Atrios, on why Democratic Senators in purple states don’t support popular things:
[…] You can point to polls showing something like increasing the minimum wage in a state is very popular. And you can also see a Dem Senate (or other) candidate not supporting it. And you can also see this explained as “can’t win in a purple/red state supporting the socialism of a higher minimum wage, that’s just the way of the world.” This is contradictory. Polls say it’s popular but a candidate can’t win if they support it? Does not compute does not compute beep beep beep.
The reason it does compute is that those races are generally going to be tough/close races, but the calculation is not “boy if I support a higher minimum wage then the voters will get mad.” The calculation is “boy if I support a higher minimum wage then the voters will like that, BUT the Chamber of Commerce types will dump a bunch of money into the race to oppose me and run ads calling me a child molester (or highlighting something else that might be unpopular about me).” Supporting the popular thing is a problem not because the popular thing is unpopular (by definition!), but because it’s tough to win as a Democrat generally and extra hard if the big money comes after you.
I think this describes the mindset correctly, but I don’t know if it reflects the current reality. Whether or not you support something popular, if you’re a Democrat in a state that’s anything but completely blue, there is so much third-party money in these races that you’re going to be awash in negative ads for months prior to the election. So you might as well shout out loud and proud about popular things like a minimum wage hike, because the millions in third party spending will be there anyways.