While the midterm elections are just two weeks behind us, with some races still left to be called, and the next presidential campaign has more than six months before it swings into full gear, all eyes for Republicans should be on the race for 2020. It is, in the truest terms, a battle for the very soul of America.
Having lost the House, a bevy of governorships and several Senate races, Republicans face a tough electoral map. Georgia and Texas are former strongholds trending increasingly blue. Arizona has become a virtual swing state, and Florida may have given its final edge to Republicans.
Progressive challengers, namely Georgia’s Stacey Abrams and Texas’s Beto O’Rourke, came within 1.4 percent and 2.6 percent of their Republican opponents, respectively. In Arizona, despite a Green Party contender and a virtual non-entity running on their ticket, Democrats won handily in a Senate race against Republican moderate Martha McSally.
Even in Florida, a supposed ray of hope for Republicans in an otherwise unforgiving cycle, two-term GOP Governor Rick Scott only managed to squeak out a margin of 10,000 votes, or 0.1 percent of the electorate. His counterpart in the gubernatorial election fared slightly better, with a 0.4 percent edge.
Across the board, but specifically in these four states, Republicans have lost their 2016 momentum.
The driving force behind their fall is the states’ rapidly shifting voter demographics. Texas is growing increasingly blue as its voting power shifts from rural counties to cities. Both it and Arizona have rapidly growing Hispanic populations who vote reliably for Democrats. In Georgia, rising turnout from progressives and liberals – particularly blacks – threatens to turn the GOP stronghold into a reliably blue state for generations to come.
And Florida’s voters decided on Election Day to add 1.4 million ex-felons to their rolls – more than 10 percent of the voting age-population.
As the racial mix of the four states continues to change – trending increasingly toward groups whose populations vote blue by 2:1 – Texas and Georgia will become swing states by 2020, while Florida and Arizona may go the way of California.
Between them, the four new battlegrounds deliver 94 electors in presidential elections – enough to tip all but the least competitive races. Winning at least two of them is necessary for Republicans to take the White House in 2020, even if they sweep all eight swing states of the Midwest and Northeast, including Maine and Minnesota.
In a real sense, then, the war for America’s newest battlegrounds is, like political commentator Pat Buchanan declared 26 years ago, a war “for the soul of America … as critical to the kind of nation we will one day be as was the Cold War itself.”
For Republicans, the battle is even more urgent: It’s a war for their very survival as a political party. Should they continue to ignore large-scale demographic change and the factors that cause it, they will die an agonizing descent into obscurity of their own making.
Watch out, Grand Old Party, and run as if the 2020 election is your last. After all, it very much might be.