The Red Ripple Depleted
Young people who want to have a career in politics usually take courses in “Political Science” in college. But these midterm elections showed that there is no “Science” in political science. Rather it appears to be more of a dark art that no one understands.
Everything for a Red Tide of Republican victories was there. 75% of Americans think the country is on the wrong track. The top issues were inflation, crime, and the economy. Biden is extremely unpopular. Polls showed Republican strength in typically Democratic areas like New York, which sent Democrats like Obama, the First Lady, and the president to shore up their support there.
But, everyone was wrong. The Democrats underestimated their strength and the Republicans overestimated theirs.
However, it wasn’t as simple as that. While most voters think that Biden is suffering from cognitive problems, they voted for the party, not against the unpopular president. However, the Cook Political Report noted that Republicans had won six million more votes than Democrats in House races.
The battleground state of Pennsylvania proves how hard it is to develop a model for this midterm election. While senate candidate Fetterman won Bucks County by seven ponts, the Republican congressman Brian Fitzpatrick beat the Democrat Ashley Ehasz by ten points.
Four counties that voted for Trump (Berks, Cumberland, Luzerne, and Beaver) voted Democrat in the governor’s race, but backed Republican Oz in the senate race.
In many ways, the election was a vote for the status quo. Incumbents tended to win, even in the face of serious challenges. But, Mike Lawler defeated Representative Sean Maloney the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman – an unheard accomplishment
The GOP won the House, but the new Republican majority in the House of Representatives is so narrow that it will be hard to pass any Republican initiatives, even if they could pass it through the Senate.
So, how did the various parts of the mid-term elections go?
Republicans had hopes of defeating some Democratic senators and gaining a narrow majority in the Senate. However, the path to a Republican Senate seems difficult, but not impossible at this time. The Democrats flipped a Republican Senate seat in Pennsylvania. Now Republican hopes to gain control of the Senate lie in Nevada, Georgia, and Arizona.
Senator Kelly of Arizona seems to have a comfortable lead of about 5%, which he will need as the votes remaining to be counted are Republican rich ballots that were turned in on election day or were mailed in right before election day.
In Nevada, Republican candidate Laxalt is ahead of Masto, but there are still a lot of Democrat rich votes from the Las Vegas area to be counted.
Georgia will need to have a runoff on December 6 since neither the Republican nor Democrat won 50% of the vote. Since the Libertarian candidate won enough votes to force the runoff and Libertarians tend to be closer to Republicans philosophically, this may give Republican Walker a slight edge.
However, remember that a majority in the Senate may not be enough. Republican Senator Romney didn’t endorse his fellow Republican Nevada senator Mike Lee and backed a Democrat turned independent Evan McMulllin. He is seen as a loose wheel by his Republican colleagues and could turn around and vote Democrat on some issues.
On the other side of the aisle, there are Senators Sinema of Arizona and Manchin of West Virginia. Both have disagreed with the Democratic majority in the past two years and can be expected to make passage of Democratic budget bills difficult.
Then, there is Vice President Harris, who can cast a tie breaking vote in the Senate.
No matter who wins the majority in the Senate, they will have a hard time passing meaningful legislation.
House of Representatives
The Republicans will capture a narrow majority in the House.
That means a change in Speaker of the House, who is second in line to become president if something happens to the president – more likely with someone like Biden in the White House.
The new Speaker, Kevin McCarthy, who is the current minority leader, and not a favorite amongst more conservative Republicans.
A narrow Republican majority in the House will mean that it’s up to Republican House leaders to “whip” Republican congressmen in line to pass legislation. This was a specialty of current House Speaker Pelosi, and it remains to be seen if the GOP can develop the same skills.
Since budget bills must originate in the House, this means that the GOP will have more influence in funding during the next two years.
The better than average Democratic results in the election seems to have improved Biden’s chance for a second term. The day after the election Biden held a press conference and made it clear that he intends to stay on course.
“We’re just getting started,” Biden said. “I’m not going to change direction.”
When asked about running for reelection in 2024, the president indicated that he intends to be on the ballot, but the final decision hasn’t been made yet.
One item on the Republican agenda will be an investigation into President Biden and his son, Hunter Biden. However, the elder Biden argued that it was time to move on and unify. “I can’t control what they’re going to do.”
The midterm elections weren’t kind to President Trump. When polls were showing a major Republican win on election day, Trump hinted at a “big announcement.”
With the mediocre GOP results, Trump has put off that “big announcement.”
While Trump’s endorsement worked well in the primaries, they didn’t have the same magic in the general election. Endorsed incumbents won but endorsed challengers like Oz didn’t.
The biggest problem coming out of the election was the reelection of Republican governor DeSantis of Florida. DeSantis is seen by many as a solid conservative without the brash “mouth” of Trump
22 years ago, Florida was the key to victory in the 2000 presidential election. George W. Bush won Florida and the presidency by about 300 votes. Since then, Florida has been considered a battleground state.
On Election Day, DeSantis won the state by about 60%. He defeated a former governor Charlie Crist, who was a former Republican. In the process, he won Miami-Dade County by 11% – which is usually a Democratic stronghold. Biden had won Miami-Dade County by 7% two years ago.
Any Republican governor that can bring in Democratic voters like that is a strong candidate to win the nomination in 2024.
In the end, Republicans will want to back a candidate that can win. DeSantis has shown that he can win, even in traditional Democratic areas.
The Trump influence may be over in the GOP.
The Next Two Years
Don’t expect any major movement on the legislative front. As of this time, it looks like the Democrats will have marginal control of the Senate, while the Republicans have marginal control of the House. Budgets and debt ceilings will pass because they are required. Compromises will be made to get enough votes to pass.
Meantime, President Biden will continue in his cognitive decline. His handlers will want him to stay in power, but the party will start looking elsewhere.
Beto O’Rourke of Texas can be counted out. He has lost senate, governor, and presidential elections, while spending over $160 million in campaign contributions. Stacey Abrams of Georgia should be considered out of the running after losing two elections for governor of Georgia.
Governor Gavin Newsom was reelected as governor of California, and as the Democratic governor of the nation’s largest state is a possibility, even though he has said no in the past. However, he may jump into the race if Biden is out and there is a dearth of presidential candidates.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg remains a possibility. However, his time as Transportation Secretary has been lackluster.
Vice President Kamala Harris. As a Vice President, she has done little, especially as the person responsible for the Border. Polls show her as the one with the inside track, but much of that is from name recognition. Polls show that her support isn’t strong.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer is from Michigan and has just won reelection. She comes from the Rust Belt, the former center of American industrial strength. She might have the ability to reach out to the Midwest as most Democrats can’t.
Senator Bernie Sanders is 81 but shows more strength and mental capability than Biden. He remains the favorite of the far progressive wing of the Democratic party.
There are others like Senator Elizabeth Warren and Senator Amy Klobuchar, but their Senate terms are up in 2024 and they might prefer the near certainty of winning reelection than the uncertainty of a presidential campaign.
We have mentioned Trump and DeSantis as presidential possibilities, but there is another potential candidate who is governor and who has won in a state than has gone Democratic. His name is Virginia Governor Youngkin. He will finish his first year in office in January and he has a majority of voters saying he is doing a good job.
What happens in the Republican race for the presidential nomination will depend on Trump. To beat DeSantis, he will have to show that he can win again and bring Democrats and Independents back.
Trump has strong points. He is a non-stop campaigner. He has money and his own jet aircraft (which has just been renovated). His comments about the Washington elite that controls the nation resonates with voters.
He only has one real weakness – his mouth. He alienates potential allies and can be mercurial.
Therefore, DeSantis looks good to many Republicans. He is Trump without the rough edges.
No matter what, the next two years will be interesting. Just don’t expect them to follow the clear-cut rules of political science.