The XX Factor

Not a Great Night for the Democrats: Female Senate Candidate Edition

Kay Hagan lost, but that doesn’t mean Hillary Clinton is doomed.

Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

Three of the tightest Senate races in the country were between female Democrats and male Republicans, contests that could be read as meaningful for the possible outcome of a 2016 match between Hillary Clinton and the almost surely male Republican running against her. The night didn’t go well for the liberal ladies. Incumbent Sen. Kay Hagan of North Carolina and Michelle Nunn of Georgia went into the polls in tossups against their opponents, Thom Tillis and David Perdue, respectively. Both lost, though Hagan lost in a squeaker, with little more than a percentage point between herself and Tillis. 

On the flip side, incumbent Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire beat out challenger Scott Brown, who has previously lost to Sen. Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts, making him the only person in U.S. history to lose to two separate female senators. (Take the historical moments where you can get ‘em.) Brown spent much of the night resisting the results, but he finally conceded close to midnight.

While it’s tempting to look at this not-so-hot showing and assume the worst for a Clinton 2016 run, presidential elections can’t really be meaningfully compared with midterm elections, which have older and more married voters, traditionally a bad group for Democrats. Single female voters, in particular, don’t turn out for the midterms. Between 2008 and 2010, there was a 20-point drop-off in the percentage of single women at the polls. Since that’s a demographic that votes Democratic, that loss in the midterms can mean a bump during presidential elections. Clinton will simply be looking at a much different landscape of likely voters.