WASHINGTON — The toughest results for Democrats in the 2018 midterms were the Senate contests in red states — their losses in Florida (declared on Sunday), Indiana, Missouri and North Dakota.
But with all (or almost all) of the votes now in, here’s something to chew on: Going back to 2012, Democrats actually maximized their vote hauls in these four states, suggesting that their 2018 performance was their ceiling in the Trump era.
Take Missouri, for instance, where Reps. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., and William Clay, D-Mo., have criticized McCaskill for not doing more to energize African-American voters. But the nearly 46 percent of the vote that McCaskill got matches what defeated Senate candidate Jason Kander took in 2016 and it exceeds Hillary Clinton’s paltry 38 percent in 2016 and Barack Obama’s 44 percent in 2012. The highest Democratic percentage for a federal statewide race in Missouri going back to 2012? It was McCaskill’s 55 percent against the very flawed Todd Akin 2012.
In Indiana, Joe Donnelly got 45 percent of the vote — higher than Evan Bayh’s 42 percent in 2016, Hillary Clinton’s 37 percent in 2016 and Barack Obama’s 44 percent in 2012. The highest Democratic percentage for a federal statewide race in Indiana going back to 2012? It was Donnelly’s 50 percent against the very flawed Richard Mourdock in 2012.
In North Dakota, Heidi Heitkamp got another 45 percent of the vote — exceeding Hillary Clinton’s 27 percent in 2016 and Barack Obama’s 39 percent in 2012. The highest Democratic percentage for a federal statewide race in North Dakota going to back to 2012? It was Heitkamp’s 50 percent against Republican Rick Berg in 2012
And in Florida, defeated Bill Nelson got 50 percent of the vote (he lost to Republican Rick Scott by 10,000 votes) — matching Barack Obama’s 50 percent in 2012, and exceeding Hillary Clinton’s 47 percent in 2016 and Patrick Murphy’s 44 percent in 2016. Nelson got 55 percent of the vote against Connie Mack in 2012.
Bottom line: Despite any finger-pointing in Missouri, Indiana and (especially) North Dakota, the only Democrats who performed better than McCaskill, Donnelly and Heitkamp were … McCaskill, Donnelly and Heitkamp against very different candidates. Oh, and as Democratic strategist Steve Schale likes to say, Florida is always close.
The one clear exception here was in Montana, where Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., got more than 50 percent of the vote in his race against Matt Rosendale — up from his 49 percent winning percentage in 2012, while Clinton got 35 percent in 2016 and Obama got 42 percent.
So good candidates matter. So do bad opponents.
Nelson in 2018: 50 percent
Murphy in 2016: 44 percent
Clinton in 2016: 47 percent
Nelson in 2012: 55 percent
Obama in 2012: 50 percent
Donnelly in 2018: 45 percent
Bayh in 2016: 42 percent
Clinton in 2016: 37 percent
Donnelly in 2012: 50 percent
Obama in 2012: 44 percent
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McCaskill in 2018: 46 percent
Kander in 2016: 46 percent
Clinton in 2016: 38 percent
McCaskill in 2012: 55 percent
Obama in 2012: 44 percent
Heitkamp in 2018: 45 percent
Clinton in 2016: 27 percent
Heitkamp in 2012: 50 percent
Obama in 2012: 39 percent
The uncalled Senate races (zero)
— FL-SEN (Rick Scott defeated Bill Nelson by 10,033 votes)
(MS-SEN goes to runoff)
Republicans ended up with a net gain of at least two Senate seats.
The uncalled GOV races (zero)
— GA-GOV (NBC News declared Republican Brian Kemp the apparent winner)
Democrats ended up with a net gain of seven governorships.
The uncalled House races (three)
GA-7 (Republican Rob Woodall is ahead, 50.1 percent to 49.9 percent)
NM-2 (NBC News retracted its earlier call in favor of the Republicans; Dem Xochitl Torres Small is ahead, 51 percent to 49 percent)
UT-4 (Republican Mia Love is ahead of Democrat Ben McAdams, 50.1 percent to 49.9 percent)
— CA-39 (NBC News called Democrat Gil Cisneros the apparent winner)
— CA-45 (NBC News called Democrat Katie Porter the apparent winner)
— NC-9 (NBC News declared Republican Mark Harris the apparent winner)
Democrats currently have a net gain of 37 House seats — and counting.
Another controversy-filled weekend for Trump
President Donald Trump had, um, an interesting weekend. Consider:
- He attacked retired Admiral William Raven. “OK, he's a Hilary Clinton backer and an Obama backer and frankly would it have been nicer if we got Osama Bin Laden a lot sooner than that, wouldn't it been nice?” Trump said on Fox. (In fact, McRaven wasn’t a supporter of Clinton’s or Obama’s, and he commanded the operations that captured bin Laden.)
- He insisted he didn’t want to see the apparent videotape showing the killing of Jamal Khashoggi. “We have the tape, I don't want to hear the tape, no reason for me to hear the tape. Because it's a suffering tape, it's a terrible tape. I've been fully briefed on it. There's no reason for me to hear it,” Trump said on Fox.
- When visiting areas devastated by fires in California, Trump mistakenly referred to Paradise, California, as “Pleasure."
- And he seemed to suggest that raking leaves could have prevented California’s fires. “Trump told reporters on Saturday that he had recently been talking to the president of Finland,” the Washington Post writes. “‘He called it a forest nation,’ Trump said, referring to Finnish President Sauli Niinisto, ‘and they spent a lot of time on raking and cleaning and doing things, and they don’t have any problem.’”
No, Republicans didn’t 'steal' Georgia’s gubernatorial election
On “Meet the Press” yesterday, Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, didn’t back away from this earlier remark: “If Stacey Abrams doesn't win in Georgia, they stole it. It's clear. It's clear. And I would say, I say that publicly. It's clear.”
“Well, I think you look at the lead-up to this election as secretary of state — and I was the secretary of state in Ohio 30 years ago. I know what you do, as secretary of state. You encourage people to vote. You don't purge millions of voters. You don't close down polling places in rural areas where voters have difficulty getting to the polls, which were mostly low-income areas. You don't do what Republicans are doing all over the country,” Brown said yesterday.
But as election-law expert Rick Hasen writes, voter suppression isn’t the same thing as stealing an election. “Democrats should stop with the rhetoric that the race was ‘stolen,’ ... First, rhetoric about stolen elections feeds a growing cycle of mistrust and delegitimization of the election process ... Saying Kemp tried to suppress Democratic votes and saying the election was stolen are two different things, and making charges of a stolen election when it cannot be proved undermines Democrats’ complaints about suppressive tactics ... Rather than questioning the election’s legitimacy or making unprovable claims of stolen elections, Democrats should focus their efforts into doing whatever is possible to prevent voter suppression and incompetence in the upcoming 2020 elections.”