Given the fact that we sit at home and complain rather than vote in midterm elections, is it any wonder that red state Blue Dog Senate Dems facing a tough 2018 midterm race are instead considering a much easier 2016 gubernatorial race in their respective states?
The 2014 Republican rout left just five red-state Democrats in the Senate — and three of them are thinking about an early exit, decisions that could complicate Democrats’ plans to take back the chamber in 2016 and beyond.
Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Claire McCaskill of Missouri, all of whom are up for reelection in 2018, are flirting with bids for governor next year instead. If they follow through and win, Democrats fear they’ll open up seats that could favor the GOP. And if they lose, their chance for reelection to the Senate could plunge too.
A McCaskill spokesman said the two-term senator is deciding which office would give her the greatest platform to deliver for Missourians, as well as how it might affect her family. Heitkamp’s office won’t address the gubernatorial rumors, but wary North Dakota Republicans are considering a plan to tinker with the state’s Senate vacancy law. Manchin has said that if the partisan fever in Washington doesn’t break soon, he’ll consider running for governor again.
All three have had gubernatorial ambitions for years: Manchin was elected to two terms as West Virginia’s governor before choosing to run in a 2010 special election to replace longtime Sen. Robert Byrd after Byrd’s death. Heitkamp was defeated in the 2000 governor’s race by Republican John Hoeven, with whom she now serves in the Senate. McCaskill lost narrowly to Matt Blunt in the 2004 gubernatorial contest and now serves alongside Blunt’s father, GOP Sen. Roy Blunt.
The three senators will weigh gubernatorial bids in 2016 against staying in the Senate and facing voters in the 2018 midterms. The past two midterms were disastrous for Democrats, though a new president in 2017 and an improving economy could scramble that dynamic. Still, the loss of up to three proven candidates — who represent states increasingly hostile to Democrats — would be, at minimum, a setback for the party.
Granted, if this is the path they choose it means this sets up battles in those states to choose replacement senators and whatnot, but given that we don't care about midterm elections (not enough to vote in them anyway) do you blame them?
The best part is these are red states, so odds are they will run and lose anyway (Manchin might actually win, but McCaskill and Heitkamp will probably lose big no matter what they do.) We'll lose more Dem Senate seats, and that means even if we do get the Senate back in 2016, we'll give it right back in 2018. Probably explains why after this Politico piece went up, Sen. McCaskill immediately denied she was going to run for Governor in Missouri.
Of course, if Democrats voted in midterm elections, this wouldn't be as much of a problem, now would it?