You have to give Mike Schmuhl credit.

Where some saw a devastating election defeat, Schmuhl, the chair of the Indiana Democratic Party, saw reason for hope.

“Despite a difficult political environment,” he said in a news release, “Hoosier Democrats held their own against an onslaught of national dark money.”

Schmuhl suggested the party was poised to make gains in next year’s municipal elections.

Maybe he should have a chat with Thomas McDermott, the Hammond mayor who lost his bid to upset incumbent U.S. Sen. Todd Young. On the night of the election, a reporter for the Capital Chronicle asked McDermott whether he had any regrets.

“You’re talking to me right after I lost,” McDermott said, “so yeah, I regret it. I wasted 14 months of my life.”

McDermott had campaigned hard, crisscrossing the state to talk to voters.

“I gave everything I had, and it wasn’t really that close,” he said. “So it makes me think that this isn’t my line of work. And so, honestly, I’m probably done in politics.”

In reality, the campaign came down to money. McDermott’s message didn’t resonate because most people didn’t hear it.

While Young’s campaign filled the airwaves with feel good messages about a Marine veteran standing up for Hoosiers in Washington, McDermott was largely absent.

People didn’t turn out to vote for him because they had no idea what his campaign was about.

According to Federal Election Commission filings, Young’s campaign raised about $14.5 million through the end of September, while McDermott’s campaign collected $1.1 million.

It’s at least worth asking whether Indiana really has become a one-party state. Democrats haven’t won a statewide election in 10 years, and this year, they suffered a defeat that was particularly galling.

Republicans put up a secretary of state candidate who was almost begging to be beaten.

Delegates to the party’s state convention had cast aside Holli Sullivan, the current secretary of state, in favor of Diego Morales, a 2020 election denier whose resume seemed to grow worse by the day.

Not only had Morales been fired from a job in the office he sought to lead, he had returned to the office only to leave weeks later under less than ideal circumstances. Then, reports surfaced that two women had accused him of sexual harassment, and finally, days before the election, news broke that Morales reportedly had voted in one county while living in another.

The man seeking to ensure the integrity of Indiana elections stood accused of election fraud.

In spite of all the negatives, Morales raised just shy of $1.06 million while Destiny Wells, his Democratic opponent, raised less than $750,000. As a result, Wells had only enough money to produce a single TV ad, one that sought both to introduce her as a candidate and make the case against Morales.

McDermott blames himself for the loss.

“I was the leader of the ticket, so I feel a sense of responsibility when we fail, and we failed, and it’s my fault,” he told The Times of Northwest Indiana. “But what we did in Indiana is embarrassing. We elected a guy who probably is not going to make it through his term.”

Democrats in Indiana face what the novelist Joseph Heller would describe as a “Catch 22” situation. They can’t win statewide elections because donors won’t give them any money, and donors won’t give them any money because they can’t win statewide elections.

Schmuhl explains in his news release why they need to find a way to change the narrative.

“Indiana will be a stronger state and a better place to live and work,” he said, “when there is more balance at every level of Hoosier government: Federal, state and local.”

To reach that goal, he’ll need to do a better job of making his case to donors.

Kelly Hawes is a columnist for CNHI News Indiana.

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