Republicans picked up a Senate seat in Indiana Tuesday night, as businessman Mike Braun defeated Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly in one of the tightest races of the cycle, making the road to a Democratic majority in the Senate even steeper.
The race was always forecast to be close, but Donnelly was considered to be in the driver’s seat for much of the spring and summer. He was a more relentless campaigner and had been a near-constant presence in every corner of the state since he won the seat in 2012. And Democrats had more money for TV ads over the summer.
Donnelly, who voted to seat Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court last year — but against Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation — was well-liked by Republicans and Democrats alike.
But after Labor Day, Republicans drew even on the airwaves, making the race tighter. Then the multiple allegations of sexual assault against Kavanaugh, following the initial charge by Chistine Blasey Ford, galvanized Republican voters who felt his opponents were piling on.
The effect of the Kavanaugh hearings were not the same in every state. Polls showed nationally that it activated Democrats who were upset about the way Ford was treated more than it did Republicans who were Kavanaugh defenders. But in Indiana, where Republicans greatly outnumber Democrats, the impact was heavily in Braun’s favor.
Trying to recover after the Kavanaugh vote, Donnelly bent over backwards to align himself with conservative voters in his state, running on “Hoosier common sense values” and emphasizing his record of focusing on common problems such as opioids and veteran suicides.
Braun’s biggest vulnerabilities were questions about his commitment to protecting health insurance for people with preexisting conditions and his lack of independence from President Trump. Braun made a fortune through his ownership of a car parts manufacturing company, and offered his employees health insurance plans that included deductibles as high as $10,000.
Donnelly used that fact to criticize Braun and to connect him to national Republicans’ vulnerabilities on health care. The GOP-controlled Congress pushed a bill in 2017 to repeal the Affordable Care Act and to replace it with legislation that offered far fewer protections for people with preexisting conditions, and the Trump Justice Department is currently pushing a lawsuit that would reduce similar protections. Braun has said he supports that effort.
But that was not enough to overcome the Kavanaugh effect and the entrenched partisanship of Indiana politics.
Read more Yahoo News midterms coverage:
- In Texas Senate race, both parties are at the door — all 7.4 million of them
- In Arizona, Democrat Kyrsten Sinema runs hard to the middle
- Battle for the soccer-mom vote plays out in suburban Detroit
- Menendez race pits ethical concerns against party loyalty, and loyalty is winning
- A House rematch sheds light on how landscape changed from 2016
- Virginia Republican congressman tries to weather scandal and wave of spending
- Photos: Scenes from the Texas Senate race
- See the rest of our midterms coverage >>>
More from Yahoo News: Florida passes Amendment 4, restoring voting rights to convicted felons Democrats notch first House pickup of the night as Jennifer Wexton wins in Virginia Donna Shalala wins Florida House race as first-time candidate
- Trump voters carry Republicans in the Senate, while Democrats are poised to take the House
- Democrat Kyrsten Sinema beats Republican Rep. Martha McSally to win Arizona Senate seat
- Firebrand Marsha Blackburn keeps Tennessee Senate seat for GOP
- Ted Cruz edges Beto O'Rourke to hold on to Texas Senate seat
- Democrats flip two more seats. Nov can't come soon enough!
- Red Dead Redemption 2 Special Characters Guide
- Red Dead Redemption 2 Chapter 4 Shady Belle Walkthrough Guide
- Red Dead Redemption 2 subverts video game rules with one of the best characters of all time
- Best of 2018: “That goat can really program!”: How CD Projekt and Mike Pondsmith came together for Cyberpunk 2077