The only race that shows how Democrats defeated the Red Wave

It happened well after midnight.

There was a manic graduate school vibe in the war room, where spreadsheets kept sending staff members jumping out of their chairs at high-five and « f— yeah! » and sometimes get suffocated by Grundhauser. With good news for the team, bad news for other Democrats, but ultimately fewer; Slotkin was back in the room after a schmoozing tour, receiving good news from south Lyon, when CNN called the loss of her friend Virginia Rep. Elaine Luria, another Democrat with a background in national security. Slotkin was briefly distracted from her own good news. « It’s a real kick in the jimmies. » But lists posted on a wall of competitive Democratic races showed mostly wins, as Cook monitored races across the country and consistently circled Democratic winners in blue.

After 1 a.m., the last loyal party-goers were out, and the remaining hard core of staff and family members got a final spreadsheet read and update from Slotkin herself. She was still losing by 9,000 votes but felt “extremely confident” – all outstanding votes came from constituencies favoring her. Michigan State’s push to the polls had resulted in hours of waiting on campus, but some students stayed in line until three hours after polls closed to vote. The 13-vote victory in Howell, of all places, had vindicated the theory of running in red territory, and there was a nice counter-extremism to the idea of ​​a Jewish woman winning in former KKK territory. .

And then, around 3 a.m., the first big batch of mail-in ballots started rolling in from Ingham County, and she took the lead. She and her team knew then that it was over. Very quickly, her opponent, State Senator Tom Barrett, called her to concede at 3:30 a.m., in a conversation that Slotkin described to reporters as « brief » and « polite. » (Barrett had raised questions about Biden’s 150,000 vote win in Michigan in 2020 and visited Trump’s White House in the days following the election to discuss the results, so the concession was noteworthy. )

As for the lessons of her nationwide run, she was still sorting out the implications. Midwestern Democrats had an exceptionally good night, including encouraging results in home races in Michigan, Ohio and Kansas. But several coastal Democrats, including the head of the congressional campaign arm in New York, had lost. « I don’t quite understand, » Slotkin said. « But I can just say for the Midwest, you can’t have a full conversation in that part of the world unless you’re talking about the economy and the future of work. … You have to take the issues of the day and make sure they’re relevant to someone’s real life. And I think in the Midwest we’ve been able to do that.

Findings elsewhere indicated that, while perhaps necessary, such messaging was insufficient: US Rep. Tim Ryan had lost his Senate race to Trump-backed candidate JD Vance in Ohio. But he, too, had exceeded expectations.

Slotkin still wants a healthy two-party America arguing over real, real politics, not least because she’s eager to pass policies to get things done in Michigan. She told me Michiganders have been warning against outsourcing supply chains for 30 years, and that Covid has dramatically proven them right, not only in the rush for masks, but also in shortages of microchips that shut down GM car factories in his district. “I think a lot of people in Washington talk about supply chain issues, and microchips in particular, as a political issue. Here, it is a matter of economic security. In this state, it is as if you are going to work tomorrow or not, and you are not earning your full salary if you are sitting at home.

She also noted the national security implications: It’s not as if supply chains have moved to Canada, but to China and places vulnerable to China. The United States has a law and policy regarding supply chains for military equipment. “We cannot outsource our tanks to China. But then, I extrapolate this same type of politics when I think of certain critical elements. This includes food; she is seriously considering joining the agriculture committee. « I think we have to treat our food security as a matter of national security. »

The next Congress was still taking shape when Slotkin and I last spoke by phone Thursday. Republicans looked likely to take a slim majority, which some say could spell an era of Republicans in disarray: Internal divisions could limit the caucus’s ability to legislate, as it did for the narrow Democratic majority for a large part of 2020. “I hope they [Republicans] don’t spend the next two years investigating Hunter Biden and they actually want to demonstrate to the American people that they can govern,” especially after spending so much of the midterm cycle talking about the economy. « But if they go that route, we’re going to have to let them carry their own rope. »

The good news was that she was not aware of any major races in which the results were disputed – even the 2020 election skeptics at the top of Michigan’s ticket had conceded their races. « I personally believe that Michigan and other places have demonstrated that we are returning to a more practical and reasonable approach to electing elected officials. » Otherwise, however, she knew what her own role was.

« What I can do is win. »


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