Donald Trump has had a remarkable impact on American politics. During the 2016 Presidential campaign, he occupied and conquered the Republican party by mobilizing disaffected, non-college-educated, white voters. His accession to the presidency politicized and mobilized another big segment of the population: liberal, college-educated Americans of all races, particularly women. As the past week has confirmed, this mobilization is just as real as the Make America Great Again phenomenon.
Most coverage of Tuesday’s midterm primaries has concentrated on California, the nation’s most populous state, but I’ll focus here on New Jersey, which may be a bellwether. If there’s anything that analysts from across the political spectrum agree on, it’s that the November general elections will be decided in the suburbs and exurbs, where Democrats are targeting Republicans and independents put off by Trump. New Jersey is perhaps the most suburban of all the states, and, although it has been trending toward the Democrats in recent years, it still has five Republican congressional districts.
The Democrats have their sights set on four of them: the second, which covers the southernmost portion of the state, from Atlantic City to the Delaware Bay; the third, which runs across the south-center of the state, from Toms River to close to Philadelphia; the seventh, which extends from just west of Newark along Route 78 to the Pennsylvania line; and the eleventh, which includes much of affluent Morris County, and which has for the past twenty-four years been represented by Rodney Frelinghuysen, the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, who is retiring.
On Tuesday, the Democrats got a strong turnout in all of these districts, except in the third, where both parties’ primaries were uncontested. In fact, more Democrats voted in these G.O.P. districts than Republicans. (Democrats 112,751; Republicans 100,028.) For a number of reasons, it doesn’t make sense to extrapolate these figures directly to the general election. But at the very least, they point to an enthusiasm gap between the two parties that augurs poorly for Republicans.
So does the fact that the Democrats chose some experienced candidates who won’t be easy for the G.O.P. to defeat this fall. Two of them worked in the Obama Administration: Andy Kim (third district) and Tom Malinowski (seventh district). Jeff Van Drew, who won in the second district, is a veteran state senator who, in the past, has supported lax gun laws and opposed gay marriage. His victory