When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced retaliatory tariffs against the U.S. to the tune of $16.6 billion this past July, it quickly became clear that the duties were intended to send Republicans a message
With Republican states and swing states primarily targeted, many wondered whether these regions would be steadfast in their support for the president come the 2018 midterm vote, or whether the effects of Trump’s trade battle with Canada would push voters in a different direction.
“Canada was obviously trying to send a message to political leaders as well as to the business sector, and the message was that they were going to try to retaliate against the Republican leadership, and they wanted to try to do things in states that were marginal Republican states, that could be important electorally,” said James Brander, Canadian economist and University of British Columbia professor.
Canada is the United States’ most significant trading partner, importing over $5 billion from Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin and Illinois alone — all of which were hit hard by the trade action taken by Trudeau’s Liberals in July.
The Democrats managed to retake control of the House of Representatives Tuesday night while the Republicans maintained control of the Senate. In most states, polls opened at 7 a.m. local time and closed at around 8 p.m. local time.
Here are the states most impacted by Canada’s retaliatory tariffs, and here’s how they voted.
(Based on export data from the U.S. Census Bureau, Foreign Trade Statistics 2017.)
Senate result: Democrat Sherrod Brown, Incumbent
House result: 4 Democratic seats, 12 Republican seats
Ohio has become known for almost always determining who wins the presidency, though it was also a likely target for Trudeau’s tariffs due to its trade ties to Canada.
The state is the leading exporter of a wide variety of goods to Canada that currently fall under these tariffs. Based on 2017 figures, the list includes: washing machines ($131 million); toilet paper ($91 million); organic face wash ($100 million); lawn mowers ($83 million); candles ($40 million); room deodorizers ($27.5 million); and glue ($23 million).
Ohio exported about $1.3 billion in goods to Canada last year and barely swung Republican in the 2016 federal vote.
Senate result: Democrat Kristin Gillibrand, Incumbent
House result: 22 Democratic seats, 5 Republican seats
Being a key importer of steel and aluminum from Canada, New York state is set to be hit hard by the impact of Canada’s retaliatory tariffs. Not only was Canada the state’s top trading partner in 2017, but aluminum alloy and steel products are among New York’s top exports — which were a primary target of Canada’s retaliatory tariffs.
In fact, New York, which went overwhelmingly blue in the 2016 election, falls just behind Ohio of the states that are likely to be most impacted by the tariffs.
Notably, the typically Democratic New York is a blue outlier among those targeted, and like California, voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016.
House Result: 13 Democratic seats, 5 Republican seats
Governor: Democrat J. B. Pritzker
Canada, along with Mexico, is one of Illinois’ two largest trading partners, according to Southern Illinois University. Combined, Canada and Mexico imported 42 per cent of Illinois’ total exports in 2017.
Its largest exports include technical equipment like computers, sound equipment and other kinds of electrical machinery. Illinois is among the states targeted which voted Democrat by a wide margin in 2016.
Senate Result: Democrat Tammy Baldwin, Incumbent
House Result: 3 Democratic seats, 5 Republican seats
Governor: Democrat Tony Evers
Last year, Wisconsin exported handkerchiefs, paper towels, serviettes and tablecloths ($224 million), toilet paper ($84.5 million), mayonnaise, salad dressing and mixed condiments ($72 million) and upholstered wood-framed seats ($66 million).
What’s potentially just as significant, however, is the impact on Wisconsin farmers, bracing for tariffs on cucumbers, gherkins and yogurt.
Wisconsin went to Trump by a thin margin in the 2016 presidential election.
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Senate Result: Democrat Bob Casey, Incumbent
House Result: 9 Democratic seats, 9 Republican seats
Pennsylvania leads all U.S. states in exports to Canada with $81 million in 2017. The state’s sales to Canada more than doubled from $45 million to more than $100 million in 2015, the year after Kraft Heinz pulled out of Leamington.
Pennsylvania, along with Michigan and Wisconsin all went to Trump in 2016 by tight margins. These states are some that will feel the sting of Canada’s tariffs the most.
Senate Result: Democrat Maria Cantwell, Incumbent
House Result: 6 Democratic seats, 3 Republican seats, 1 undecided
Canada imported almost $200 million in coffee from Washington state in 2017. Other significant exports include plywood and other resources.
However, energy products are the primary category traded, including natural gas and crude oil being shipped from Canada to Washington and refined products being shipped back, according to the Border Policy Research Institute.
Senate Result: Democrat Dianne Feinstein, Incumbent
House Result: 42 Democratic seats, 11 Republican seats
While California went overwhelmingly blue in the 2016 election, Canada was one of the largest markets for exported goods from California in 2017, purchasing 9.7 per cent of all California exports, according to the California Chamber of Commerce.
Of these, computers and electronic products made up almost 34 per cent. California has voted Democrat in the last five presidential elections.
Senate Result: Democrat Debbie Stabenow, Incumbent
House Result: 7 Democratic seats, 7 Republican seats
Canada imported approximately $112 million worth of panels for circuit breakers and fuses from Michigan, which barely went Republican in the 2016 presidential race.
Senate Result: Republican Marsha Blackburn
House Result: 2 Democratic seats, 7 Republican seats
Tennessee finds itself a victim of the newly-implemented tariff on whiskey. According to data from Business Insider, Tennessee is among the top 10 U.S. states in terms of the value of its exports to Canada in 2017, which totalled $5.7 billion.
Boats and beauty products also make up a significant amount of Tennessee exports to Canada. Tennessee overwhelmingly voted Republican in the 2016 presidential vote.
Other significant states
House result: 1 Democratic seat 5 Republican seats
While not in the top margin of states impacted by Ottawa’s retaliatory tariffs, Canada did import $62 million of whiskey from the U.S. in 2017, based on U.S. government trade data, much of which came from Kentucky.
House result: 13 Democratic seats, 14 Republican seats
Governor: Republican Ron DeSantis
Canada imported almost $158 million worth of orange juice from Florida in 2017, which is included on Trudeau’s list of retaliatory tariffs.
What does it mean for voters?
While experts suggest that the trade war between the U.S. and Canada won’t have enough of an impact to influence the votes of many Americans, it may just be enough for business owners and farmers.
“If the things your company produces were being bought by Canadians, and now Canadians aren’t buying it, you’re going to feel that,” said Robert Wolfe, an expert in trade policy and former professor at Queen’s University.
He adds that in Wisconsin, where tariffs have been placed on cucumbers, gherkins and yogurt, farmers are among the electorate for whom the tariffs could be a deal breaker.
“Trump’s trade war has certainly had an impact on the United States – at the level of individual voters, the only sense that voters are getting the message is farmers,” he stated.
Furthermore, Brander adds that the Democratic Party has seen a major uptick in fundraising thanks in part to members of the business community who were hit hardest by Trump’s stance on trade.
Normally, the Republicans outraise Democrats. But this election, Democrats are raising a lot of money, and a lot of it is based on concern about Trump’s anti-trade position,” he said.
— With files from Amanda Connelly and The Canadian Press