Braun’s victory may thwart Dems’ quest
Trump-friendly map aids GOP bid to retain control of Senate
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.
Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, hugs family after winning his bid for a return to the Senate.