Remember Joe Donnelly, Claire McCaskill, and Heidi Heitkamp? They were what was the core of the red state Democrat wing in the U.S. Senate. They all lost during the 2018 midterms. Donnelly represented Indiana, McCaskill represented Missouri, and Heitkamp hailed from North Dakota. All three are Trump states. All three represented areas that are deep red Republican and yet they blame the resignation of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy for their re-election losses.
First, let’s say that most were accidental senators. Heitkamp barely won her 2012 Senate election—less than 3,000 votes—but she rode on the Democrats’ war on women messaging that cycle, which the GOP seemed incapable of neutralizing. We can all thank Todd Akin and his “legitimate rape” moment, which has to be one of the worst gaffes in the past decade or so. The rippling effect allowed Joe Donnelly to win in Indiana, where his GOP opponent, Richard Mourdock said in a debate that if a pregnancy came from rape, it was God’s plan. The GOP didn’t need any more of this nonsense, these unforced errors in 2012. Mourdock responded by saying, “hold my beer.”
McCaskill barely won her 2006 election and then coasted to re-election in 2012, which brings us back to Akin; he was her opponent. After his rape comments, who do you would win that election.
Former Sens. @HeidiHeitkamp @JoeforIndiana & @clairecmc agree Kennedy resignation from U.S. Supreme Court doomed their reelection campaigns. Suggest it was no accident & another resignation may be looming for 2020. pic.twitter.com/C7gwd578iX— Larry Sabato (@LarrySabato) November 8, 2019
Granted, I will say that the resignation of Kennedy didn’t do them any favors, but if it wasn’t that—something else would have put them in a tough spot. Yet, they did face quite the choice during the brutal Supreme Court Nomination of Brett Kavanaugh. They could vote for his confirmation and probably get re-elected, but they would cast out as pariahs, subject to prolonged harassment campaigns by progressives, and could have their access to the massive Democratic campaign war chest revoked. Yeah, either decision isn’t good, but alas, this is also part of your job. And people in their states wanted Kavanaugh confirmed. They said no and got booted. It’s as simple as that. Also, it totally killed the credibility of the ‘Me Too’ movement, as Democrats decided to launch a coordinated character assassination attempt on Kavanaugh based on shoddy and unsubstantiated allegations of sexual misconduct. Belief is not evidence and the Left’s star witness, Christine Blasey Ford, couldn’t recollect key details. It was later revealed by her lawyer that she came forward because of her concern about abortion rights. That’s giving away the game right there. A lot of us knew this story was trash—all the allegations against Kavanaugh were garbage. In the end, we avenged the Democrats’ flaying of another eminently qualified candidate: Robert Bork. It was supreme revenge. And if we were able to knock off a few red-state Democratic senators, then that’s just the cherry on top.
Now, blaming Kennedy and suggesting that this was a coordinated effort to torch their public careers? Maybe. But like with Kavanaugh, there’s no evidence. Perhaps, Kennedy just wanted to retire. People can do that, senators. They can just retire, and you still have to deal with the deep red demographics that dominate your home state’s political landscape. It’s not hard. When it comes to red states and their Democratic representatives, conservative voters want a full-blooded Republican representing them, especially ones that don’t say stupid crap about rape and pregnancy. In the 2014 cycle, the GOP worked hard to gaffe-proof their candidate pool. In 2018, that nonsense didn’t derail the national campaign cycle.
As for this crop of red-state Democrats, they were the ones with all the issues. McCaskill had trouble getting black voters energized about her and Heitkamp decided to--oh, gee what was it again--out scores of sexual assault victims in a newspaper ad in a piss-poor attempt to hit back at Rep. Kevin Cramer's remarks about the Kavanaugh allegations. Oh, and some of the names listed weren't even victims of sexual assault and all of them certainly didn't authorize for their names to be published.