Re-electing four of Connecticut’s five Democratic incumbents to the House of Representatives – and Sen. Richard Blumenthal’s resounding victory over Republican challenger Leora Levy – were predictable outcomes, according to political scientists who spoke with CT Examiner, in a midterm election that took some unexpected twists and turns nationally.
John Larson took Connecticut’s 1st District with over 61% of the vote. Rosa DeLauro took the 3rd with about 56% of the vote. Joe Courtney won the 2nd District with just over 58% of the vote. Jim Himes took the 4th District with about 59% of the vote, according to the Secretary of the State’s website.
Theresa Marchant-Shapiro, a professor of political science at Southern Connecticut State University, said that these results underscore just how difficult it is for a challenger to unseat an incumbent.
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“Incumbency advantage really is important. You get that name recognition,” said Marchant-Shapiro. “The ability of members of Congress to set up offices within the district and to do the kind of service that they do for constituents is huge.”
Also predictable is the close race between incumbent Rep. Jahana Hayes and George Logan in Connecticut’s 5th congressional district, stretching from Meriden through the Naugatuck Valley and up into the northwest corner of the state.
As of 1 p.m. on Wednesday, the race was still too close to call. The latest numbers from the Secretary of the State’s Office gave Logan the lead by 1,489 votes. The New York Times tally placed Hayes in the lead as of 1:20 p.m, although barely, with 321 votes.
“For months I’ve been saying, ‘We’re going to win this.’ It’s not going to be by a landslide … it’s going to be by the shortest of margins,” Logan said late Tuesday night in a speech to his supporters.
Jahana Hayes told supporters at about midnight on Tuesday, that she wasn’t ready yet to declare victory, and was ready to wait until every vote had been counted.
“I’m waiting patiently for however long it takes to count every single vote,” said Hayes. “I don’t plan on going to sleep. I’m going to wait until every vote comes in.”
As of 1 p.m. 167 of 169 towns had reported their results to the Secretary of the State’s office.
The Associated Press called the race for Blumenthal over Levy within minutes of the polls closing on Tuesday night. As of 1:00 p.m. Wednesday, Blumenthal had taken more than 57% of the vote.
Paul Herrnson, a professor of political science at the University of Connecticut, said that he expected Blumenthal to win even if the Republicans had put forth a stronger candidate than Levy. But he also said that being endorsed by Trump – as Levy was – had negatively impacted candidates across the country.
“You can see nationally, these Trump-backed candidates who won the Republican nominations have not fared that well,” said Herrnson.
Marchant-Shapiro said that typically Republican voters are more engaged and have a higher turnout in midterm elections than Democrats. But on Tuesday, a surprising number of Democrats came out to the polls, she said, attributing the turnout to the issue of abortion and how engaged voters are on that issue.
“I think that [abortion] was an incredibly important mobilizing factor,” said Marchant-Shapiro. “We had this huge turnout and there were more Democrats than had been projected who turned out to vote.”
Herrnson said that the unusual thing about this election was former President Donald Trump’s outsized presence as he endorsed candidates across the country. Normally, he said, a midterm election is a “referendum” on whether or not voters approved of the current President and the current Congress. This time, it was different.
“The referendum certainly was on the President and the Democrats, but former President Trump’s presence in the election made it for some voters a choice. And that probably cost Republicans,” said Herrnson. “If a previous president intervenes, or becomes such a big part of the agenda, what would have been a referendum election gets some overtones of an election between two leaders and two visions of the future.”
Marchant-Shapiro also pointed out that, normally, when a president is elected, his party tends to do well in Congress. But in 2020, Joe Biden’s victory hadn’t ushered a lot of Democrats into congressional seats, meaning that there wasn’t as much potential for turnover.
“The candidate that wins the presidency normally has huge coattails and helps their party do better in congressional races than they normally would do,” said Marchant-Shapiro. “Biden didn’t have good coattails in 2020. He lost seats in Congress. And that meant that coming into the midterm, there wasn’t this host of tossup congressional districts that had gone Democratic because of his coattails.”
Marchant-Shapiro also said she thinks a major challenge going forward will be finding a way to get more accurate polling data. Traditionally, she said, Republicans have been more likely to respond to polls. With landlines becoming obsolete, she said, there needed to be better ways to get an accurate sampling of voters.
“How are they going to solve this problem? It’s just going to keep getting worse — the ability to do polls in the way that we’ve done them before. And so they’ve got to start using different techniques to which people are more likely to respond, and respond accurately,” said Marchant-Shapiro.