US midterm elections: Democrats may be wincing now, but the 2016 general election looks different

Presidential elections attract a wider and more diverse electorate

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Mortified Democrats in the United States are wincing today when they consider how far the tide of red ink has spread across the electoral map since the returns came in from Tuesday’s midterm elections and the Republicans boasted their success in taking control of the US Senate.

To be sure, it will be a rough couple of years for the party and for President Barack Obama, more isolated than ever in the White House, and faced with a Congress controlled by the opposing party. And it may give pause to any Democrat thinking of a run to replace him in 2016.

The bulwark that Mr Obama threw up in 2008 when he dispatched John McCain and again, though slightly less convincingly in 2012 against Mitt Romney, looks largely to have been breached. Key successes then were turning states like Colorado and North Carolina blue. Both saw Democrat incumbent senators turfed out this week as the electorate rebelled against Mr Obama and his party.

Not at first visible, moreover, is how at still more local levels within this new map the dynamics were different on Tuesday, favouring Republican candidates. Mr Obama secured Colorado twice by winning support not just in urban Denver but in all the suburban counties around it. Senator Mark Udall lost Colorado this week because almost all those ring counties flipped to his Republican opponent.



Yet, there are reasons Democrat hopefuls for 2016 – did someone say Hillary Clinton? – should not despair and why Republicans should not read too much into these changed political contours. Simply put, the electorate in midterm elections and in national presidential elections are very different from one another. Many of those who broke for Mr Obama – the young, women, minority voters – in two elections sat out the poll on Tuesday. The turnout in 2016 will be about 40 per cent higher and far more diverse.

In other words, the Republicans can pin these new maps to their office walls and justifiably feel proud. But there will be new ones to put up two years hence and they may well be less pretty.

“We had a great victory last night,” one senior Republican party observed on Wednesday, “but we have to be careful not to assume that because we won the majority in Romney-red states, this is easy to translate into a general election victory in 2016."