ST. CHARLES, Ill. — Democrats did what was once unthinkable when they flipped two suburban Chicago congressional districts that had been held by Republicans pretty much since World War II.
It was territory that produced GOP stalwarts such as Henry Hyde and Dennis Hastert and where, until Tuesday, incumbents had regularly won re-election by 20 percentage points or more. But the Democratic successes didn’t extend south to the farms and small towns of central and southern Illinois, where GOP congressmen held on to two other seats Democrats had targeted, including one in a blue-collar district that was reliably Democratic until just a few years ago.
The same pattern emerged across the U.S.: Democrats captured control of the House by winning in suburban areas such as northern Virginia and communities outside Los Angeles, Detroit and Minneapolis. Republicans fared better in the country’s smaller towns and rural areas.
The depth of the divide emerged during 2016, when President Donald Trump was elected. It’s clear he was also the driving factor this year.
“Nationally, I want a check on Trump,” said Nick Molino, a 33-year-old engineer who voted in his hometown of Wheaton, Illinois, west of Chicago. The new dad considers himself an independent and chose a mix of Democrats and Republicans on his ballot. He was sure to vote for Democrat Sean Casten, a former clean energy entrepreneur and first-time candidate, over six-term Republican Rep. Peter Roskam.
Casten defeated Roskam by more than 5 percentage points in an affluent district west and northwest of Chicago that was high on Democrats’ list of targets since voters there backed Hillary Clinton over Trump in 2016.
Nationally, urban and suburban voters preferred Democratic over Republican candidates, while voters in small towns and rural places favoured Republicans, based on results from AP VoteCast, a nationwide survey of more than 115,000 voters and 20,000 nonvoters conducted for The Associated Press by NORC at the University of Chicago.
Trump loomed large. Six in 10 Illinois voters considered him a factor in their choices, like voters nationally. About 4 in 10 voted to express opposition to the president, compared with about 2 in 10 who said it was to support Trump. Another 4 in 10 said Trump was not a factor, the survey found.
About a third of small town and rural Illinois voters said they voted to support Trump, compared with about a quarter who voted against him. Another 44 per cent said Trump was not a factor. More voters in urban and suburban areas voted in opposition to the president than in support of him.
While Trump didn’t campaign in the Chicago area, he was more engaged in holding off Democratic challenges in the two other Illinois districts, where voters favoured him by larger numbers in 2016 and Republican Reps. Mike Bost and Rodney Davis won re-election on Tuesday.
Trump campaigned with Bost in far southern Illinois just days before the election, holding a rally at a small airport in Bost’s hometown. He also was in the district in August to tout his trade policies at a …read more