Sen. Jon Tester’s (D-MT) closing campaign spot perfectly encapsulates the two main reasons most red-state Senate Democrats still have a chance at victory next week.
The spot highlights Tester’s local authenticity in a way only he can — by discussing how he lost fingers in a meat grinder accident as a kid — before flaying his GOP opponent for supporting “junk insurance” plans.
“I was nine years old when I lost my fingers in this meat grinder,” Tester says as he leans on the machine’s edge. “My parents paid for the hospital because our healthcare didn’t cover anything. It was junk insurance. Thank god Montana got rid of junk healthcare plans a long time ago — until our insurance commissioner, Matt Rosendale, let them back in. My opponent is also pushing to allow insurance companies to deny coverage for pre-existing conditions.”
This is the latest red-state Democratic spot that has hit hard on the GOP push to weaken protections for pre-existing conditions. The message that’s been used heavily across the map as Democrats have gone hard on offense on Obamacare — even in the reddest states in the country.
And while not every Democratic candidate has Tester’s knack for local flavor (it’s hard to compete with missing fingers), many have leaned heavily on well-known personal brands as they’ve looked to stay in their elections.
That’s a big reason why Tester is still clinging to a slight lead against Republican Matt Rosendale with one week until the election, even though President Trump has made it his personal mission to knock Tester out in a state the president won handily in 2016.
It’s why candidates like Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) appear to be coasting in other states Trump won. And it’s why Sens. Joe Donnelly (D-IN) and Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and former Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen (D) are still in their races one week from election day.
This strategy hasn’t worked everywhere — Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) appears headed to defeat in a heavily Republican state even though her personal favorability numbers remain high. Republicans are also more confident than Democrats about winning races in Indiana, Missouri and Tennessee at this point, and have seen a gradual tightening in Montana that has given Republicans some hope they can defeat Tester after all.
But if Democrats can avoid losing seats in the Senate next week that would be a huge feat given how heavily the map is stacked against them. And it’ll be because of closing messages like this one that help Democrats win over enough GOP voters to grind out close races in key red states.