Braun’s vic­tory may thwart Dems’ quest

Trump-friendly map aids GOP bid to re­tain con­trol of Sen­ate

Daily Southtown - - NATION&WORLD - By Alan Fram

WASH­ING­TON — Repub­li­can busi­ness­man Mike Braun ousted Sen. Joe Don­nelly, In­di­ana’s lone statewide elected Demo­crat.

The GOP had dreamed of this vic­tory since Don­nelly un­ex­pect­edly beat Repub­li­can nom­i­nee Richard Mour­dock in 2012, af­ter Mour­dock made in­cen­di­ary com­ments about abor­tion and rape.

How­ever, few would have pre­dicted Braun’s win Tues­day when he en­tered the race last year. The mul­ti­mil­lion­aire auto-parts mag­nate was a lit­tle-known state rep­re­sen­ta­tive when he launched his bid.

But Braun used his own wealth to out-fundraise two bet­ter known con­gress­men in a bit­ter GOP pri­mary fu­eled by per­sonal at­tacks.

Through­out the rest of the na­tion, many other Demo­cratic in­cum­bents were re-elected in states from Mas­sachusetts to Ohio as Repub­li­cans fought to re­tain Sen­ate con­trol, hop­ing that Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s na­tion­al­is­tic ap­peals to hard-right vot­ers would let them con­tinue their role as pro­tec­tors of his con­ser­va­tive agenda.

As polls be­gan clos­ing in one of the most bit­ter midterm elec­tions in years, Demo­crat Sher­rod Brown rode his blue-col­lar ap­peal to re-elec­tion in Ohio, a state Trump car­ried two years ago. The vic­tory by the staunchly pro­la­bor Brown, which was ex­pected, un­der­scored that Trump’s 2016 dom­i­nance of that and other Mid­west­ern states was not a lock.

Ver­mont in­de­pen­dent Sen. Bernie San­ders and Mas­sachusetts Demo­crat El­iz­a­beth Warren were eas­ily re-elected, the first of a batch of po­ten­tial 2020 Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial hope­fuls ex­pected to win fresh Sen­ate terms.

Also vic­to­ri­ous was Vir­ginia Demo­crat Tim Kaine, his party’s van­quished 2016 vice pres­i­den­tial can­di­date, along with the party’s in­cum­bents in Con­necti­cut, Delaware, Mary­land, New Jersey and Rhode Is­land.

Early re­turns were in­con­clu­sive in Demo­cratic Sen. Joe Manchin’s bat­tle to keep his seat in West Vir­ginia, a state Trump car­ried by a mam­moth 42 per­cent­age points in 2016. He was among 10 Sen­ate Democrats fight­ing for sur­vival in states Trump car­ried, in­clud­ing five by mar­gins of at least 19 per­cent­age points, though most were ex­pected to run strongly.

While Repub­li­cans com­mand the Sen­ate only nar­rowly, 51-49, a cru­cial po­lit­i­cal equa­tion sloped starkly in their fa­vor: Democrats and their two in­de­pen­dent al­lies were de­fend­ing 26 seats, Repub­li­cans just nine.

Democrats’ long­shot prospects for cap­tur­ing a Sen­ate ma­jor­ity were pinned on ex­pec­ta­tions that their sup­port­ers, roused by re­vul­sion to­ward Trump, would surge to the polls.

Fuel­ing their in­ten­sity has been Trump’s anti-im­mi­gra­tion rhetoric and poli­cies, his ef­forts to dis­man­tle health care pro­tec­tions en­acted un­der Pres­i­dent

Barack Obama and the #MeToo move­ment’s fury over sex­ual ha­rass­ment.

“Ever since Pres­i­dent Trump has been in of­fice, it has just been not the coun­try that I am used to or that I thought I would be in,” said Sarah Roth, 22, a Demo­cratic voter from Min­netonka, Minn. “And so this re­ally was my op­por­tu­nity to help this coun­try in chang­ing who is mak­ing the de­ci­sions.”

Democrats also had his­tory on their side — 2002 was the only midterm elec­tion in the last three decades when the party hold­ing the White House gained Sen­ate seats.

Repub­li­cans were hop­ing those dy­nam­ics would be off­set by a vi­brant U.S.

econ­omy and by a pres­i­dent whose in­sult-laden ap­proach to po­lit­i­cal dis­course was as stir­ring for con­ser­va­tive vot­ers as it was in­fu­ri­at­ing to lib­er­als.

With Democrats con­sid­ered a good bet to grab House con­trol from Repub­li­cans, keep­ing the Sen­ate was seen as cru­cial for the GOP’s goals of tax and spend­ing cuts, trade, im­mi­gra­tion re­stric­tions, curbs on Obama’s health care law and ju­di­cial nom­i­na­tions.

Trump cam­paigned in over a dozen states with Sen­ate elec­tions since La­bor Day, vis­it­ing some mul­ti­ple times. He had char­ac­ter­ized the elec­tion as a ref­er­en­dum on his pres­i­dency. Health care was con­sid­ered the key is­sue in

Tues­day’s elec­tion by 26 per­cent of vot­ers, with im­mi­gra­tion men­tioned by 23 per­cent, ac­cord­ing to AP VoteCast, a na­tional sur­vey of the elec­torate con­ducted by The As­so­ci­ated Press.

Democrats needed to gain two Sen­ate seats to win a ma­jor­ity, as­sum­ing all their in­cum­bents were re­elected, an un­likely out­come. But they had a chance of win­ning GOP-held seats only in Ari­zona, Ne­vada, Ten­nessee and Texas.

Trump’s racially tinged anti-im­mi­grant ap­peals could hurt Repub­li­can can­di­dates in swing states like Ari­zona and Ne­vada where col­lege-ed­u­cated vot­ers could be de­ci­sive, but his rhetoric could help in deeply con­ser­va­tive ar­eas.

JOHN MINCHILLO/AP

Sen. Sher­rod Brown, D-Ohio, hugs fam­ily af­ter win­ning his bid for a re­turn to the Sen­ate.

Braun

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