Big news out of Arizona tonight: The Associated Press has called the Grand Canyon State’s U.S. Senate race for Democratic contender Kyrsten Sinema, and Republican Martha McSally has conceded the race in a congratulatory tweet.
Sinema’s victory is a big deal for Democrats, because it doubles the number of Senate pickups for the party from one to two, and offsets major losses elsewhere.
It also represents a breakthrough for the party in the mountainous southwest. Democrats have swung Nevada, Colorado, and New Mexico into their column in recent cycles, but Arizona has continued to vote Republican in statewide races.
Until now, that is.
Sinema will become Arizona’s first female senator and its first Democratic senator in decades. The last Democrat to represent Arizona in the U.S. Senate, Dennis DeConcini, retired in 1994. DeConcini was replaced by Republican Jon Kyl.
Democrats’ hopes of capturing a Senate majority in the midterms depended on saving all of its endangered incumbents plus picking up seats.
The party wasn’t able to accomplish the former, but with Jacky Rosen’s victory in Nevada and Sinema’s victory in Arizona, it is accomplishing the former.
To recap, the Senate Democrats lost three members in last week’s midterms: Claire McCaskill, Heidi Heitkamp, and Joe Donnelly. All of them represent Midwestern states that voted for Trump by large numbers in 2016. The Republicans targeted each for defeat, and Trump made their ouster his top priority in the 2018 midterms.
Trump also tried to topple Montana’s Jon Tester, but Tester — initially elected to the Senate in 2006 in the first blue wave of the century — was able to survive despite voting against Brett Kavanaugh. So was West Virginia’s Joe Manchin, the only Democratic senator to vote in favor of Kavanaugh’s confirmation.
The outcome of Florida’s U.S. Senate race, meanwhile, remains unknown. Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson trails Rick Scott by a very small margin and a recount is underway. Scott is suing to halt the recount from proceeding.
Should Nelson lose, Republicans will have gained four seats while losing two. Should Nelson win, Republicans will have gained three seats while losing two.
As much as it hurts for Democrats to lose any U.S. Senate seats, these midterms could have been so much worse for the party.
Tester and Manchin’s victories, coupled with Rosen and Sinema’s victories, make the 2020 U.S. Senate map much, much better for Democrats. Without those four wins, Democrats would have been left in a terrible position going into the next cycle.
Democrats were defending a plethora of seats in deep red states this cycle, while Republicans were defending just one Senate seat in a state that voted for Hillary Clinton. Because Senate terms are for six years and because there are only one hundred Senate positions, the implications of every win or loss are magnified.