Why Democrats Lost Numerous Senate Races

Patrick Kissel, Reporter

During the midterm elections, the democratic party had numerous successes, flipping districts and securing over 25 seats in the house of representatives, giving them a majority. The senate was another matter. Numerous seats in the senate flipped for the republicans, and a famous republican personality was able to reenter the political arena in a possible  set up for a 2020 presidential run.

First, Indiana democratic senator Joe Donnelly lost to state legislator Mike Braun.This seat was projected to stay democratic, with Donnelly leading in the polls, and yet his defeat became crystal clear within an hour of the polls closing. His seat was also one of major importance for the democrats if they had any intention of securing the senate.

Next, democratic senator Heidi Heitkamp lost her election in North Dakota to her opponent republican nominee Kevin Cramer. This race was different from the Indiana race because Heitkamp was projected to lose by around 12 points, and was down in the polls. Her seat was also not necessary for a democratic pickup of the senate.

Numerous other important democrats lost their election, which should have been extremely easy for them to win. The democrat in Tennessee and Texas would lose by a somewhat narrower margin than in Indiana and North Dakota but still did not win. The race in Florida is too close to call, but will be finalized soon. Votes were rejected after they were counted after a deadline set by a court for Thursday of last week, but votes that were counted before the deadline will be hand counted again to ensure that the very close results are accurate. Missouri’s race was also lost by democratic senator Claire McCaskill by five points after being projected to win by two.

This begs the question of why so many democrats lost their elections for senate seats. If the candidates are all looked at, especially McCaskill, Donnelly, Heitkamp and the democratic senator from Florida Bill Nelson, they all have one thing in common: they’re corporatists. All of them received substantial amounts of their campaign finances from corporate political action committees and, at least in the case of McCaskill and Donnelly, ran ads specifically targeting other democrats or members of their base.

This concern on the part of democrats that they need to be right in the middle, or republican lite, highlights a major issue with democrats in traditionally red states. Those democrats feel the need to pander to republicans by simply attacking their own party, and balancing on a fine line between the republican platform and the democratic platform. This tightrope walk isolates those who are the traditional base for the democrats as they attempt to win over the small amount of independents left in the country and urban republicans. The question for the republican voter is then, why vote for someone who is republican lite, and sort of stands with your beliefs when you can just vote for the republicans?

This issue was also exacerbated by the fact that these democrats are corporatists, meaning large amounts of their money come from corporate political action committees. By doing this, the politicians generally lean towards the wishes of the corporation funding them, and those wishes are often more in line with the republican platform. Is this idea of being a corporatist that forces the democrats in these states to, in their eyes, have to run republican lite. It is worth pointing out that democratic nominee for the senate seat in Texas Beto O’Rourke did lose to senator Ted Cruz, despite running a corporate free campaign. The difference between him and the other democrats who lost is that he was able to close a massive gap between traditional senate elections in Texas, and bring it within a narrow margin. This is something you do not see with McCaskill and Donnelly.

Democrats, like McCaskill, Donnelly and Nelson that were running campaigns funded by corporations that have platforms forcing the candidate to run to the right lose, because they alienate the democratic voters in their state, and get the republicans to still vote for the republicans simply because the republican aligns more with them, and is not just a somewhat conservative democrat. This cost the democrats numerous senate seats, and will help the republicans push the agenda of the president until the senate is once again shaken up by the 2020 elections.