Republicans picked up seven Senate seats in the midterm election. (Note: This includes Alaska, which was called for Republican candidate Dan SullivanDaniel Scott SullivanThe Hill's Campaign Report: Ten days to Iowa Impeachment trial forces senators to scrap fundraisers Senators inch forward on federal privacy bill MORE earlier this morning.) According to CNN exit polling data, the male vote was key in every one of them. The female vote was also interesting.


For years, the Democrats' go-to strategy has been to accuse Republicans of conducting a "war on women" and so appeal to its formidable female voting base. The accusation may no longer be a winner. Men are emerging as the new power base that Democrats ignore at great peril. This is especially true if women split their votes between both parties.

What does the polling data reveal about the seven Republican Senate candidates and the strategy of "anti-woman" accusations?

Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoDemocrat Richard Ojeda announces Senate bid after dropping out of presidential race Spending bill to address miners' health care, pensions Manchin warns he'll slow-walk government funding bill until he gets deal on miners legislation MORE (West Virginia). The pro-Democratic and feminist Emily's List issued a memo accusing Moore of turning "her back on West Virginia women time and again." It hit repeatedly on her opposition to ending "gender discrimination in pay." The exit data showed men favoring Capito by 37 points; women by 19.

Mike RoundsMarion (Mike) Michael RoundsDrug price outrage threatens to be liability for GOP Overnight Defense: Iran takes credit for rocket attack on US base | Trump briefed | Trump puts talk of Iraq withdrawal on hold | Progressives push to block funding for Iran war | Trump backs off threat to hit Iranian cultural sites McConnell to GOP on impeachment rules: I have the votes MORE (South Dakota). The pro-Democratic RH Reality Check decried him as being "stringently anti-choice" and responsible in 2006 for signing into law "one of the most sweeping anti-choice laws" in America. Men favored Rounds by 30 points; women by 12.

Tom CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant CottonDemocrats, Republicans tussle over witnesses as vote approaches GOP senator says idea that Ukraine interfered in US election is 'not a conspiracy theory' Sunday shows - Spotlight shifts to Trump tweet, Senate trial witnesses MORE (Arkansas). Liberals emphasized that Cotton voted against the Violence Against Women Act. They reached back to his college days to critique an article he wrote for The Harvard Crimson which criticized feminist organizations. Men favored Cotton by 24 points; women by 10.

Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstSchiff pushes back: Defense team knows Trump is guilty Schiff sparks blowback with head on a 'pike' line Grassley signs USMCA, sending it to Trump's desk MORE (Iowa). The progressive PoliticusUSA called her "a lying Koch-funded teabagger, and an anti-woman's rights evangelical." It cited her support for a "personhood amendment" which would have granted constitutional rights to a fetus. Men favored Ernst by 18 points; women were evenly divided.

Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerDemocrats feel political momentum swinging to them on impeachment Senate Republicans confident they'll win fight on witnesses Tensions between McConnell and Schumer run high as trial gains momentum MORE (Colorado). His opponent, Sen. Mark UdallMark Emery UdallDemocrats will win back the Senate majority in 2020, all thanks to President Trump Poll: Trump trails three Democrats by 10 points in Colorado The Hill's Morning Report — Trump and the new Israel-'squad' controversy MORE (D), ran a one-issue campaign: reproductive rights. Udall's first ad declared, "It comes down to respect. For women, and our lives. So Congressman Cory Gardner's history promoting harsh anti-abortion laws is disturbing," criticizing Gardner for championing "an eight year crusade to outlaw birth control." Men favored Gardner by 17 points; women favored Udall by 8.

Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisProgressive group launches campaign targeting vulnerable GOP senators on impeachment Senate braces for bitter fight over impeachment rules Juan Williams: Counting the votes to remove Trump MORE (North Carolina). The feminist organization Women Are Watching excoriated Tillis as anti-abortion, anti-birth control and against tax funding of Planned Parenthood. It concluded that "Women in North Carolina deserve better." Men favored Tillis by 15 points; women favored his opponent by 12.

Dan Sullivan (Alaska). Planned Parenthood launched a campaign of ads against Sullivan, which blasted his opposition to abortion and ObamaCare's contraception mandate. The ads even mentioned his opposition to the tax funding of Planned Parenthood. Men favored Sullivan by 11 points; women favored his opponent by 2.

Due to Louisiana's electoral policies, the Senate race there may not be decided until December. Nevertheless, the Nov. 4 results are significant. Democratic candidate and incumbent Sen. Mary LandrieuMary Loretta LandrieuA decade of making a difference: Senate Caucus on Foster Youth Congress needs to work to combat the poverty, abuse and neglect issues that children face Dems wrestle over how to vote on ‘Green New Deal’ MORE is prominent on the state and federal level. Her family has deep political roots in Louisiana and she chairs the powerful Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. Nevertheless, Landrieu could not reach the required 50 percent vote. She received 42.1 percent, while her three Republican rivals cumulatively received 55 percent.

She is unlikely to prevail in the runoff. Indeed, the Associated Press (Nov. 6) reported that the "Senate Democrats' campaign committee ... began canceling plans for television ads in Louisiana's major markets to help Sen. Mary Landrieu's runoff campaign against Republican Bill Cassidy." During the race, Democrats decried Cassidy as anti-abortion.

The Senate elections offer several gender lessons, including:

  • Republicans are fielding formidable female candidates who counter the argument that the GOP is anti-woman;
  • The "woman vote" is being split; and
  • Men have emerged as a new power base that Democrats ignore at great risk.

On election night, Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer declared, "this is the end of the 'war on women,' and the Democrats have lost it." He pointed to political "dynasties" that crumbled, which included Mark Udall, Sen. Mark PryorMark Lunsford PryorTom Cotton's only Democratic rival quits race in Arkansas Medicaid rollback looms for GOP senators in 2020 Cotton pitches anti-Democrat message to SC delegation MORE (D-Ark.), Democratic Senatorial candidate Michelle Nunn (Ga.) and (arguably) Mary Landrieu. Krauthammer suggested they fell because they pushed the war on women strategy too far.

If true, the development has profound implications for Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGOP senator says idea that Ukraine interfered in US election is 'not a conspiracy theory' Cotton: Democrats are 'upset that their witnesses haven't said what they want them to say' Trump's troubles won't end with a Senate acquittal MORE, who is expected to make a 2016 presidential run. Clinton's main perceived advantage is an ability to mobilize women voters through her signature approach of legislating feminism. If this drives men further toward the GOP, however, it may be her main disadvantage.

This piece has been updated.

McElroy is a research fellow at the Independent Institute.