Following last Tuesday’s midterm elections, the Center for the Study of American Democracy (CSAD) teamed up with the Department of Political Science to host a panel centered on analyzing the results. Visiting Instructor of Women’s and Gender Studies and Political Science Gilda Rodriguez, Professor Emeritus of Political Science John Elliot and Harry M. Clor Professor of Political Science Tim Spiekerman discussed their takeaways with moderator Associate Director of CSAD Nancy Powers ’83.
Powers began the panel with a brief overview of Tuesday’s events. She described how the “red wave” that political pundits predicted would occur on a wide scale did not materialize. Instead, Democrats were able to preserve their majority in the United States Senate. Republicans won down the ballot in Ohio and managed to gain control of the U.S. House of Representatives. Powers gave a special shoutout to Rep. Lizzie Fletcher ’97, who was re-elected to represent Texas’ seventh congressional district.
Powers first asked the panelists how people should interpret these results, some of which were very unexpected, like Democrat Katie Hobbs’ win in Arizona and several House races in New York that went Republican. Each professor offered differing theories as to why the president’s party fared much better than historical precedent would suggest. Rodriguez emphasized that the youth vote was a factor that boosted the Democrats’ performance nationally.
Spiekerman, wary of attributing a single explanation to the outcomes, suggested that hot button issues such as inflation did not necessarily determine the way people voted.
Abortion, on the other hand, panelists agreed was a key factor in voter’s decisions in some but not all races. The Supreme Court’s decision to repeal Roe v. Wade in June put abortion at the forefront of many races, including the Ohio governor’s race. “Abortion was a motivator only in certain races,” said Rodriguez, describing places that had ballot initiatives pertaining to abortion.
In the Ohio governor’s race, however, “abortion was not enough to overcome incumbent Mike DeWine’s popularity,” she said. A ballot measure that would prohibit abortions in Kentucky was voted down, and Michigan voters approved the enshrinement of abortion rights in the state’s constitution.
The panel then talked more specifically about the races in Ohio. Powers described Ohio as a state that was once a reliable bellwether state, but is now run almost exclusively by Republicans. Rodriguez emphasized the role of redistricting in the state as a potential explanation for the shift in Republican dominance. Spiekerman talked about how Ohioans traditionally value familiarity in their politicians, which fails to explain why a relative outsider to politics like J.D. Vance was able to succeed in his first run for U.S. Senate.