Sherrod Brown will not be running for president. The Ohio Senator announced yesterday through surrogates that he was content with his role in the Senate and lacks the “consuming drive” to seek the highest office in the land. This announcement came as a shock on a number of levels. Brown hadn’t formally launched an exploratory committee, but he was engaged on a listening tour that took him through the early primary states of Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina, where he extolled his trademark “dignity of work” concept, a New Deal-esque mantra that sounds more like a slogan that would be taped to the side of Woody Guthrie’s guitar than headlining the campaign of a legislator with over forty years of government experience. But Brown was considered a serious 2020 contender even before he embarked on this journey, and many observers viewed his status as a Midwestern Democrat with labor union bona fides as the perfect antidote to Donald Trump’s populist appeal.
Headlines broke last week about Midwestern Democrats doubling down on their push for the 2020 Democratic National Convention (DNC) to be held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Milwaukee is one of three finalists under consideration by the Democrats along with Houston and Miami, and is the only city among the three to have never held a party convention before. Meanwhile, the Republicans landed on Charlotte, North Carolina as the host city of the 2020 Republican National Convention (RNC) back in 2018 after briefly considering Las Vegas (which also bid for the DNC but withdrew).
Though the election was over a month ago, several close races have been forced into overtime. Additional ballots were counted, recounts were triggered in Florida, and Mississippi held the final round of its special election for the Senate at the end of November (not to mention tight House races across the country that weren’t settled until well after election).1And even still we may not be completely out of the woods… the North Carolina 9th District election may not be settled until well into the new Congress, possibly require an entirely new election in the district, or the House of Representatives to decide for itself. But with all of the dust finally settled, let’s unpack what we got wrong, what we can be proud of, and what we learned for the next go around.
On November 6, America will line up for what may be one of the most consequential midterms of the 21st Century. Whether it can be seen ultimately as a referendum on Donald Trump, progressivism, eroding political norms, or on identity politics remains to be seen, and even after the election, will still be largely a matter of opinion. But the consequences are clear. A wave of Democrats sweeping the House of Representatives despite an electoral system that puts them at a disadvantage spells bad news for the Trump administration and potentially for the long-term feasibility of the message of the modern Republican Party. Alternatively, a weaker-than-expected showing for Democrats, even in this favorable climate, would indicate that their emphasis on more establishment and identity-driven candidates will not yield future electoral gains.
The election for the Senate may be even more consequential than the one for the House, as Democrats have become increasingly frantic in their attempts to block the White House’s judicial nominations (only the Senate votes on confirming the president’s nominees), and potentially draw more lines in their increasing defense of free trade against the Trump administration’s escalating tariff wars and designs on revamping NAFTA.
But, despite increasingly good odds for Democrats in the House, the election for the Senate is even more inherently difficult for Democrats. This is partly because only one third of the Senate is up for election every two years. It is also partly because 2012 was an above-average performance year for Democratic senatorial candidates (keep in mind, even with a handily-re-elected Barack Obama leading the ticket, Republicans nominated some terrible candidates; please see Todd Akin, Richard Mourdock), and as a result, 26 of the 34 seats up for election are already held by Democrats, forcing them to play defense in a year they ought to be playing offense against an unpopular administration and Republican controlled Congress. . Ten of these seats are in states Trump carried outright and five of those seats are located in states that Trump carried by 18% or more over Clinton. An uphill battle, but not an impossible one. On the Republican side, only one of their Senators up for reelection (Dean Heller of Nevada) is from a state that Clinton carried, period. Despite the extraordinary disadvantages presented by this year’s electoral map, Democratic enthusiasm has intensified since the 2016 election, giving them a slight, if unduly optimistic and rapidly declining, chance of pulling it off.
With all of this in mind, The Postrider is proud to present its own ratings and predictions for the most consequential races in this year’s Senate elections.
An intense expression of pain and the weight of conflict became visible on Arizona Senator Jeff Flake’s face as the Senate Judiciary Committee meeting built up towards its vote on whether or not to favorably report Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh to the full United States Senate. Considering the events of the day before – which included disturbing testimony about Kavanaugh’s sexually aggressive behavior, Kavanaugh’s insistence on how much he enjoyed beer, and plenty of sobbing over his calendar – it was easy to overlook. But between being confronted in an elevator by women berating him for his failure to understand the realities of gender bias and sexual assault, a dramatic last-minute powwow with the Democrats on the committee, and C-SPAN’s cameras making note of every time he entered and exited, Jeff Flake became the subtle subject of much attention.
Welcome to the inaugural piece of The Postrider’s State & Science vertical. As your State & Science Editor I wanted to introduce this section, outline our vision, explain why these two very broad and important subjects have been combined, and how The Postrider will tackle these kinds of stories.