Toward the end of the 2016 presidential election, as polls showed a tighter-than-expected contest in Michigan, the Hillary Clinton campaign faced a dilemma over just how aggressively it needed to act.
While aides worried about the possibility of losing the industrial Midwest stronghold, they also feared that if they moved significant resources into the state it would send a dangerous signal to Republicans that it was actually in play, setting off a political arms race. They ultimately chose to stay away in hopes that Donald Trump would only realize how close he was when it was too late.
Clinton went on to lose Michigan by 12,000 votes.
Months later, the first congressional campaign of the Trump era took place. And once again, the Democratic Party played possum. Instead of investing resources into the special election in Kansas’ 4th District that took place on Tuesday night, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee kept their distance under the assumption they only would have motivated Republican voters had they engaged.
The Democratic candidate James Thompson, an attorney and Army veteran, ended up losing the race by 7 percentage points. And because he was never expected to make it that close, Democrats now are asking not just whether more could have been done, but why the party continues to assume it can’t help out (some of) its own without hurting them.
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