The results are in, and Republican John Kennedy defeated Democrat Foster Campbell in the runoff election for a Louisiana Senate seat.
It’s a disappointment—though an expected one—for Democrats, who saw the race as an opportunity to make the Republican’s control of Congress a little less comfortable. As I wrote earlier today, if Campbell had won, Democrats would only need one Republican on their side for a tie vote and two Republicans on their side to defeat any legislation (in the event of a tie, Vice President-elect Mike Pence would be the deciding vote, but as The Guardian explains, he’d actually have to be present).
This long-shot race became something of a last-ditch effort for Democrats after big losses in November’s elections, and Campbell received support from all over the country. As NBC reported, he raised $2.5 million according to his final report with the Federal Election Commission and had volunteers in multiple states reaching out to voters.
Campbell is anti-abortion and doesn’t support gun control, making him a strange bedfellow for Democrats desperate to maintain some power in the Senate, as many media outlets have pointed out; however, those things that make him unappealing to some Democrats are what gave him in a fighting chance in the Louisana Senate race. According to Politico, he had a history of “winning over Republican-leaning voters.”
Even with extra money, national support, and policy positions that appeal to conservatives, Campbell was running counter to the changing political landscape, which is becoming more polarized according to FiveThirtyEight.
None of the states in the Deep South — Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and South Carolina — has a Democratic senator. (The last of these, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, lost a re-election bid in 2014.) And in the U.S. House, there aren’t any white Democratic representatives from the Deep South. That’s because voting has become highly polarized by race. Whites vote almost exclusively for Republicans, while non-white voters almost exclusively choose Democrats.
With Kennedy’s win, Republicans still don’t have a filibuster proof majority, so Democrats have that option for derailing the GOP’s agenda. Also, many of Trump’s campaign promises are pretty extreme, so hopefully it won’t be too hard to get a couple Republicans on board to stop the worst proposals.