The Cross Insurance Center in Bangor was busy with voters Nov. 2, 2021. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

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Voters across the U.S. went to the polls Tuesday to cast their ballots. In Maine, many breathed a sigh of relief that advertisements about the Central Maine Power corridor had finally stopped.

Then, on Wednesday morning (or late Tuesday night, if you’re a political junkie), the pundits started telling us what it all meant.

Democratic former Gov. Terry McAuliffe lost Virginia’s governor’s race because of lefties in Washington. Or was it because President Joe Biden is being too moderate?

Whatever the reason, Democrats are doomed  in 2022, many headlines said. Especially after Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy barely eked out re-election in New Jersey, even though he was the first Democrat to earn a second term as governor in the Garden State in more than 40 years.

Progressives picked up seats in Portland. Democrat Raegan LaRochelle won a special election in the Augusta House District that has been held by Republicans for more than 20 years.

Voters in Boston elected the city’s first woman mayor, who will also be the first Asian-American to head the city.

So, what does it all mean? What happened on Tuesday?

We don’t mean to fault political pundits for engaging in punditry, but trying to make declarative, immediate assessments of a bunch of elections across a diverse country is fraught with uncertainty. So, when you see or read someone telling you exactly what the election results mean, proceed with caution.

Having said all that, Mark Brewer, chair of the Political Science Department at the University of Maine, offered insight on the election results and why he believes they should concern Democrats.

A big question going into Tuesday’s election was how Republicans would campaign, and potentially win, in the first election since former President Donald Trump departed the White House. Trump continues to cast a huge shadow over the Republican Party, so many pundits had argued that the only way to win now is to embrace the bombastic and fact-challenged former president. By ignoring Trump, this logic went, candidates risk alienating Trump’s loyal base of voters.

Yes, Brewer acknowledged, the Virginia governor’s race is a sample size of one, but it offers a different roadmap for Republicans seeking to win swing states and districts in the aftermath of the Trump presidency.

Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin, who defeated Democrat Terry McAuliffe, “barely acknowledged Trump existed,” Brewer said. It worked.

Youngkin won solidly red districts by larger margins than Trump did in 2020 and Youngkin made significant gains in the bluer suburbs in northern Virginia.

Youngkin’s victory was the result of a tough balancing act of holding on to the most conservative voters while luring back more moderate swing voters. But, it is one that Republicans who are seeking to win in swing districts — namely Bruce Poliquin in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District — could learn from, Brewer said.

At the same time, Democrats face a reckoning as the party’s more progressive wing pushes for action on its agenda in Washington. That push could further isolate and alienate Democrats like Jared Golden and Joe Manchin who represent districts and states that have supported Republicans in the past, and may again in the near future. If the Democratic Party hopes to maintain control of Congress, it has to find ways to work with moderates like Golden and Manchin, Brewer said.

It’s too soon to know for sure what this all really means. Many political pundits tend to see what they want to see in election results. But one thing was certain on Tuesday — despite an election with few big-ticket races, voters turned out. With nearly 400,000 ballots cast in Maine, where Question 1 about the corridor topped the election slate,  turnout was the highest for an off-year election since 2009. We hope everyone can look at those numbers and agree that it is a good thing when people participate in democracy.

The BDN Editorial Board

The Bangor Daily News editorial board members are Publisher Richard J. Warren, Editorial Page Editor Susan Young, Assistant Editorial Page Editor Matt Junker and BDN President Todd Benoit. Young has worked...