Red wave dissipates into Blue escape
The polls showed a mixed bag -- and they ended up being pretty good.
Competitive races are still outstanding, tens of thousands of ballots in western states still need to be tabulated and both U.S. House and U.S. Senate remain in the balance.
But the 2022 midterm election was not the wave Republicans were hoping for and betting on.
“Red wave becomes Blue escape,” is how Christopher Walton, a former chairman of the Milwaukee County Democratic Party in Wisconsin put it to me in the early Wednesday morning hours.
(I adjusted it for the headline, just slightly, but the point resonates.)
Democrats dodged a midterm that by all historical standards, should’ve been terrible, given record inflation and pointed disapproval of President Joe Biden.
During President Donald Trump’s first midterm in 2018, the GOP lost 40 House seats. During President Barack Obama’s first midterm in 2010, Democrats forked over 63 House seats.
Now, if the GOP manages to capture a House majority, it is most likely to sit in the single or low double-digits — a slim jim-sized advantage nowhere near the 30 to 40 additional seats that many were projecting as voting commenced over the last month.
“I think we can win over 35 seats,” Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York, a House GOP leader, declared a month before the election.
In the closing weeks of the campaign, GOP operatives also privately boasted the House would be called quickly in the early hours of Tuesday evening. Instead, the numbers still looked murky early Wednesday. The GOP was, in fact, looking to a handful of uncalled seats in California and New York to get them over the finish line.
Highly vulnerable Democratic incumbents largely showed resiliency in a string of margin-of-error races — from Rep. Abigail Spanberger in Virginia to Rep. Henry Cuellar in Texas to Rep. Elissa Slotkin in Michigan to Rep. Susan Wild in Pennsylvania — which held down Republican wins.
In the battle for the Senate, John Fetterman defeated Mehmet Oz in the most expensive and closely tracked race of the cycle, adding an insurance pick-up to the tenuous Democratic tally.
In Georgia, Sen. Raphael Warnock was clinging to a 28,000 vote lead over Herschel Walker, with the race still potentially heading to a Dec. 6 runoff. With 95% of the vote tallied, Warnock was just short of the 50% + 1 necessary to avoid the overtime campaign that could consume our Thanksgiving.
New Hampshire did not end up being competitive for Republicans and a mediocre Democratic incumbent in Maggie Hassan ended up gliding without breaking much of a sweat.
Yes, a path to a Senate Republican majority still exists (winning Nevada + Georgia runoff), but it’s as small as the eye can see.
Democrats also preserved important governorships in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin and even the lackluster Katie Hobbs tracked ahead of polarizing superstar Kari Lake in the early count in Arizona, which could become a headache for final results and election denialism, given the toxic mix of voting problems in Maricopa County and Republicans’ unwillingness there to admit they lost under almost under any circumstance.
The GOP had their bright spots to be sure. Florida, first and foremost, is not a state Democrats should be investing in heavily anymore. It’s gone, likely for awhile. Place aside Ron DeSantis’ smashing romp to tee up 2024, even Sen. Marco Rubio cruised by 17 points. They both won Miami for god sakes.
And surprisingly, New York is where the GOP could net their gains that ultimately crown Kevin McCarthy speaker. The chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Sean Patrick Maloney, was on the verge of losing his seat just as he guided his party to its best ever initial midterm outcome for a party in power in possibly two decades.
On aggregate, the mixed bag that the polls had been forecasting, came to fruition.
That’s right, you can’t blame the data this time. It was all right there, if you chose to believe it.
Tight Senate and gubernatorial contests in the key states with slight Democratic leans due to weaknesses with Republican candidates. Plus an environment that slightly favored Republicans in the House on issues and mood, but not overwhelmingly so.
It looks like Election 2022 transpired nearly exactly how voters were signaling it would.
There wasn’t an eye-popping surprise.
And whether Adam Laxalt or Catherine Cortez Masto ultimately wins by a smidge in Nevada — (it’s going to take a few days) it won’t be a shock. It may just help decide U.S. Senate control.
But regardless of the final results, 2022 will be remembered for the Republican wave that wasn’t — and a battered Democratic Party, warts and all, benefitting from not being the other guy.
Got to wonder if the Donald still thinks it looks smart to announce his 2024 comeback next week?
What’s the pitch to hang it on?
There was no wave; and about to begin is the blame.