Vulnerable Senate Candidates Get Passes On Ideological Issues

In the fiercely competitive battle for the upper chamber, vulnerable candidates from both sides of the aisle have been given leeway on some of the issues their parties are using in other races to attack opponents.

Most recently, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) launched an ad targeting Rep. Jeff Flake (R), running for Senate in Arizona, for his record on women’s issues, including Flake’s two votes to defund Planned Parenthood, and for co-sponsoring a bill that would redefine rape as “forcible rape.”

But Rep. Joe Donnelly, the Democrat running for Senate in Indiana, has the same voting record as Flake on those bills.

Ideological inconsistency in partisan attacks has everything to do with the long game: The parties are working to gain or retain a majority, and to do so, they’ll have to make compromises. 

GOP strategist Ford O’Connell said the range of partisan sensibilities crisscrossing the U.S. makes it impossible for a viable Republican candidate in Maine to win in Montana, which means parties might have to attack one candidate but back one of their own on certain issues.

“Parties really want all of their candidates to fit within a consistent narrative, but regional narratives make that pretty much a pipe dream,” he said.

He added that party strategy isn’t likely to matter to voters on the ground in Indiana or Montana, and that they’re more likely to pay attention to local issues and the economy than a breach in ideological consistency.

Read more from Alexandera Jaffe at The Hill

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Analysis & Political Strategy