Update 285: Kavanaugh Nomination Fires Up Pink Army, Propelling Blue Wave Gaining Speed
The 2018 congressional primary season is more than half over and it is already apparent how this election cycle will stand apart from all preceding ones, with consequences certain to be seen in November and beyond.
Women are entering the US political arena like never before in history. This phenomenon has been felt everywhere — in fundraising prowess, in volunteer numbers, and in the voting booth. We drill down on what we’ve learned about the scope and significance of the pink army of female candidates, campaign staff, donors, and volunteers that marks the midterms thus far.
Since President Trump’s election, hundreds of first-time female candidates have competed for political office. A record 472 female candidates filed to run for House seats this cycle, shattering the 2012 record of 298 and more than doubling the number of women who ran in 2016. Over three quarters of women who competed for House seats have run in Democratic primaries.
Women candidates are also winning at higher rates than ever before. 65 percent of primary contests between one woman, one man, and no incumbent have been won by the female candidate. With everyone hopeful of a blue wave in November, it may well be that it is in fact a pink army that has the power to turn districts from red to blue.
Contributions from Women Rise Sharply
Women are not only running for office in higher numbers, but female donors are investing more in the political process. This election cycle, campaign contributions from female donors total 31 percent of House candidate fundraising, more than in any other election year and up from 27 percent in 2014. Women are not only participating by running, they are also participating by donating.
Source: Cook Political Report
Female Political Activism on the March
Female political engagement and activism is at an all-time high. The Women’s March on Washington saw record numbers in D.C.—and across the nation—show up to make their voices heard on a myriad of issues including women’s rights, gender equality, and paid family leave. Continuing with the #MeToo movement, we have seen the power of women’s voices in the political narrative and their engagement in the issues that matter most to them.
According to the latest Gallup poll tracking, just 35 percent of women approve of President Trump’s performance, compared to 49 percent of men. In 2016, Trump lost the female vote by an unprecedented 13 points, receiving just 41 percent to 54 percent for Hillary Clinton. Unmarried women, Latino, and millennial voters all came out to vote in the 2016 election in greater numbers than in 2012. Given the rise in female political activism and the rise of female candidates focusing on issues that women care about, 2018 will surely be remembered as the Year of the Woman.
Progressive Women Driving the Blue Wave
Poll after poll shows that the American people are desperately looking for change from their political leaders– and women are delivering. Candidates from districts as different as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Kara Eastman’s won their primaries against moderate incumbents, Joe Crowley and Brad Ashford, by running on progressive policies and visions. While Ocasio-Cortez should cruise in her deep blue district, Eastman will face stiff competition in a purple Nebraska district that has been separated by one percentage point the last few election cycles.
Regardless of how difficult their general election fights will be, their primary victories represent the direction that this blue wave is headed – towards women and towards progressive outsiders.
Economic and Related Issues this Cycle
There are a number of policy positions that have played well for female Democrats during this primary season.
Voters rank healthcare as the number one issue going into the November midterms, and they are looking for sweeping reform proposals from candidates, not incremental changes. Democratic candidates, such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, are running (and winning) on bold, progressive policies such as Medicare for all. Healthcare issues resonate strongly with female voters because they make 80 percent of health decisions in the family, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Voters also tend to trust women more when it comes to healthcare, and given the importance that voters assign to the topic this will certainly advantage female candidates.
- Taxes and the Economy
The recent GOP tax cuts have gone from a positive to either a neutral or negative campaign message in the eyes of voters. This negative impression by the electorate could be further exacerbated if the GOP look to attack entitlements in order to make amends for their fiscally irresponsible Tax Cuts and Jobs Act bill. Likewise, with the economy, voters are looking for bold messaging: to rewrite the rules of the game so the economy works for everyone, not just a select few. As wages stagnate while the cost of living increases, the tax cuts feel more and more like a dividend for wealthy special interests who rig the rules.
- Campaign Finance Reform
Despite the repeated transgressions of the Trump administration, Democrats are double-digits behind Trump when it comes to “cleaning up the swamp.” Democratic candidates are winning their primaries by linking economic and political reform. This issue is critical in the perception among voters that candidates stand for something and are not part of a political establishment that is looking to continue the status quo. Many candidates have found that eschewing donations from big business, lobbyists, and/or super PACs resonates strongly with voters.
The Pink Army
29 female non-incumbent Democratic candidates have won primaries in districts that are considered to be competitive (not solid Dem or GOP) by Cook Political Report. The candidates in these districts are scattered around the country but are united by their prioritization of economic issues on the campaign trail and their desire for change.
More importantly, they will be a preponderant factor in enabling Democrats to take back the House in November. The Cook Political Report has predicted that Democrats are going to win between 20-35 seats in November. If Democrats are going to realize this, it is likely going to be on the back of a pink army that has already seen half of all House Democratic nominations this far go to women, a staggering number that more than doubles the previous historical record.