Molly Ball's fun story about the leftward shift in the Senate reminds us of a fact forgotten five minutes into election night. Bob Kerrey, the two-term Nebraska senator, lost his comeback bid. While Ohio's Sherrod Brown was promising to hike taxes on the rich and save entitlements from the "grand bargain" guillotine, Kerrey was being endorsed by Bowles-Simpson. Literally, those two guys endorsed him.
I think that Ball could go further. Kerrey did not merely lose. He lost by a landslide, bigger than the polls predicted. The final Omaha Herald poll on the race suggested that Kerrey had pulled within 3 points of Deb Fischer, the Palin-endorsed Republican candidate. Kerrey lost by 16 points, carrying only five counties, four of them only narrowly.
Why focus on the margin? Because while Kerrey ran ahead of Barack Obama, he did so by a smaller margin than other candidates in red states. Kerrey won 318,930 votes, while Obama won 289,154 Nebraska votes. Up the road in North Dakota, Democrat Heidi Heitkamp won 160,752 votes and Obama won 124,490. In Montana, Jon Tester won 234,495 votes, and Obama won 200,489. Heitkamp and Tester faced opponents who'd been elected statewide, but they beat them, and Kerrey lost to a state senator. Yes, he was weaked at first by voter resentment that he had temporarily left the state to live in New York, but it was just two years ago when Dan Coats returned to Indiana from North Carolina, having specifically said that his new state was a better place to retire, and he managed to win a Senate seat.
In the long term, a Senate with no Liebermans or Kerreys is a Senate with fewer Democratic media stars who want to cut entitlements. In the short term, doesn't this embolden the liberals who want to scrap a grand bargain? The theory of the bargain is that neither party really suffers from it. The angry voter will hate the Republicans for selling him out on taxes and the Democrats for selling him out on Medicare. But entitlements are more popular than tax cuts. There was a reason why dozens of Republican candidates promised to spend another $718 billion on Medicare if they won.
TODAY IN SLATE
Meet the New Bosses
How the Republicans would run the Senate.
The Government Is Giving Millions of Dollars in Electric-Car Subsidies to the Wrong Drivers
Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.
Cheez-Its. Ritz. Triscuits.
Why all cracker names sound alike.
Friends Was the Last Purely Pleasurable Sitcom
This Whimsical Driverless Car Imagines Transportation in 2059
- Protesters Take to the Streets to Sound Alarm on Climate Change in New York, Across the World
- Knife-Carrying White House Jumper is Vet who Feared “Atmosphere Was Collapsing”
- North Korea: American Sentenced to Hard Labor Wanted to Become “Second Snowden”
- Almost One in Four Americans Support Idea of Splitting From the Union
Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?
A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.