The Red State Democrat Conundrum

For senators up in Trump-won states, a delicate political calculus

Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., zigged when his fellow red-state Democrats zagged. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., zigged when his fellow red-state Democrats zagged. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Jason Dick
Posted January 24, 2018 at 6:24pm

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Testing His Political Capital

When Sen. Jon Tester voted against reopening the government this week, it was notable not because he was only one of 18 senators to do so, but because he departed from another important political subset: Democrats up for re-election this year in Republican-friendly states. 

There are 10 Senate Democrats up for re-election in states Donald Trump won in the 2016 election, and of those, Trump won five of them by double-digit margins. Tester was the only Democrat from one of those 10 states to vote against ending the shutdown. 

In the latest Political Theater Podcast, we outline the pressure on these Democrats to vote with the GOP, and explore what might make some of them, like Tester, go their own way. 

Listen to the full podcast:  


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Shutdown Wind-Down

: Storm clouds pass over the dome of the U.S. Capitol building on Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
The political fallout from the government shutdown might not mean much next to other big factors. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

So who will suffer most politically from the shutdown? Nobody who wasn’t going to suffer already, writes Roll Call political analyst Stu Rothenberg.

Classifying the three days of lapsed government funding as more “skirmish, not a major war,” Rothenberg argues it’s unlikely to change “the trajectory of the election cycle” and paying attention to President Donald Trump’s approval ratings and major events like the Russia investigation and North Korea. 

“The problem for Republicans is that voters are not likely to believe explanations offered by politicians they don’t like. And many of them really don’t like Trump, personally or professionally,” he writes. 

Read Stu’s full analysis: Watch the Polls, Ignore the Post-Shutdown Chatter

Not Registering

UNITED STATES - April 8: President Obama's budget proposal , FY2014 rolls off the presses at the Government Printing Office in Washington, D.C. on April 8, 2013. (Photo By Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call)
Printed copies of the Federal Register keep piling up in your office? Congress just solved that. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Congressional offices will have one less pile to pick up off the floor when they come into work in the morning. Unless you ask for it, printed copies of the Federal Register delivered to the doorstep are a thing of the past. And we have the shutdown to thank for that. That’s because the legislation that funds the government until Feb. 8 was hitched onto an unrelated bill that prohibits the Government Publishing Office from distributing free printed copies of the Federal Register to congressional offices or other government employees unless specifically requested.

Katherine Tully-McManus’ full story: Not Coming Soon: The Federal Register

Opioids and Heroin(es)

UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 11: Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., participate in the Senate Democrats' news conference to
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., are among the fleet of lawmakers warning about the opioid crisis. An Oscar-nominated documentary looks at the crisis from the perspective of those fighting it in Huntington, W.Va. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

For years, lawmakers and public health officials have been warning about the dangers of the opioid crisis as the death toll climbed. This week, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced that a vivid documentary of the crisis, “Heroin(e),” by  Elaine McMillion Sheldon and Kerrin Sheldon, has been nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Short Subject.

The film, available on Netflix, portrays the efforts of three women in Huntington, W.Va. — Fire Chief Jan Rader, drug court judge Patricia Keller and street missionary Necia Freeman — to address the crisis in their community. In November, West Virginia Sens. Joe Manchin III and Shelley Moore Capito attended a screening in D.C. at the Landmark E Street Cinema with the film’s heroines, Sheldon and former Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to bring attention to the crisis. 

The official response from Washington? Still mostly just a lot of talk. 

The Kicker

UNITED STATES - JANUARY 19: A worker pushes a senate subway car Friday morning as the Senate considers the House passed continuing resolution to fund the government on January 19, 2018. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
For some reason, the photo seems to say it all about the recent shutdown. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)