The president’s courting of voters in the Heartland is a shrewd political calculation by Team Trump. More than half of the 206 so-called “pivot” counties—areas that twice voted for Obama then switched to Trump in 2016—are located in the Midwest, as are four “pivot” states: Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Iowa. Hillary Clinton won Minnesota by fewer than 50,000 votes; Barack Obama won it by 225,000 votes in 2012.
Over the past decade, Midwestern states have been bleeding blue votes and politicians. With the exception of Minnesota, every single Midwestern state has a Republican governor (even my home state, the basket case Illinois) and Republicans control state houses throughout the Midwest except for Illinois. This once-reliably Democratic region is turning red faster than Elon Musk’s investors and Trump is only part of the reason why.
Ohio: In 2008, Democrats held 65 state legislative seats compared to 67 for Republicans. In 2018, Democrats hold 42 seats and Republicans hold 90. Ten Ohio congressmen were Democrats in 2008. Today, only four Democrats represent Ohio in the U.S. Congress.
Wisconsin: Democrats held 65 state legislative seats and Republicans held 67 state legislative seats in the Badger State in 2008. By 2018, Democrats were down to 49 seats and Republicans were up to 81 seats. Congressional representation has flipped from three Republicans and five Democrats in 2008 to five Republicans and three Democrats today.
Michigan: Democrats held 84 state legislative seats in 2008; Republicans held 70. In 2018, Democrats only hold 57 seats versus 90 for Republicans. Eight Democrats and seven Republicans represented Michigan in Congress in 2008. Today, Michigan’s delegation has four Democrats and nine Republicans.
Minnesota: Although Clinton won this state by a slim margin, two of the most vulnerable House seats for Democrats are in Minnesota. The political landscape has shifted dramatically: Democrats had an almost two-to-one advantage over Republicans in the state legislature in 2008, with Democrats controlling 131 seats and Republicans controlling only 68 seats. Today, Republicans control 111 seats and Democrats hold 89 seats.
Congressional representation is the same now as it was in 2008—five Democrats and three Republicans. If the Democrats lose both toss-up seats to Republicans, that would be an ominous sign for the Democratic presidential candidate in the must-win North Star State in 2020.