The last few weeks before the midterm elections – Interview with opinion researcher Robert Moran

© Robert Moran/Brunswick Group.

You can find the German translation of this interview here.

What are your key takeaways from this year’s primary elections? What major developments did you observe on the Democratic and Republican side?

 My primary observation is the radicalization of both parties, which are locked in a mutually reinforcing cycle of appealing to the more strident voters on the edges of their political bases.  This started before Trump, before social media, but both have accelerated it.

On the Republican side, it is clear that the GOP has become more populist and more protectionist, returning to their roots as the party of nationalism, protectionism and a focus on building the country economically. The traditional, Post WW2, Cold War conservatism has largely been jettisoned for an older version of Republicanism. Finally, Federal Level Republicans have demonstrated that they are uninterested in fiscal conservatism and spending control, something that was a hallmark of conservative thought in a prior era.

Democrats may gain control of the House (although the Senate looks like a tougher climb for them at the moment), but they are likely to learn the wrong lesson – that anti-Trumpism is their winning strategy in 2020. Given the Electoral College, I’m not so sure that it is. I’m not the only observer that thinks the Democrats need a much clearer message on the issues.


Election day is two weeks from today. Are there any ongoing political developments that could severely impact public opinion and therefore the outcome of the midterm election?

© GettyImages/adamkaz.

 Perceptions of the economy are always crucial in any election. There are a wide range of issues and events that could pop up and impact the elections, from a terrorist strike or international election meddling to bad economic news to a new scandal.

Midterms are not typically about persuasion, they are about activation – turnout. Because of this, both sides need to message to their bases and drive turnout.


Do the 2018 midterm elections have the potential to change American politics and in which way? What are the consequences of the election outcome for the presidential election in 2020?

 There are several ways that these midterms could change America.

  1. Further partisan division. The partisan polarization today is VERY dangerous to our Democracy in the long run. And, there may be an opening for a 3rd
  2. These elections could unwind the massive Republican advantage in the State Houses. This is a story that is not followed very often, but Republicans dominated at the state level during the Obama years. A Blue Wave could unwind some of this. The Florida Governor race is an example.
  3. The Democratic base seems focused on nominating a populist Left candidate for the general election. This has been done before, and it failed. It’s hard to identify the DLC wing of the Democratic party today. An extreme left candidate may truly struggle against Donald Trump in a Presidential election.
  4. Marijuana and drug policy related to addiction may change, given Millennial support for legalization and Canada’s decriminalization of marijuana.
  5. A Democratic House, if we see a strong Blue Wave, may be good for the President. It will give him a big infrastructure bill and will be a foil for him.