Understanding what went right — and wrong — for Democrats in Nevada and Wisconsin will be immediately important for the party in the midterms, as both states feature hotly contested House, Senate and gubernatorial races. POLITICO dove into Catalist’s top takeaways:
Latina voters veered away from Democrats in Nevada
Democrats won a majority of Latino voters nationally and in Nevada. But they struggled to maintain their dominant margins in 2020, particularly in Florida and south Texas. And in Nevada, the numbers are particularly troubling for the party, where Biden won the state by the same vote margin as Hillary Clinton, even though voter participation exploded by 30 percent.
Catalist found that the likeliest Latino voters to swing away from Democrats from 2016 to 2020 were younger, female and those without a college degree — subsets that usually trend bluer.
The research also showed that the greatest deterioration came among Latinas: From 2016 to 2020, support for Democrats among Latinas dropped by 11 points compared to Latino men, whose support for Democrats declined by 6 points. Notably, the report emphasizes that the erosion among Latinas started in 2018 in Nevada, suggesting that the 2020 results are not a “fluke,” but “part of a multi-cycle trend.”
A near-miss in Wisconsin
When Catalist studied the national 2020 vote earlier this year, it found that one of the key ingredients behind Biden’s victory was that he arrested the Democratic slide among white voters without four-year college degrees. He didn’t do much better than Hillary Clinton — just a single percentage point — but it was enough combined with other changes.
But Catalist’s number-crunching in Wisconsin yielded a different result there: Biden flipped the state back despite performing slightly worse among non-college-educated whites than Clinton did.
Instead, Biden took a slightly different path to victory in Wisconsin, which has hosted some of the closest elections in the country over the last decade. The president did slightly worse among Black voters nationally than Clinton, but the dropoff was lower in Wisconsin than in other states. Combined with a better showing among college-educated whites and their growing share of the electorate, Biden was able to eke out his 20,682-vote margin using a different mix of factors than in the other key swing states.
Mobilization or persuasion? It’s not that simple.
One of the report’s major conclusions cuts against conventional wisdom that has dominated in both parties: That higher turnout automatically favors Democrats — particularly turning out new voters of color, since regular voters from those groups lean heavily Democratic.
But despite a big influx of new voters in Nevada in 2020, the Catalist report notes that it was one of just two states, along with Florida, where Biden didn’t improve on Clinton’s share of the two-party vote against Trump four years earlier.
“That’s important because people who don’t often participate in politics don’t tend to have strong ideological or partisan attachments,” Robinson said in an interview. “They’re less likely to identify with parties, participate in primaries, watch the news. I think that it’s a useful way to understand these voters. They’re new, not a part of this — they’re different than a caricature of them might look like.”
That’s part of the explanation for why Nevada’s fast-changing population — the share of the electorate that was white declined from 72 percent in 2008 to 64 percent in 2020, according to the Catalist report — hasn’t automatically shifted Nevada into a safely Democratic state during that time.
But the trend has broader implications, and it’s an important data point for Democratic strategists and financiers to keep in mind as they devise and fund programs to preserve Biden’s winning electoral map or try to flip new states in future elections.
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