defending 22 seats in both 2020 and 2022, with the Democrats only having 11-12 to defend.

Governor: Democrats picked up a net of seven Governor seats, a substantial number, including several in the Midwest. They came close in other states where they haven’t seriously competed for years. The fact that progressive health care champions can be competitive in states like Florida and Georgia gives great reason for hope.

Representation: And finally, last night’s election was a victory for communities that have long been under-represented in elected office, with significant pick-ups by women, people of color, Native Americans, and members of the LGBTQ community.

The Stories Behind the Stories

The number of seats won and lost is important, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. Nationwide, even the districts that did not switch parties moved an average of 10 percentage points to the left. Missouri also saw significant movement, with Democrats improving their showing even in districts they did not win. The New York Times illustrates this well.

Nationwide, Democratic candidates garnered 43,663,200 votes (56.2%) while Republicans only got 32,773,650 votes (42.2%) but still increased their majority. In an election where health care was the top issue across the country, 10,889,550 more voters supported the candidates who generally support our positions.

What All This Means for Missouri’s Health Care Movement

Some things are still unknown. However, there are several BIG takeaways:

  1. With the White House, Governor’s Mansion, and Missouri General Assembly still firmly held by health care opponents, and with a lawsuit challenging the ACA still making its way through the courts, we still need to be prepared to protect our current health care programs and protections.
  2. HOWEVER, with the U.S. House controlled by Democrats, any serious threat of ACA repeal dissipates. This is huge!
  3. Amendment 1, once implemented, will make it substantially easier for our grassroots supporters to get the attention of their legislators.
  4. Health care remains an incredibly important issue for voters.
  5. There is great reason for optimism in the wins and gains in states and regions previously called “unwinnable.” Change feels much more possible.

So, to my partners in this Missouri health care movement: Certainly, give yourselves space to mourn outcomes that did not go the way you wanted. But overall, last night was a good night for this movement, giving us renewed hope that our ongoing work is having an impact that will grow in the years to come. We CAN change the tide and create a health care system that works for everyone, if we stick together and keep up everything we’ve been doing.

Thank you for all YOU do!

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