Months from now, as the pressures of midterm elections bear down on a handful of Democratic incumbent U.S. senators in states President Trump won in 2016, pundits may start to recall a meeting held at the White House on a cold January afternoon and wonder if they had missed something important.
Immediately after the meeting, everyone discussed the meeting as a live-mic free-for-all and focused on the theatrics. They speculated openly that Trump held the televised meeting to dispel any notion he was mentally fit.
Few focused on who wasn’t there and why they weren’t.
Once again, the pundits were missing the little nuances of how much American politics really has changed — and what that may mean for future results.
Importantly, three people in states that went heavily for Trump in 2016 — Indiana’s Sen. Joe Donnelly, West Virginia’s Sen. Joe Manchin, and Missouri’s Sen. Claire McCaskill — were all absent. Both offices said they weren’t invited.
Normally, the lawmakers who represent states that voted for the other party’s presidential nominee, are the most bipartisan — even if it’s just to listen. Early on, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, along with Donnelly, hopped on a plane with Trump. But now that they’re in the heat of fundraising, they do not want any part of it.
They have made the bet to pick their donors in California and New York over their voters back home.
They could be trying hard to find places to work productively with the president, yet the closer the elections get, they get further from the White House.
It is yet another example of how U.S. Senate races have changed: These races are all national now, and the bulk of the candidate’s money comes from outside their state. The result: They focus on their real constituency, their national donor base. They, in turn, ignore the people in the states they represent.
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