By Fletcher Word
The Truth Editor
“I am incredibly optimistic,” said Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) just before the midterm elections. “I think this is going to be, not just a red wave, but a red tsunami.”
If you are a Republican these days, you are in several months of soul searching about the midterm elections and what went so horribly wrong?
Were there a host of bad decisions about where to spend money? Was the messaging that focused on inflation and crime completely off base? Was the overall quality of the candidates less than acceptable? Or was it all of the above and, most of all, too much Trump?
Of course, if you are a Republican living in Ohio or Florida or even New York (New York, really?), you have little to regret on a state level. If, on the other hand, you are a Republican living in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Nevada or Arizona, the questions are just starting.
Above all else, Republicans are going to be wondering how in an age of that economic uncertainty driven by heart wrenching inflation (whether or not it’s the fault of the current administration), a troubling crime rate and a president whose approval ratings have been just terrible for almost his entire tenure, the midterms did not follow the usual path of voters turning on the president and dealing his party a blow at the ballot box.
For the last 70 years the pattern had been consistent. President Harry Truman’s Democrats lost 54 seats in 1950; LBJ’s Dems lost 47 in 1966; Reagan’s Republicans lost 26 in 1982, Clinton’s Democrats lost 54 in 1994; Obama’s Democrats lost 63 in 2010 and Trump’s Republicans lost 41 in 2018.
The only exception to this pattern was in 2002 when Bush’s Republicans gained a total of eight seats, but then went on to lose 32 in the 2006 midterms.
This year’s elections are one of the four best midterms in the last 100 years for the party in control of the White House – comparable only to 1934, 1962 and 2002. It is the first time since 1934 that there will be a net gain in governors for that party in control.
Republicans did do well in Ohio where all the statewide seats were kept safely in GOP hands and where J.D. Vance arguably scored the only significant win for a Trump-endorsed candidate. They also fared well in Florida where Gov. Ron DeSantis and Senator Marco Rubio won re-election by huge margins over Democratic candidates who would have appeared to be serious competition.
And in New York, Republicans flipped four House seats that may be extremely helpful in their gaining a slim majority in the House.
Elsewhere, the story is entirely different with the major news item being that the Democrats will retain their Senate majority and may well add one to their now 50-50 split.
The startling results began in Pennsylvania on election night as Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman was announced the winner in his contest against celebrity doctor, Mehmet Oz. Fetterman had been ahead early in the campaign but a stroke disabled him for months and when he finally stepped on the debate stage against Oz, he was suffering the after effects and his candidacy seemed doomed.
In the Pennsylvania gubernatorial race, Democrat Josh Shapiro scored a very easy win over Trump whack job Doug Mastriano. Mastriano, a QAnon supporter and election denier, was in the crowd that breached the Capitol on January 6, 2021.
In Michigan, another Trumpster, Tudor Dixon, took a bad beating, losing to incumbent Democratic Governor Gretchen. But the Michigan good news for Democrats goes well beyond that top-of-the-ticket contest. Statewide candidates Dana Nessel, attorney general, and Jocelyn Benson, secretary of state, also scored huge wins; the Democrats regained control of both legislative houses for the first time since 1984 and ballot measures such as expanding voting access and guaranteeing a right to abortion both succeeded by large margins.
In Wisconsin – rounding out the trio of states (Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin) which have been the critical factors in the last two presidential elections (Hillary Clinton lost all three in 2016 because she simply did not pay enough attention to these traditionally Democratic strongholds; Trump lost all three in 2020) – Democratic Governor Tony Evers won re-election guaranteeing that the Republican-controlled state legislature will see a lot of vetoes over the next four years.
He has vetoed 126 bills since January 2021 as the GOP legislature attempted, among other things, to limit voting access, expand voucher programs, limit the subjects that teachers may address in public schools and eliminate abortion rights.
Unfortunately for Democrats in Wisconsin, they could not vote Republican Senator Ron Johnson out. He won re-election with a narrow victory over Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes.
After the PA/MI/WI announcements, Democrats waited for days for the good news from out west – from Arizona and Nevada in particular.
And Arizona helped the cause by re-electing Democratic Senator Mark Kelly over his MAGA nemesis Black Masters (“We do have a gun violence problem in this country and its gang violence … Black people frankly,” said Masters). At press time it appeared that Democrat Katie Hobbs would be elected governor over her opponent Republican Kari Lake – another Trump-backed election denier.
But it was Nevada that put the Democrats over the top in the Senate when Catherine Cortez Masto, the first Latina to serve in the U.S. Senate, finally scored enough votes from Clark County (where Las Vegas sits) to overtake former Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt who had led Trump’s effort to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election in Nevada.
Cortez Masto’s narrow victory, called four days after the election, meant that the Dems will control the Senate with a 50-50 split since Vice President Kamala Harris can vote to break ties. Moreover, it means that the party will not need for Sen. Raphael Warnock to prevail in Georgia on December 6 to have the votes to certify President Biden’s judicial nominations, for example.
However, there is a value to having a clear majority in the Senate, especially when it comes to committee assignments and it remains to be seen how much the two parties value that advantage – the Dems to gain it, the GOP to prevent it – as they send money and campaign surrogates to the Peach State over the next three weeks.
The guess is that the Democrats will be more motivated, the hope is that they will be because nothing can be more ridiculous and absurd than seeing Herschel Walker, who proves that stupidity has its advantages, on the national stage for the next six years.