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How a wave election could develop

By Carter Wrenn

Talking About Politics

What creates a wave election?

Two things.

Here’s one: In 1988, 1990 and 1992 Congressman David Price, a popular Democratic incumbent in a Democratic district, received over 100,000 votes in each election and won easily. Then, in 1994, a wave election came along that favored Republicans. Democrats didn’t vote and David Price received 76,000 votes and lost by a thousand votes.

That’s the first factor: In a wave election, one party’s turnout plummets.

Here’s the second: In 2008, swing voters split in a way that allowed Barack Obama to narrowly win North Carolina. But in 2010, those same swing voters did an about-face and overwhelmingly voted against Democratic candidates.

And that’s the second factor: Swing voters overwhelmingly vote for one party over the other.

And when both those forces hit in the same election, they create a powerful political wave.

In Wisconsin recently, there was a state Senate race in a district Donald Trump had won by 17 points — this time a Democratic candidate won the same district by 10 points. That’s a sign of a Democratic wave.

Can a Republican candidate overcome a Democratic wave? Yes.

But he has to understand the ground beneath his feet is about to shift. The world around him has changed and he can’t ignore the changes. Re-running last year’s campaign won’t work this year.

The problem is old habits die hard, and candidates, like most of us, like to ignore changes.

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