Tuesday’s election night was a landslide game and today US Republicans see themselves playing the rollover, in a grueling recount that should determine how much power they will be able to wrest from the Democrats.
There is still a chance that the Republicans will retain all power in Congress: their victory in the House and the Senate will very likely depend on what happens in three major states: Nevada and Arizona, where the count advanced slowly yesterday and without clear who will win, and Georgia, which will hold a second round in Dec 6. Whoever wins two of those three states will control the Senate.
And in the House of Representatives, when the Republican majority is achieved, compared to what came in the opinion polls, it will be slim.
Since the early hours of Wednesday, when it turned out that the “red tide” – the color of the party – had not occurred, Republicans looked in the mirror to understand what had happened.
The astonishment is due to the fact that the context was perfect to achieve an electoral comeback, take control of Congress, tie in President Joe Biden’s work—which would still be possible—and pave the way for the 2024 presidential election. First, because Americans routinely sanction incumbent presidents in their first midterm legislative elections. In the case of the Democrats, the setbacks were colossal with their last presidents: They lost 52 seats to Bill Clinton in 1994 and 63 to Barack Obama in 2010.
In addition, 70% of Americans say they are dissatisfied with the progress in the country, which is dominated by Democrats in its executive and legislative branches. Biden is trailing in the polls with a 42% approval rating. Voters also went to the polls under the pressure of inflation, fearful of increased insecurity since the pandemic and concerned about the record number of arrests on the southern border.
A favorable scenario for the Republicans
The scenario was very favorable for Republicans, but many voters showed that they did not trust the alternative represented by some of their candidates. And in a country deeply divided and polarized, with very equal forces, where power is spread over a few regions, some unsuitable candidates have managed to avoid a more favorable outcome.
Origin in the Republican primary last spring, under the shadows Donald Trump The former president gives and takes away power, and for many candidates the priority has been to please Trump and go along with his mantra of stealing elections — baseless, according to the courts — in 2020 to win the primaries. In many cases, the outcome is candidates who can win crowded primaries, but are a gift to Democrats in conflict states.
It happened in Arizona, where Doug Ducey, the governor who swept the 2018 election, would have made a great candidate for the Senate. But he does not share his belief in “election theft” and preferred not to run so that Trump would not be against him. The winning candidate, Blake Masters, is now fighting Democrat Mark Kelly in a recount for a Senate seat that Ducey would likely have won.
Something similar is happening in Georgia. Herschel Walker is a scandal-ridden candidate allied to Trump. And now he needs a run-off in a state where Republican Brian Kemp, the farthest from Trump, won reelection easily.
Or in Pennsylvania, where two Trump-sponsored posts agreed on for Governor Doug Mastriano and Senator Mehmet Oz. The first has an extremist rhetoric, fought on the front lines in challenging the 2020 results and was near the Capitol in the January 6, 2021 attack. Against the moderate Democratic candidate, Josh Shapiro, he visibly lost. But he also managed to carry votes against Oz in the crucial election to the Senate, carried by a weak and limited left-wing Democratic candidate, to campaign in the wake of a heart attack, John Fetterman.
This situation has been repeated in numerous Senate and House of Representatives elections, where Democrats have benefited from the extremism of “Trumpist” candidates. Those, for their part, took the opportunity to light the fire: in many primaries, like Mastriano, they poured money into ads to highlight the standing of Trump’s candidates, who were more vulnerable later in the general election. This strategy, which many considered risky, worked.
Abortion is an elective lifeline
Democrats also used another factor to portray the Republican choice as too radical: abortion. The Supreme Court’s ruling in late June, repealing constitutional protections for abortion, was an electoral lifeline.
Trump himself, in private, lamented the electoral impact of the judges’ decision. But it was he who achieved a strengthened conservative majority in the nominations for his presidency. With the immediate implementation of anti-abortion regulations in more than a dozen states — bans or severe restrictions — the Democratic message was delivered that Republicans are extreme with abortion: A majority of Americans, Republicans included, favor limited access to abortion.
As the campaign went on and inflation continued, it seemed like the economy would reduce the weight of the abortion vote. But in many important elections – again, in swing states – its impact has been felt. Exit polls indicate that inflation was the factor that moved the vote, with 31% of those present. But the miscarriage was close: 27%. Crime remained at 11%.
Republicans can still regain a significant amount of power in the recount. But accusations and finger-pointing have already begun and will affect the date of the next elections, that is, the date of 2024.