Democrats said the mayor’s election in Omaha was a referendum on President Trump.
Then their guy lost.
With the nonstop anti-Trump flow on the mainstream media, Democrat Heath Mello thought he could tap into that during his run. He even got the backing of Democratic darling Sen. Bernie Sanders (and the city itself went for Hillary Clinton in 2016, making it home turf for a Democrats).
But Mello lost on Tuesday to incumbent Republican Jean Stothert, who defeated the 37 year old 53 percent to 47 percent.
It’s the third time the Democrats have pitched an election as a referendum on Trump. Democrats lost a special election for a House seat in Kansas and then failed to grab an open House seat in Georgia.
And it’s not like the Democrats weren’t trying. Sanders showed up for a last-minute high-profile event in the Nebraska city, along with Democratic National Committee Deputy Chairman Keith Ellison.
But the Mello campaign “became mired in abortion politics,” The Washington Times reports.
And unlike in years past, the abortion issue exploded on the Democrats, not the Republicans.
On April 20, the same day as the Sanders rally, the Daily Kos withdrew its endorsement over Mr. Mello’s pro-life record.
That was also the day that NARAL Pro-Choice America blasted the Democratic National Committee as “politically stupid” for backing Mr. Mello.
Kristen Day, who heads Democrats for Life of America, accused the pro-choice movement of putting its issue ahead of the good of the party.
“The abortion rights movement shouldn’t have been involved in that race at all,” said Ms. Day. “If they cared at all about the party, they would have left Health Mello to run and stay true to his conscience. He may have been able to win. Instead, the abortion rights activists are trying to keep middle America in Republican hands.”
National Review said the loss is a blow for Democrats — and shows a split in the party.
Mello maintained an anti-Trump message but faced opposition from the left over once supporting a bill requiring abortion providers to notify women of the availability of ultrasounds. During the campaign, newly minted DNC chief Tom Perez took issue with Mello for his less-than-unflinching support of abortion. “Every Democrat,” he said, “like every American, should support a woman’s right to make her own choices about her body and her health. That is not negotiable.”
Bernie Sanders and others defended Mello, arguing that the party should allow room for pro-lifers and rallying support for him as a true-blue progressive. At a campaign event in April, Sanders asked supporters, “Are you ready for a political revolution?”
Evidently, voters were not. Now Democrats must decide how to proceed, and some are actually arguing that this weakens the position that pro-life views should be tolerated. In the Associated Press, Thomas Beaumont called Mello’s loss “a setback for supporters who argued that the Democratic National Committee and abortion rights groups were wrong to attack the anti-abortion former state senator.” If Democrats take from this loss that Mello didn’t support abortion enough, they would be requiring pro-choice purity that somehow exceeds Mello’s 100 percent rating from Planned Parenthood in 2015.
The debate around Mello’s abortion views created an intraparty feud in the middle of a high-profile race, and it may have cost them their win. The Trump “resistance” must now look elsewhere to score a major post-November victory against the GOP.
Whatever the reason, the Democrats are now 0 for 3 on Trump “referenda.” Sounds about right.