The Trade War Left Its Mark on the U.S. Electoral Map

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The healthy economy was a helpful running mate for Republicans in Tuesday’s midterms — but some locations hit by retaliatory tariffs arising from President Trump’s trade war became weak spots for his team.

Mr. Trump’s tariffs are popular in Pennsylvania’s steel country. But some areas, like the state’s seventh congressional district, are home to farmers who are hit by retaliatory duties and manufacturers whose costs have gone up. That helped Susan Wild, a lawyer and first-time Democratic candidate, defeat Marty Nothstein, a Republican former Olympic and professional cyclist, to win a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, where Democrats nationwide have won a majority.

Duties on U.S. agricultural products imposed by China and other nations have particularly hurt Iowa. Representative David Young, a Republican who represents the state’s third district in Congress, criticized Trump’s tariffs and even wrote an op-ed in the Des Moines Register saying that they are bad for the state. But he still lost to Cindy Axne, a Democratic businesswoman.

Another Republican who was critical of Trump’s tariffs, Congressman Steve Russell of Oklahoma, also surprisingly lost to the Democrat Kendra Horn. He tried to allay trade fears and toured an Anheuser-Busch Metal Container plant in his district, which is worried about the aluminum levies. But Ms. Horn, a lawyer, accused him of not doing anything to stop the tariffs.

Other areas hurt by the trade conflict still have faith in Mr. Trump, who has also played to fears about illegal immigrants. The Mid Continent Nail Factory in Butler County, Mo., which previously had 500 employees, has laid off or not replaced about 200 people since steel tariffs were imposed. But Mr. Trump overwhelmingly won that county in 2016 and residents rewarded his favored Republican Senate candidate, Josh Hawley, the state’s attorney general, on Tuesday. Mr. Hawley defeated the incumbent Democrat, Senator Claire McCaskill, who had been a vocal critic of the administration’s trade war.

It is not a picture that’s entirely clear one way or the other. But certain results show how the president’s tariffs have hurt some of his fellow Republicans, many of whom have said that they would rein in Trump’s protectionist moves but have not yet done so. It’s a warning for a party that is usually the champion of free trade to remember its roots.

Gina Chon is a columnist at Reuters Breakingviews. For more independent commentary and analysis, visit

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