Why the Republicans lost the US midterm elections

By Mitchell Blatt
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, November 16, 2022
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The Capitol Hill in Washington D.C., the United States, Nov. 9, 2022. [Photo/Xinhua]

The Democratic Party entered the 2022 midterm campaign season with a slight advantage in the lower house of the U.S. legislature and a 50-50 split in the upper house. Their party's leader, U.S. President Joe Biden, held an approval rating of 42%. Inflation was high. Historically, the ruling party usually loses control of the legislature after a few years in power.

All signs were pointing to heavy losses for the Democrats.

However, in the end, they were able to win a majority in the upper house, and they kept it close in the lower house. Although vote counting continues in some of the races, Democrats have won 50 Senate seats, while Republicans have 49, and one close race is left to be decided in a December runoff. The Democrats will control the tie-breaking vote if it remains 50-50 because they control the presidency. In the House of Representatives, the Republican Party (GOP) has won 212 seats to the Democratic Party's 203 seats, with 20 left to be decided. 

Why did the Republicans so underperform after proclaiming for months their expectation of a large-scale victory?

GOP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said this spring he thought the election could net his party historic gains because "it's a perfect storm of problems for the Democrats." GOP Senator Ted Cruz said the results would be "not just a red wave, but a red tsunami."

The media also bought into the lights and shadows hype machine the Republican Party was selling. Newsweek columnist Peter Roff predicted the GOP winning up to 55 Senate seats in a column headlined, "A Red Wave is Coming. The Only Question is How High It Will Be." Douglas E. Schoen, in a column published in The Hill, claimed, "protecting abortion rights, the crux of the Democratic agenda, has become a much less salient issue." Try squaring that with exit polls of voters showing abortion rights were the second-most important issue driving their votes.

There were myriad reasons Republicans came up short. 

The Republicans nominated strange candidates like Blake Masters, who filmed a political advertisement in which he was holding a rifle and saying, "It wasn't designed for hunting. This is designed to kill people."

They purged moderate Republicans, including eight of the 10 Republicans who voted to impeach former president Donald Trump, who still functions as the de facto leader of the Republican Party, and chose radical extremists loyal only to Trump to replace them as their nominated candidates. Most of their radical new nominees ended up losing.

Those factors are also important, but the trend of momentum really started changing in May and June, when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the American people's right to access abortion services. The Republican Party supported that misogynistic and anti-freedom court ruling and followed up by trying to pass more laws banning abortion across the country. The American people opposed it.

I wrote in August about the changing prospects of the polls: "Voters are angry, and they are motivated to vote against the Republican Party's candidates in the upcoming midterm elections. The Aug. 24-26 poll by Big Village shows 48% of voters favor Democratic control of Congress versus 41% who support Republican control. That is a big turnaround from before the Supreme Court issued its abortion ban, when a majority favored the Republican Party."

Precisely as I predicted in August, Democratic-leaning voters turned out in massive numbers to vote against the Republican Party's draconian suppression of women's rights. According to exit polls, 27% of voters said that abortion was the most important issue determining their vote, including, crucially, 77% of Democrats. That was 60 points higher than in the 2020 election. 

We will know in the next weeks the final count of seats, but even if Republicans win a small majority in the House of Representatives, they won't be able to govern. They will instead try to muck up governance to mess with the Democratic president.

Mitchell Blatt is a columnist with China.org.cn. For more information please visit:


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