Now that we have had over a week to absorb the results of the midterm elections, what conclusions can we draw? Aside from the obvious, the prospect of a fractious Congress split between the parties, here are the most significant developments of the surprising tallies.
- The 2020 election is over. Election deniers suffered nearly across the board losses and the prospect of having election overseers in battleground states who could doubt the results in 2024 have been beaten back for now. Beware of success, however. They may have lost this time, but restricting ballot box access and questioning the integrity of future elections are alive and well. Not to mention the pending Supreme Court case that may adopt the “independent state legislature theory” and grant state legislatures the ultimate power to decide election outcomes over their state courts that may finally prove that the Court has become nothing more than a political arm of the Republican Party.
- Donald Trump is a loser. Trump-endorsed candidates were estimated to have been saddled with a 5% disadvantage against their opponents. Despite clearly Trump-influenced wins in Ohio and North Carolina, his endorsed candidates in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Arizona and elsewhere flopped. Add this to Republican losses in 2018 and 2020, including his own, and Trump’s record starts to resemble Wendell Wilkie’s. If Herschel Walker, possibly the most unqualified Senate candidate in history, is to stand a chance in his December 6 run-off against Raphael Warnock, he had best ask Trump to stay away from Georgia.
- Kevin McCarthy won…and lost. While the Republicans achieved their cherished goal of winning back the House, thereby putting McCarthy in position to finally reach his ultimate goal of becoming Speaker, he was forced to become Trump’s shameless lackey to do so. And the stunningly narrow margin may force him to be the captive of the far right Freedom Caucus, whose predecessor movements forced both John Boehner and Paul Ryan to end their political careers out of sheer frustration.
- Dems win big in states. Democrats won convincingly in governors’ races in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Maine and, somewhat surprisingly, in Arizona. They also gained majorities in several state legislatures, and election deniers and Trump-endorsed candidates fell by the wayside. Florida and Texas defied the trend and realigned Republican power to the winners in those states.
- Whither DeSantis? The 19 percentage point victory of Ron DeSantis in Florida has put a stake in the heart of the notion that Florida is a battleground state and has many declaring him the new leader of the Republican Party. But it remains to be seen if he really has national appeal or is merely a Florida phenomenon. And let’s face it, he routed a has-been, party-hopper in Charlie Crist, and most of the country is not likely to buy his “Warrior from God” message nor will they warm to the victory photo of his wife in her prom dress. A primary battle between Trump and DeSantis could be uglier than Ali vs. Frazier with neither likely to come out the winner.
Of course, there are many side consequences to these results. The octogenarian leaders of the House Democrats are stepping aside, and Joe Biden’s age and lack of popularity will continue to raise doubts about a prospective reelection campaign. But, whether or not he runs, one thing remains a constant, the Republicans are still stuck with a Trump candidacy. For that, they can only consider the words of Cassius in Julius Caesar: “[t]he fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings.”