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Senate Democrats Won Big in the West & Denied GOP A Massive Opportunity

November 28, 2018

TO: Interested Parties

FR: DSCC

RE: Senate Democrats Won Big in the West & Denied GOP A Massive Opportunity

Senate Democrats won on the toughest political map in modern history to deny Republicans a massive opportunity. We reelected 22 incumbents – six in states Trump carried – and flipped three Republican-held seats in Alabama, Arizona and Nevada. These results set the stage for a successful 2020 cycle.

Strong Democratic incumbents won in states Trump carried. Democrats toppled Republican challengers across the Midwest and West with effective campaigns that moved their races out of reach for the GOP.

  • Tammy Baldwin in Wisconsin, Sherrod Brown in Ohio, Bob Casey in Pennsylvania and Debbie Stabenow in Michigan fended off serious challenges and were removed from GOP target lists – “a stunning development from where the cycle started.”
  • Republicans tried and failed to put these seats in play: in Wisconsin, special interests poured$14 million into ads attacking Tammy Baldwin, who won with an impressive 11-point margin. In Michigan, Debbie Stabenow won re-election after facing $3.8 million in GOP outside spending. Sherrod Brown was reelected in a state Trump carried by more than 8 points. Bob Casey recorded a resounding 13-point victory.
  • Joe Manchin won re-election in a West Virginia, a state Trump carried by 43 points, after facing nearly $14.8 million in GOP spending.
  • Jon Tester won re-election and 50 percent of the vote after facing more than $26 million in GOP spending and a barrage of attacks from Trump, who carried Montana in 2016 by 20 points,

Democrats flipped Alabama, Arizona, and Nevada with top-tier recruits who ran disciplined campaigns. Historic gains in three states the GOP could not afford – and did not expect – to lose.

  • Doug Jones became the first Democrat elected to the U.S. Senate from Alabama since 1992. Jones’ ran on kitchen table issues and putting Alabama first, and successfully capitalized on every opportunity, to secure an upset win and 1.5-point margin.
  • Kyrsten Sinema became the first Democrat elected to the U.S. Senate from Arizona since 1988 and the state’s first female senator. Her independent leadership and laser focus on the issues that matter most to Arizona families – including protecting coverage for pre-existing conditions – earned Sinema a decisive 2.3-point margin.
  • Jacky Rosen took off in a sprint and did not stop: outraising Dean Heller every single fundraising quarter; executing a strategy that labeled Heller as “Senator Spineless” for caving to political pressure on health care; and winning more than 50 percent of the vote and by an eye-popping 5 points.

Hard-fought campaigns. Mark Mellman noted in his recent op-ed: “Sen. Heidi Heitkamp’s (D-N.D.) margin was 25 points better than Trump’s in North Dakota, while Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) bested Trump’s margin by 13 points in their states.” Bill Nelson also earned a greater share of votes than Trump did. These candidates started the cycle with the steepest hills to climb and ran top-notch operations.

What They’re Saying: “Impressive,” “Incredibly Strong Performance,” “Remarkable.”

FiveThirtyEight: Considering that 18 of the 35 Senate seats up this year were in red states, it’s impressive that Democrats took a majority of them.

Washington Post: Simply remarkable considering they had to defend incumbents in the following in states President Trump won, in some cases by double digits: Indiana, Ohio, Wisconsin, Montana, Florida, Michigan, Missouri, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and North Dakota. As conservative Quin Hillyer put it, one would reasonably expect “Republicans on this map, in this economy . . .  [to gain] at least five seats, with six or seven more likely than three or four.”

HuffPost: Senate Republicans entered this cycle with 52 seats, and the best political map in a generation. At best, they’re going to end up with 53 seats. Gigantic missed opportunity. They could’ve locked Democrats out of the Senate for a political generation.

CNN: If Democrats had lost, say, seven Senate seats in the 2018 election — which was not an impossible thing to imagine back in January 2017 — then the 2020 and 2022 cycles would be about shrinking the GOP majority rather than trying to take back control of the Senate… Democrats can now make a plausible case that they can retake the world’s greatest deliberative body as soon as 2020. 

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