Disappointing Republican midterms ignite the blame game, call for ‘self-searching’

Disappointing Republican midterms ignite the blame game, call for ‘self-searching’

Republicans are examining the reality of a disappointing midterm election night – in which the widely anticipated “red wave” has ebbed, if not evaporated – and knives are ending over who might be responsible in the party for the candidates’ failure to match expectations.

The Republican Party entered Election Day with a headstrong, boasting nearly two dozen swings in the House of Representatives and a slump to a majority in the Senate, as months of opinion polls jittered the public over President Joe Biden and rattled the economy, inflation and crime.

But the results showed that voters bucked those polls and historical trends in Democrats’ favor more than expected, with the party winning a major swing in the Pennsylvania Senate.

Although dozens of House races and major Senate contests remain unpredictable as of Wednesday, ABC News estimates that the Republican Party’s 52-seat majority in the Senate and roughly 15 seats are toward conservatives, which pales in comparison to wave years. past halves, in 2018, 2010 and 1994.

“I’m stunned,” said Dan Eberhart, a Republican donor.

The Republican Party has seen some notable successes, including right-wing shifts in Florida and New York, and there remains uncertainty about the Congressional majority.

Georgia’s Senate race heads into the runoff, and competitive contests in Arizona and Nevada leave the party way to a narrow majority in the House. Republicans can still win the House, according to ABC News estimates.

However, as the calendar turned from Tuesday to Wednesday, Republican lawmakers, strategists and other activists who were hours before the looming defeat lamented what they saw as a severe underperformance.

“It’s still narrow here in Nevada and Georgia, but no one is feeling good about election night,” said GOP strategist Scott Jennings, an ally of Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. Jennings had earlier boasted of a successful campaign formula based on inflation, immigration and crime – with polls later showing many voters deeply interested in the possibility of abortion while refusing to reject the Trump-branded election.

“There is a glimmer of hope,” Jennings told ABC News of Tuesday’s results. “But overall, 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 misjudgment of the political environment: that Democrats’ anger at repealing constitutional protections for abortion had waned nationwide.

Exit polls indicated that inflation and abortion were the two most important issues of the cycle, while public safety, focused on the Republican Party’s relentless advertising campaign in the run-up to Election Day, lagged behind in importance in voters’ minds.

Opinion 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 Democrats, voters who considered abortion as the most important issue outperformed those who said the same about inflation.

“I believe an autopsy in this election will reveal the repercussions 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 Representative Mike Bishop, Republican of Michigan. The brutal electoral backlash against Republicans, led by the same suburban women who fended off the Republican Party in 2018, single-handedly defused an almost certain red wave.”

Tactically, many Republicans have launched scathing criticism of former President Donald Trump, saying his style of politics and involvement in the midterm elections helped Republicans snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

Republican Senator Rick Scott speaks during a rally with former President Donald Trump ahead of the midterm elections, in Miami, November 6, 2022.

Marco Bello/Reuters

Strategists noted the positive feelings they were feeling in the run-up to the election before Trump ran a multi-state campaign, which they said reintroduced him into the national conversation — even as polls show he remains unpopular — and fired from office. Even a democratized base is frustrated.

“A couple of weeks ago, everyone was feeling really good,” said one GOP strategist. “Everyone was focused on the economy, inflation, crime.” “And then, it was funny, we all talked amongst ourselves, ‘Trump was kinda cool.’ And he did a little victory run 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 a combination of miscarriage and Trump overlay. If he had kept his mouth shut for the past 10 days around the 2024 presidential race, many races would have been different today,” she added. Republican lobbyist and fundraiser TJ Petrizzo.

Trump also made his way to the primaries earlier this year, pushing more establishment-aligned candidates in favor of those like Don Boldock, Tudor Dixor and Herschel Walker who were supportive of his positions but are now either losing or struggling.

“There will be a lot of finger pointing and starting, as Mitch McConnell very accurately predicted, the quality of the candidates. MyPillow-ization of the Republican Party has been a disaster and cost us a majority in the Senate, maybe twice, and a lot of seats in the House,” he said. Veteran GOP strategist Doug Hay, referring to Mike Lindell, the controversial and Trump-allied CEO of MyPillow.

In an interview on Wednesday with Fox News, Trump successfully promoted his approved candidates, boasting that “all these winning guys are my people,” even though he’s had endorsements in several non-competitive races.

But even those in Trump’s orbit lamented the results.

“This is a sinking ship,” one of Trump’s top advisers told ABC News.

Republicans also had arrows to shoot at Senator Rick Scott, R-Florida, chair of the Republican Senate National Committee.

Among what they allege was missteps including putting forward his own agenda, which included stopping all government funding including Social Security and Medicare after five years.

“A massive proportion of the Democrats’ offensive ads were supported by Rick Scott’s agenda. Show 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 baby gloves.

“The party has a lot of self-research to do about the kind of candidates it offers and the races they’re running, because it’s clearly not working the way it is,” said one National Republican Party strategist, criticizing what they called the “cautious strategy” of the NSC. About “Scott revolves around every candidate being a great candidate when this obviously wasn’t.”

Photo: Former President Donald Trump speaks at Mar-a-lago Election Day in Palm Beach, Florida, November 8, 2022.

Former President Donald Trump speaks at Mar-a-lago on Election Day in Palm Beach, Florida, November 8, 2022.

Andrew Harnick/AFP

Scott’s spokesman Chris Hartline insisted that the Florida senator is not focusing on the critically acclaimed and instead focusing on races that have not yet been called and the expected December 6 run-off between Walker and incumbent Democrat Raphael Warnock.

“We are in a great position to win the majority,” Hartline said. “The NRSC is closely monitoring and working with the findings in Nevada and Arizona.” [Walker] on surface runoff.

Other Republican strategists blamed a broader net, saying that Republican leaders in both houses should have been better at crafting a specific agenda beyond opposition to White House policies and broad platitudes.

Former Republican Senate aide Brian Darling said. “People want to blame Trump, but Trump is out of their control. The messages are 100% under their control.”

Looking beyond 2022, Tuesday’s presentation has already sparked speculation about the 2024 presidential cycle, particularly after Republican Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who is seen as Trump’s main challenger in a potential primaries, secured re-election by nearly 20 points, a An amazing fringe in the well-known state of Florida. Its history is of thin margins.

Other top-brand Republicans, such as Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, also won major races.

“He’s the anointed one,” former Representative David Jolly, Republican of Florida, said of DeSantis.

One GOP strategist with experience in presidential campaigns added: “The huge win… puts an exclamation point on the big story. DeSantis looks like the future. Trump is like the past.”

But for now, Republicans are mostly focused on the crucial runoff in Georgia next month — and a repeat of what happened in 2021, when Trump’s intervention in two of the state’s runoffs cost the Republican Party two Senate seats there, and a majority.

“As we look at Georgia’s second round, let’s put Kemp, Diantes and Herschel on a stump, and Trump on vacation in Australia,” Petrizzo said.

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