Disappointing Republican midterm elections ignite blame game, call for “soul-searching”
Republicans are reality-checking the night of the disappointing midterms — when the widely anticipated “red wave” has receded, if not evaporated — and knives are running out over who in the party might be responsible for the candidates failing to match expectations.
The GOP entered Election Day with a full head, boasting of nearly two dozen swings in the House of Representatives and falling to a majority in the Senate, as for months polls soured the public on President Joe Biden and alarmed the economy, inflation and crime.
But the results showed that voters bucked those polls and historical trends in favor of the Democrats more than expected, with the party winning a major swing in the Senate in Pennsylvania.
Although dozens of House races and key Senate contests remain unanticipated as of Wednesday, ABC News estimates that the GOP’s majority of 52 in the Senate and roughly 15 is toward the conservatives, which pales in comparison to wave years. the past two semesters, in 2018, 2010 and 1994.
“I’m stunned,” said Dan Eberhart, a Republican donor.
The GOP has seen some notable successes, including right-wing shifts in Florida and New York, and uncertainty remains about a congressional majority.
The Georgia Senate race heads to a runoff, and competitive contests in Arizona and Nevada leave the party a path to a narrow majority in the House of Representatives. Republicans could still win the House of Representatives, according to ABC News estimates.
However, as the calendar turned from Tuesday to Wednesday, Republican lawmakers, strategists and other activists who were hours before looming defeat lamented what they saw as a sharp underperformance.
“It’s still a narrow road here in Nevada and Georgia, but nobody feels good about election night,” said GOP strategist Scott Jennings, an ally of Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. Jennings had earlier boasted of a successful campaign formula based on inflation, immigration and crime — with later polls showing many voters care deeply about the possibility of abortion while refusing to reject the Trump-branded election.
Of Tuesday’s results, Jennings told ABC News, “There is a glimmer of hope. But in general, Republicans have to look at this and ask: What’s the way forward with independent voters?”
Several GOP members pointed to what they said was a miscalculation of the political environment: that Democrats’ anger over the repeal of constitutional protections for abortion had waned nationwide.
Exit polls indicated that inflation and abortion were the top two issues of the cycle, while public safety, the focus of the GOP’s relentless ad campaign in the run-up to Election Day, lagged in importance in the minds of voters.
Polls showed that 32% of voters said inflation was the most important issue, followed by 27% who said the same about abortion. In key states like Pennsylvania and Michigan, which voted Democratic, voters who identified abortion as the most important issue outperformed those who said the same about inflation.
“I think an autopsy on this election will reveal the ramifications of Dobbs’ decision [overturning the constitutional abortion right] “It ultimately dictated the outcome of the vast majority of contested races across the country,” said former Rep. Mike Bishop, R-Michigan. The brutal electoral backlash against Republicans, led by the same suburban women who pushed back the GOP in 2018, single-handedly defused an almost certain red wave.”
And tactically, many Republicans launched harsh criticism of former President Donald Trump, saying that his style of politics and his involvement in the midterm elections helped the Republicans snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
The strategists pointed to the positive feelings they were feeling in the run-up to the election before Trump ran a multi-state campaign, which they said re-inserted him into the national conversation — even as polls showed him still unpopular — and he was fired from office. Even a frustrated Democratic base.
“Two weeks ago, everyone was feeling really good. Everyone was focused on the economy and inflation and crime,” said one GOP strategist. And then, it was funny, we all talked amongst ourselves, ‘Trump was kind of cool.’ And he had done a little victory ride the week before because he wanted to take credit…and I think he just came back and everyone was like, ‘What?’
He added, “Most of what I hear from members, staff, and others is some combination of miscarriage and Trump overlay. If he had kept his mouth shut for the last 10 days about the 2024 presidential race, many races could have been different today,” she added. GOP lobbyist and fundraiser TJ Petrizzo.
Trump also made his way into the primary races earlier this year, pushing more establishment-aligned candidates in favor of those like Don Bolduc, Tudor Dexor and Hershel Walker who were supportive of his positions but are either losing or are now struggling.
“There will be a lot of finger-pointing and it starts, as Mitch McConnell very accurately predicted, the quality of the candidates. The MyPillow-ization of the GOP has been a disaster and has cost us a majority in the Senate, maybe twice, and a lot of seats in the House,” he says. Veteran GOP strategist Doug Haye, referring to Mike Lindell, the controversial Trump-aligned CEO of MyPillow.
In an interview Wednesday with Fox News, Trump successfully promoted his endorsed candidates, boasting that “all these winning guys are my people,” even though he has had endorsements in several non-competitive races.
But even those in Trump’s orbit bemoaned the results.
“This is a sinking ship,” a senior Trump adviser told ABC News.
Republicans also had arrows to fire at Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., chairman of the Republican Senatorial National Committee.
Among what they claim were missteps include putting forth his own agenda, which included stopping all government funding including Social Security and Medicare after five years.
“A massive percentage of the Democrats’ attack ads were supported by Rick Scott’s agenda. It shows that you put your personal ambition before what’s best for the team.” [hurts] Jennings said.
Republicans who spoke with ABC News for this story also accused Scott of treating the controversial candidates with child gloves.
Criticizing what they called the NSC’s “cautious strategy,” a national GOP strategist said, “The party has a lot of soul-searching to do about the kind of candidates it’s fielding and the races they’re running, because it’s clearly not working as it is.” of “Scott is going around every candidate being a great candidate when this one clearly wasn’t.”
Scott’s spokesman, Chris Hartline, insisted that the Florida senator not focus on the vitriol and instead focus on races not yet called and the expected Dec. 6 runoff between Walker and incumbent Democrat Raphael Warnock.
“We’re in a great position to win the majority,” Hartline said. The NRSC is watching the results reported in Nevada and Arizona closely and working with them [Walker] on surface runoff.
Other Republican strategists have cast a broader net of blame, saying Republican leaders in both chambers should have been better at articulating a specific agenda beyond opposition to White House politics and broad platitudes.
said former GOP Senate aide Brian Darling. “People want to blame Trump, but Trump is out of their control. The messages are 100% under their control.”
Looking beyond 2022, Tuesday’s show has already sparked speculation about the 2024 presidential cycle, especially after Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, seen as Trump’s main challenger in the potential primary, narrowed his re-election lead by nearly 20 points, which is A stunning fringe in the well-known state of Florida. Its history is from the thin margins.
Other brand-name Republicans, such as Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, have also won key races.
“He’s the anointed,” former Rep. David Jolly, R-Fla., said of DeSantis.
A GOP strategist with experience in presidential campaigns added, “The huge win … puts an exclamation mark on the big story. DeSantis looks like the future. Trump looks like the past.”
But for now, Republicans are mostly focused on a runoff in Georgia next month — and a repeat of 2021, when Trump’s meddling in two of the state’s runoffs cost the GOP two Senate seats there, and their majority.
“As we look at Georgia’s second round, let’s put Kemp, Diantis and Herschel on a stump, and Trump on vacation in Australia,” Petrizzo said.
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