With the conclusion of the 2022 midterm elections, one thing has become clear: the “red wave” of GOP victories predicted by many media outlets and political commentators to be inevitable never came. Criticism over inflation and fears of a new crime wave were voiced by Republicans nationally, complementing a Democratic legislature and executive that failed to deliver on many of the campaign promises. they had made in the 2020 elections due to fierce resistance from the opposition. As a result, many believed it was almost inevitable that the Democrats would severely underperform and a party shift in Congress would be the result. That never materialized, so how did the Republican Party, which touted “red tsunami” rhetoric for months before the midterm elections, blow its lead so harshly?
While Democrats were widely expected to underperform midterm, one aspect did much to slow the rise of conservatism – there was a significant disparity in the quality of candidates chosen by Democrats and Republicans, many in battleground states where such picks would be extremely expensive. . A key player in these selections was none other than former President Donald Trump. Trump supporters have benefited from his worship, often navigating their primary elections with little resistance; however, once they were pitted against Democratic candidates who ran on more popular policies, it was clear that those Trump-adjacent Republicans fell short. This was seen in the race for the Pennsylvania Senate seat between Trump-backed Republican Dr. Mehmet Oz and Democrat John Fetterman. Oz, which Trump handpicked, was plagued with bad press and campaign misadventures. He was portrayed as an elite quack Republican out of touch with the problems of ordinary Pennsylvanians. Although Oz ran a relatively successful campaign against Fetterman, even using the attack Fetterman had suffered during his campaign to his advantage, Fetterman’s victory means that a local candidate with local fame who relies on political populists such as legalizing marijuana, protecting abortion rights and improving access to health care will attract more voters than an endorsement from the former president.
It can also be seen in the Arizona Senate race between Republican nominee Blake Masters – a candidate endorsed by Trump – and Democratic incumbent Mark Kelly. According to a report from CNN, days before Masters won the Republican nomination, his team cleaned up its website of potentially controversial positions and postings. These include statements that the Democratic Party was trying to “import a new electorate”, a talking point with ties to white supremacy that claims the purpose of immigration is to diminish the political influence of Native Americans. During his campaign, Masters also tried to distance himself from controversial positions on abortion and the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election. In stark contrast, Mark Kelly was a strong incumbent candidate who proved to be a worthy adversary for the masters. Kelly, who enjoyed the fame of being a NASA mission commander, took on more popular and tangible jobs: cutting prescription drug costs, creating more jobs for the state, and lowering taxes for working families in Arizona while continuing to tax corporations. Those policies, along with the stigma surrounding Masters as Trump’s partner, have helped keep Arizona — a state considered red from the turn of the century until 2020 — blue.
Candidates like Oz and Masters discouraged disgruntled Republican voters from showing up at the polls and only served to galvanize the Democratic voter base to speak out en masse against them. As a result, many conservative commentators have spoken out against the former president and sharply criticized him for being the main contributor to the Republican Party’s midterm failure. In a recent Tweeter, Ben Shapiro – host of the “Ben Shapiro Show” and editor emeritus of the conservative newspaper The Daily Wire – asserted that “the quality of candidates matters. Gravity applies and some candidates may be able to defy gravity for a short period of time, but it usually doesn’t last long. Choose better candidates, win more races. Stop playing stupid games. This may be a sign that the Republican Party will soon seek to outgrow the volatility and unstable nature of Trumpism, as it costs them key elections that they should, in theory, have little trouble winning. The Republican Party has grossly overplayed its hand when it comes to its increasingly hardline stances on abortion rights, LGBTQ+ rights and election denial, which has caused many Republican voters – looking for ‘a return to civility – to rejecting Trump’s nominees, while galvanizing the Democratic Party’s electoral base to show up in unusually large numbers for a midterm election and to vote defensively against these unstable candidates.