On paper, Evan Bayh was a perfect fit for Indiana. As a former governor and senator from the Hoosier state, the popular Democrat initially traded on name recognition alone. “I was going to vote for him because he’s Evan Bayh. Evan Bayh!” a 69-year-old Indiana Republican told the New York Times. Indeed, early polling of the notoriously hard-to-poll state suggested that Democrats had a sure pickup opportunity in the race to replace retiring Senator Dan Coats. Today, a mix of scandalous revelations regarding and dumbfounding decisions by Bayh has turned a sure thing into a tossup. In a cycle in which the candidates made the difference between boom or bust, Indiana’s Senate race is only the latest indication that candidate quality really does matter.

Indiana isn’t alone. In two critical swing states, Republican Senate incumbents stepped into a fraught presidential cycle with Donald Trump at the top of their party’s ticket in a vulnerable position.

Today, Senators Rob Portman and Marco Rubio are in a far better position than their party’s presidential nominee. Portman has managed to win the endorsement of a variety of traditionally Democratic constituencies over another Democratic recruit who, in theory, was a good fit for his state: Former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland. Portman’s support from labor groups like the Teamsters and the Fraternal Order of Police of Ohio (a group that endorsed Strickland over popular Ohio Governor John Kasich in 2010) put that race beyond the Democratic Party’s reach.

In Florida, Marco Rubio entered the race for his Senate seat a damaged figure. His loss in the GOP presidential primaries and an about-face on his pledge to run for reelection put a sour taste in the mouths of the Sunshine State’s voters. Rubio’s skills as a campaigner have, however, helped him secure his position, as has his lackluster opponent: Representative Patrick Murphy. A hand-picked recruit for Senate by outgoing Minority Leader Harry Reid, Murphy has been dinged by the discovery that he falsified his status as a certified public accountant and a small business owner (he was neither). Two decidedly mediocre debate performances failed to assuage voters’ concerns about the young Democrat. If Rubio loses, it will be entirely on the strength of the core Democratic turnout operation in the state.

In Pennsylvania and New Hampshire, two vulnerable Senate candidates—Kelly Ayotte and Pat Toomey—have managed to run well ahead of their party’s presidential nominee. In Ayotte’s case, some polls show her running up to 12 points ahead of Donald Trump, who is almost certain to lose the Granite State. The popular Ayotte faces an equally popular opponent in the formidable Democratic Governor Maggie Hassan, and the race has devolved into an effort by both candidates to make the other unpalatable.

Toomey, too, has managed to thread the needle Portman navigated by winning over some traditionally Democratic groups in the purple state he represents in the Senate. In keeping his distance from Donald Trump and winning the financial support of a pro-gun control group, Toomey has managed to buck the tide in the Keystone State against a riptide taking Republicans out to sea. Following the indictment of former State Attorney General Kathleen Kane, the generally unknown environmental policy advisor Katie McGinty has managed to step on her own toes on more than a handful of occasions. The fact that the race remains a tight one is testament to Toomey’s strengths as an incumbent.

Not all Republicans are destined for reelection. Illinois Senator Mark Kirk was perhaps fated to lose his seat in dark blue Illinois even before he inexplicably questioned the authenticity of a claim by his opponent, Democratic Representative Tammy Duckworth, to be a scion of a family that served the nation in arms since its founding on racial grounds. The gaffe cost him the support of two traditionally Democratic groups that had previously endorsed him and turned what might have been a respectable loss into a forthcoming blowout.

Duckworth has run a strong campaign, but so has another Democratic retread to the north, once-and-possibly-future Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold. While few polls show him running competitively, Senator Ron Johnson managed to win back the financial support of the party’s Senatorial committee that had written him off as a loss in the triage process.

“The decisive factor in the race might be that, while swing voters in the state may favor Clinton over Trump, they also appear to want a congressional check on a Clinton presidency,” National Review’s Eliana Johnson reported. Survey data on the national level supports this conclusion, too. Voters that have priced in a Hillary Clinton presidency are hungry for a check on the unpopular former first lady. They just don’t want that check to be Trump or anything resembling him.

Not long ago, Republican and Democratic political observers grudgingly came to the conclusion that candidate quality didn’t matter. Bitter Republicans rejected the notion that voters would truly reward commonplace notions of what constitutes electability. Democrats, too, became convinced that partisanship had become so strong an instinct that it was a safe bet to take a gamble on a flawed candidate. The Senate contests demonstrate, however, that candidates and campaigns do matter. A good candidate can beat a bad political environment, and a bad candidate can fumble an advantage. If Republicans manage to buck the trends that threaten to swamp Trump in a week’s time, it will be because they earned it.

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