Red-state Democratic senators on the ballot in 2014 will have a dual challenge. As a general matter the party that holds the White House does poorly in the second midterm election. Moreover, in the case of a number of senators their records are so at odds with their constituents that one wonders how they are going to run on their records.
Sens. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) and Mary Landrieu (D- La.) are two prime examples. They voted for Obamacare and the first term stimulus. Last night they were two of only 20 senators that voted against repeal of the medial device tax, a tax that will hit everything from wheelchairs to pace-makers and impact the cost for many more patients than just the “rich.” Obamacare remains unpopular in the country and among independents and conservatives their repeated votes against repealing all or parts of the law are sure to be fodder for their opponents.
And now comes the vote on the Senate Democrats’ budget — a mammoth tax increase lacking any real entitlement reform. The gap for them and others like Sens. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) and Mark Begich (D-Alaska) between the demands of their party and their home state voters is growing larger as the Democratic Party abandons its more moderate constituents. It is one thing when running in an historic presidential election year (2008), when every Democrat in sight turns out; it is quite another in an off-year election with a president whose approval rates are sinking.
Their votes on the budget, anti-gun legislation, energy development and other issues that resonate back home will test just how much they are willing to risk in support of their party leadership and the White House. These candidates and others ran on the promise of independence and serving their more conservative constituents. If they haven’t delivered and if the GOP fields capable opponents (unlike many 2010 and 2012 races), their political future will be at risk.
So much national media time is spent heckling Republicans for their party’s shift to the right that the Democratic Party’s leftward jag gets little notice — except back home. Their opponents must make sure their records are front and center.