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The Early 202

An essential morning newsletter briefing for leaders in the nation’s capital.

The educational divide between voters is growing

The Early 202

An essential morning newsletter briefing for leaders in the nation’s capital.

Good morning, Early Birds. As we approach Thanksgiving, THANK YOU to all of our readers and for your thoughtful emails. We’re grateful you’re taking this journey with us.

PROGRAMMING NOTE: To celebrate Thanksgiving, we won’t send out a newsletter Thursday and Friday of this week. We’ll see you bright and early on Monday! Tips, recipes: earlytips@washpost.com. Thanks for waking up with us.

In today's edition …  McCarthy jumps on the impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas bandwagon … We could find out the winners of Alaska’s House and Senate races today … D.C. pleads for attention from the Senate and President Biden on big judicial vacancies, Meagan Flynn and Michael Brice-Saddler report … but first …

The campaign

The educational divide between voters is growing

When Democrat Tony Evers defeated Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker in 2018, he won Dane County overwhelmingly.

When Evers won reelection earlier this month, though, he did even better: He carried Dane — Wisconsin’s second most populous county — with 79 percent of the vote, up from 75 percent four years earlier.

The shift might seem slight, but it reflects a significant political realignment, as voters with college degrees nationwide move toward Democrats and those without them gravitate toward Republicans.

Wisconsin, which promises to be a hard-fought battleground once again in 2024, offers a case study of this trend.

Dane County, home to the University of Wisconsin at Madison, has a higher share of residents 25 and older who hold at least a bachelor’s degree than any other county in Wisconsin and all but 48 other counties in the country. It’s one of many highly educated counties that shifted a little further in Democrats’ direction this year, continuing a trend that’s been playing out for years:

  • President Biden won Dane County with 75 percent of the vote in 2020 after Hillary Clinton carried it with 70 percent in 2016.
  • Democrat Mandela Barnes won 77 percent of the vote in Dane County this year in his race against Republican Sen. Ron Johnson; former Democratic senator Russ Feingold carried the county with 72 percent of the vote when he lost to Johnson in 2016.

“Dane County has done a stunning triple axel of having higher and higher turnout, higher and higher Democratic vote margins and larger and larger populations for multiple cycles running,” said Wisconsin Democratic Chairman Ben Wikler. “Every cycle I think we must be hitting the ceiling and I’m proven wrong.” 

The pattern is the same in Ozaukee County, a Republican stronghold in the Milwaukee suburbs that has the second-highest share of college-educated voters in the state. Evers won 44 percent of the vote there, up from 36 percent four years ago.

In rural, less educated counties, the opposite happened.

Evers lost Grant, Richland and Crawford counties in southwestern Wisconsin this year after winning them in 2018. Fewer than 24 percent of residents 25 and older hold bachelor’s degrees in each county, compared with more than 52 percent in Dane County and nearly 50 percent in Ozaukee County.

Voters without college degrees make up a much bigger share of the electorate than voters with them, “so Democrats have to be able to do well with non-college-educated voters to be able to win in Wisconsin,” Wikler said. “And Gov. Evers does.”

A nationwide trend

The midterms offered fresh evidence that voters with bachelor's degrees and those without them are diverging.

In the 2018 midterms, 56 percent of voters with college degrees and 51 percent of voters without them voted for Democrats, according to the Associated Press’s VoteCast survey — a gap of five percentage points.

This year, the gap widened to 10 points: 52 percent of voters with college degrees supported Democrats while 42 percent of voters without degrees did so. The split echoed the gap between college-educated and non-college-educated voters’ support for Biden in 2020.

Voters with and without college degrees were more likely to support Republicans this year than in 2018 — a stronger year for Democrats.  But voters without college degrees shifted more sharply toward the GOP than college-educated ones across racial and gender lines:

  • White voters without degrees moved seven points toward Republicans this year, while college-educated ones moved three points
  • Black voters without degrees moved eight points toward Republicans this year, while college-educated ones moved four points
  • Latino voters without degrees moved 10 points toward Republicans this year, while college-educated ones moved five points
  • Men without degrees moved seven points toward Republicans this year, while college-educated men moved one point
  • Women without degrees moved eight points toward Republicans this year, while college-educated women moved seven points

Non-college-educated voters’ increasing willingness to back Republicans didn’t prevent Democrats from holding the Senate or limiting Republicans’ gains in the House, but Republicans are hopeful they’ll have a bigger impact in future elections.

Republicans’ inroads with Hispanic voters “may only matter in a few districts, but it will matter in some important states in 2024,” said Patrick Ruffini, a Republican pollster who is working on a book on the party’s gains with working-class voters.

Suburban battlegrounds

The shift toward Democrats this year in highly educated counties wasn’t universal. Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.) did slightly worse in Loudoun County — which ranks ninth in the country by percentage of residents with bachelor’s degrees — than she did in 2018 or 2020.

But Avram Fechter, the Loudoun County Democratic Committee’s deputy chair, credited supercharged turnout in the rural western part of the district rather than college-educated voters returning to Republicans. “Western Loudoun is very different than eastern Loudoun,” he said. “You go west of Route 15 and a lot of those precincts vote like rural Virginia.”

Meanwhile, the trend was apparent in highly educated counties across the country this year:

  • Johnson County, Kan.: Democrats Rep. Sharice Davids won reelection by 12 points in her district in the Kansas City suburbs, a much bigger margin than she expected. (More than 80 percent of her constituents live in Johnson County.) Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly won the county with 59 percent of the vote, up from 55 percent in 2018, helping her win a tight reelection race. And Republican Sen. Jerry Moran lost the county to his underfunded Democratic challenger, six years after carrying it with 55 percent of the vote.
  • Hamilton County, Ind.: When former Democratic senator Evan Bayh ran against Republican Rep. Todd C. Young to reclaim his old seat in 2016, he won 36 percent of the vote in this county in the Indianapolis suburbs. When Democrat Tom McDermott challenged Young this year, he won 41 percent of the vote in Hamilton County despite spending a fraction of what Bayh did.
  • Douglas County, Colo.: Democratic Gov. Jared Polis nearly won this Republican bastion in the Denver suburbs this year after winning less than 41 percent of the vote there in 2018. “That was shocking to me,” said Angela Taylor, the Democratic county chairwoman. “I will tell you, it was shocking.”

Polis’s margin of victory helped Democrat Robert Marshall narrowly defeat a Republican state representative. Marshall, a former Marine Corps lawyer, is emblematic of the county’s shift: A former Republican, he refused to vote for Donald Trump in 2016 and quit the party a year later. Last year, he became a Democrat.

“The national brand is still kind of damaged here in Douglas County, but [voters are] willing to look at Democrats on their merits,” Marshall said.

Stu Parker, the Douglas County Republican chairman, said that Polis’s massive advantage in TV advertising made it tough for the party to compete this year. Republicans still do well in local elections in the county, and he believes the party will rebound in 2024.

“I don’t think the state is lost, and I don’t think Douglas County is lost,” Parker said.

McCarthy calls for Mayorkas to quit and promises border investigations

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) is getting on the impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas bandwagon as he struggles to secure the votes to become speaker.

From Marianna Sotomayor and Maria Sacchetti:

McCarthy “announced he had directed the Judiciary Committee’s top Republican, Rep. Jim Jordan (Ohio), and the Oversight Committee’s top Republican, Rep. James Comer (Ky.), to immediately launch investigations over 'the collapse of our border' and the overall reduction in immigration arrests in the interior of the United States when they chair their respective committees in January …

''Our country may never recover from Secretary Mayorkas’s dereliction of duty,' McCarthy said after he and six other Republicans visited U.S. Customs and Border Protection personnel in El Paso.

While the border has become a uniting issue for House Republicans, the approach to passing substantive immigration reform that could lift the strain on border patrol agents has splintered the ideologically divided conference. GOP members and aides, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private deliberations, remain pessimistic that reform can be achieved given how politically toxic the immigration debate has become within their own ranks.”

What we're watching

Alaska election results are expected tonight and we will probably find out if Rep. Mary Peltola (D) and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) will win their reelections.

At 4 p.m. in Alaska, the state will distribute the votes through the ranked choice process, which you can watch live, and the winner is expected to be named in both the at-large House seat and the Senate seat. The winner needs to win 50 percent plus one of the vote.

Peltola, who currently has 48.7 percent of the vote against Republicans Sarah Palin, Nick Begich and Chris Bye is expected to win in the next round of vote distribution.  

Murkowski is currently winning with 43.2 percent of the vote and Trump-backed Kelly Tshibaka is second with 42.6 percent. The third place finisher has 10.3 percent and fourth has 2.8 percent. Murkowski’s campaign manager, Nate Adams, wrote in a memo that Murkowski expects to win after they distribute the 3rd and 4th place finishers votes. “Any remaining outstanding votes will break favorably for Lisa Murkowski,” Adams wrote.

From the courts

D.C. pleads for attention from Senate, Biden on big judicial vacancies

‘How many times and ways can we say we need help’: “Last year, as the first half of this congressional session came to a close, D.C. courts issued a dire warning as they faced an unprecedented number of judicial vacancies that was slowing the wheels of justice in every corner of the law,” our colleagues Meagan Flynn and Michael Brice-Saddler write. “This year, the judges are in virtually the same position: waiting for the U.S. Senate to help.”

  • “The D.C. Superior Court has 14 vacancies — a fourth of its bench, with more vacancies expected by February — and the Court of Appeals is missing two of nine judges.”
  • “The perpetual crisis of large numbers of judicial vacancies on the D.C. Superior Court and Court of Appeals has underscored how Congress, even though it oversees the District, does not always tend to the city’s needs, even when they are pressing.”
  • “This month, the D.C. Council, led by Charles Allen (D-Ward 6) directly petitioned the Senate and President Biden for assistance. In a recent letter to White House counsel, the entire 13-member council asked that the president swiftly submit eight new nominees to the Senate for consideration by the end of this Congress. Another eight nominees are pending on the Senate calendar and could be called to the floor for a vote if Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) chose to do that, which the council requested in another letter it sent last week.”

The Media

Holiday weekend reeeads 🦃

Coffee Break(s)

Tired of eating pumpkin pie every Thanksgiving? Or are you a first-time host looking to wow your guests (read: mom)? Try making this yummy pecan Bundt cake. Send pics and let us know how it goes!

Ingredients

  • Nonstick baking spray with flour
  • 2 cups (240 grams) roughly chopped pecan pieces
  • 3 cups (375 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks/339 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups (300 grams) packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup (180 grams) canned crushed pineapple in juice
  • 1/2 cup (75 grams) golden raisins

Thanks for reading. You can also follow us on Twitter: @theodoricmeyer and @LACaldwellDC.

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