This week’s competitive primaries in Arizona and Florida suggest the midterm elections could provide revealing signals on one of the most important questions facing the two parties over the next decade: Can Democrats overturn the Republican advantage in the rapidly growing Sun Belt?
In the coming years, Democrats will likely face a growing need to expand their inroads in the Sun Belt states—which tend to be younger, racially diverse, and white-collar—as Republicans strengthen their position in older, predominantly white, and blue-collar states across the Midwest and Great Plains.
This transition won’t occur overnight. For the 2020 presidential race, the top priority for most Democratic strategists remains recapturing the three Rust Belt states Donald Trump dislodged from the party’s “blue wall” by a combined margin of only about 80,000 votes: Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania.
But many of those same strategists agree that as support for each party divides more sharply along racial, generational, and class lines, it will be difficult for Democrats to rely on predominantly white heartland states as much as they do today in presidential, congressional, and state races alike. And, through the next several elections, that will increase the pressure on Democrats to post deeper gains in Sun Belt states—such as Florida, North Carolina, Georgia, Arizona, Nevada, and perhaps even Texas—that more reflect their modern coalition.