The Corner

Elections

Y’All Remember Democrats Used to Win in the Midwest and South, Right?

Clare Island, County Mayo, Ireland, 2009 (Cathal McNaughton/Reuters)

Related to the argument that the Senate somehow unfairly overrepresents Republicans because largely rural states in the interior have as much say as more heavily populated coastal states . . . these folks know that a bunch of those rural interior states had Democratic senators not that long ago, right?

As recently as 2004, all four senators from North Dakota and South Dakota were Democrats. Jon Tester currently represents Montana, and as recently as 2014 the state had two Democratic senators. The state may have two Democrats again soon, as Steve Bullock has a decent shot in the current Montana Senate race.

Rather than elaborate schemes to add more states or somehow alter the role of the Senate under the Constitution, the Democrats could just try to win more races in these parts of the country. They did it before, not that long ago. In 2008, Democrat Mark Begich won a Senate seat in Alaska, Mark Pryor won a seat in Arkansas, Mary Landrieu won a seat in Louisiana, and Kay Hagan won a seat in North Carolina. Arizona has one Democratic senator and could get another one starting in January.

If you look at governor’s races, you see even more signs that Democrats can win in these states. Laura Kelly is the Democratic governor of Kansas. Andy Beshear is governor of Kentucky. Bullock is governor of Montana.

It’s not that different a story in the South, long perceived as a Republican stronghold. Cal Cunningham has a decent shot in the current North Carolina Senate race, and if you believe the polls, Jaime Harrison has a real shot at knocking off Lindsey Graham. Jon Bel Edwards is governor of Louisiana and Roy Cooper is governor of North Carolina. At least one Democrat represented Florida in the U.S. Senate from 1872 to 2018.

If Democrats want to win more races in more rural and sparsely populated states, they should run candidates who do a better job of appealing to voters in those states! Alternately, the rest of the party could at least try to not communicate anything that could be construed as contempt for “flyover country” or rural Americans.

There are very few states that are so deep red that no Democrat ever has a chance and very few states that are so deep blue that no Republican ever has a chance. (Think of Chris Christie winning the governor’s race in New Jersey, Larry Hogan winning the governor’s race in Maryland, and Phil Scott winning the governor’s race in Vermont.)

How much of what certain Democrats perceive as a permanent, unjust, structural bias against their candidates is just a reflection that they’ve nominated some real turkeys in these states the past few cycles?

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