Democrats Defy History in Landmark Midterm Election
Although facing political headwinds from high inflation and a mixed economy, Democrats exceeded expectations in the aftermath of Roe and January 6th.
Voters this fall were in the kind of sour mood that usually signals they are ready for change in Washington and state capitals. But in many cases, they weren’t looking for the change that Republican candidates were offering, reports the Wall Street Journal.
Control of the Senate remained undecided, and Republicans were on track, in preliminary results, to take control of the House of Representatives by a smaller margin than many party leaders and nonpartisan analysts expected. Democrats appeared to hold off the steep losses in Congress—if preliminary results hold up—that are traditional for the president’s party in midterm years. They did so in large part because their own voters came to the polls with unusual enthusiasm and swing voters broke in their direction. In many states that were decided by the narrowest margins in 2020, Democrats came closer to matching their presidential-year vote totals than did their GOP opponents.
In Pennsylvania’s race for an open Senate seat, the winner, Democrat John Fetterman, drew about 76% of President Biden’s 2020 vote total, while Republican Mehmet Oz drew 73% of the vote that went to former President Donald Trump. Democrats also ran closer to their presidential-year benchmarks than did GOP candidates in Arizona and Georgia, where Democratic incumbents are leading in incomplete results, keeping the party’s hopes alive that it can retain control of the Senate.
There were bright spots for the GOP in states such as Florida, where Gov. Ron DeSantis and Sen. Marco Rubio both won easy victories. Republican Sen. Ron Johnson won re-election in Wisconsin, and a Republican candidate was leading in a yet-uncalled Senate race in Nevada. But Democrats notched an unusual achievement: With voters anxious about high inflation and unhappy with President Biden’s leadership—normally a toxic circumstance for the party that controls the levers of power in Washington—they brought their own supporters to the polls in large numbers while persuading independent voters that Republican candidates were an unacceptable alternative.
Independent voters, who were expected to break for the GOP because of economic anxiety, instead backed Democratic candidates by 3 percentage points nationally, according to a large survey of the 2022 electorate called AP VoteCast. Independents broke for Democrats by far bigger margins in many states with competitive Senate races—by 19 points in Pennsylvania, 28 points in Georgia and more than 30 points in Arizona.
As of Friday, according to the Associated Press, Democrats maintained their narrow leads in key Arizona contests, but the races for U.S. Senate and governor were still too early to call with about a fifth of the total ballots left to be counted.
Excerpt from the Associated Press: Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly led Republican Blake Masters by 5.6 percentage points, while Democrat Katie Hobbs had a much tighter lead of 1.4 points against Republican Kari Lake in the governor’s race. Democrats also led in the races for secretary of state and attorney general. Election officials in Maricopa County, which includes metro Phoenix and more than 60% of voters, expected to begin reporting results Friday from a crucial group of ballots — nearly 300,000 mail ballots that were returned on Election Day. That group has swung wildly in recent election cycles, from strongly Democratic in the 2018 midterms to strongly Republican in 2020. The races will hinge on whether those late-counted ballots look more like 2018 or 2020. The answer will determine who wins extremely tight races for U.S. Senate and House, as well as governor, secretary of state and attorney general. At stake are control of Congress and the rules for the 2024 presidential election in a crucial battleground state.
How this happened is the story of a larger, existential struggle within the GOP. Interviews with more than 20 strategists and senators from both parties highlight the reasons for Republicans’ stumbles this year: former President Donald Trump played kingmaker, and the party reasoned it could do little about it besides trying to ride historical tailwinds, writes Politico.
Excerpt from Politico: Senate Republicans’ disinterest in further damaging their fractious relationship with the former president saddled them with losing candidates in Pennsylvania, Arizona and New Hampshire as popular governors took a pass on running. And the chip still on Rick Scott’s shoulder from his own 2010 gubernatorial primary — where he toppled an establishment favorite — shaped the NRSC’s approach this cycle, for better or worse. Democrats had their own problems, including an unpopular president and rampant inflation. Several of their incumbents were on defense in battleground states. Yet they also capitalized on the jolt to their base delivered by the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade, raising gobs of money while investing heavily in their field operation and separating themselves from President Joe Biden. But they couldn’t have outperformed history without some help from the GOP.