The 2022 midterm elections—both in the House and the Senate—did not go as planned for several Republican candidates seeking office, leaving voters to question how some Democrats survived tough elections and avoided the “red wave” that many within the GOP had predicted.
The Republican Party is favored to win a slim majority in the House, but it will likely be far smaller than many prominent party members and leaders anticipated ahead if the Nov. 8 elections—predicting that a “red wave” would dominate the midterms.
In the Senate, however, things don’t look so bright for the GOP. A closely contested race in Georgia between incumbent Democratic Sen. Raphael Walker and his Republican challenger, football star Herschel Walker, is headed for a December runoff election. Should Walker come out on top in that election and match the Democrats’ 50 seats in the upper chamber, the Democrats will still have control of the Senate due to Vice President’s ability to cast a tie-breaking vote.
While several political insiders from across the spectrum believe issues like abortion and former President Donald Trump’s negatively impacted the GOP’s chances, others insist candidate quality played a role as Republicans hammered down on inflation and crime in the final days leading up to the elections.
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Even though several Republicans fared well in their elections, Ben LaBolt, who served as the national press secretary for former President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign, told Fox News Digital that “MAGA aligned” and “election denying extremists” did not perform well because their “radical” beliefs failed to resonate with persuadeable voters.
“While relatively moderate Republican House candidates performed in line with expectations, MAGA aligned, election denying extremists lost nearly all of their tossup races,” LaBolt said. “Their beliefs were simply too radical for persuadable voters. President Biden and Democrats beat expectations by nominating mainstream candidates, passing a popular agenda to bring down costs for working Americans, and serving as a bulwark against extremism.”
Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster said he believes the Supreme Court’s ruling to overturn federal protections for abortion, as well as endorsements made by Trump, were among the reasons why Republicans faced difficulty this cycle.
“Republicans should have run away with this election,” Ayres, who serves as president of North Star Opinion Research, told Fox. “They did not because the Dobbs decision energized many women and younger voters, and because Trump endorsed numerous weak, first- time candidates who won primaries but could not win in a general election.”
Similarly, Celinda Lake, a Democratic pollster, told Fox that women and young voters made their voices heard in the elections as they distanced themselves from GOP candidates.
“Women and young people spoke,” said Lake, the president of Lake Research Partners. “They rejected Trumpism and division.”
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Christy Setzer, a Democratic strategist, said the GOP’s downfall in several elections was because “people are tired of the crazy.”
“At least in blue and purple states, voters sent a strong message that they don’t want to hear any more about transgender kids in sports or Big Lies about stolen elections; they want normalcy in their politics and they want to affirm respect for democracy ,” said Setzer, president and founder of New Heights Communications. “The culture wars worked in red states, some of which only got redder, but Republicans deeply underperformed with the same groups that united for Biden’s victory in 2020: young voters, women, people of color, and independents. Inflation is temporary, but authoritarianism can last forever.”
For some, “candidate quality” that stifled the Republicans’ chances of widening the margin for its expected majority in the House and gaining back control of the Senate is an issue that needs to be addressed by the party moving forward.
“It’s pretty clear candidate quality matters and cost the GOP several winnable races,” Chris Wilson, a pollster and the former director of research and analytics for GOP Sen. Ted Cruz’s unsuccessful campaign, told Fox in a statement. “It’s equally clear that allegiance to Donald Trump should no longer be the deciding factor in Republican primaries. Furthermore, it’s important GOP candidates have a forward-looking vision that deals with important issues such as inflation, crime and values. The time for relitigating the 2020 election is past and needs to be buried on the ash heap of political history.”
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Lis Smith, a Democratic strategist who served as a senior advisor for Pete Buttigieg’s 2020 presidential campaign, told Fox that Republicans should “dial back the crazy” if they want to win elections in the future.
“Democrats were able to defy historical trends in the midterms and over-perform largely because the Republican nominated people who were way outside the mainstream,” Smith said. “It turns out that independent voters and a significant number of Republican voters simply will not vote for candidates who oppose abortion in all instances and who deny the results of the 2020 election. If the Republicans want to course correct, they need to dial back the crazy.”
Tommy Garcia, a spokesperson for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said the GOP’s lackluster performance in the midterms came after Democratic candidates drew comparisons between themselves and Republicans who “pose a real threat to reproductive freedoms, democracy, and everyday people’s pocketbooks.”
“While Kevin McCarthy and Tom Emmer were busy measuring their drapes and boasting that they would flip 60 to 70 seats, Democrats worked and drew a clear contrast between results-oriented Democrats who are working to lower costs and keep communities safe, and extreme Republicans who pose a real threat to reproductive freedoms, democracy, and everyday people’s pocketbooks,” Garcia told Fox.
Prior to the midterm elections, conservative firebrand Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas predicted in a Fox News interview that he believed the outcome of the 2022 elections would be “not just a red wave, but a red tsunami.”
Despite many losses in key elections, including Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman’s defeat of Republican Mehmet Oz in the Keystone State’s Senate election, the GOP was able to maintain control of several seats that Democrats had placed focus on for the midterms. Republican JD Vance defeated Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan to replace retiring GOP Sen. Rob Portman in Ohio, while GOP Rep. Ted Budd defeated Democrat Cheri Beasley in North Carolina.
In the House, Republicans also flipped numerous seats that were held by Democrats in an effort to increase GOP strength in the chamber.
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“House Republicans delivered a check on Biden’s disastrous agenda, picked up seats for the second straight cycle and flipped the House for just the third time in 68 years,” National Republican Congressional Committee communications director Michael McAdams told Fox News Digital.
Notable victories include Republican Jen Kiggans’ defeat of Democratic Rep. Elaine Luria, a member of the House Jan. 6 committee, to represent Virginia’s 2nd District, as well as Lori Chavez-DeRemer’s election win over her Democratic challenger, Jamie McLeod-Skinner, to represent Oregon’s 5th District.
In New York, a state which largely votes for Democrats and mostly favors left-leaning policies, Republicans flipped four House seats.