Midterm Elections: Unpleasant Surprises for Trump

The Nov. 8 elections were rich in plot twists and surprises; some good for the Democrats, and some bitter for the Republicans — except for those looking to boot the real estate magnate from their party.

It is true that we alerted you here to potential errors in the polling and reported on certain very tight races, particularly in the Senate. Still, even if ballots are still being counted in several states and a deeper analysis of results will take weeks, if not months, it is already clear that the midterm elections of 2022 in the U.S. will have seen many surprises.

Apart from the fact that once all the votes are counted there will be a slight Republican majority in the House of Representatives, and in the Senate a slight Democratic one, here are the three most striking aspects of the election results.

More a Choice Than a Simple Referendum

Midterm elections typically serve to “punish” the party of the president. This is why approval ratings are so intimately tied to their party’s performance. Former presidents — Bill Clinton in 1994, George W. Bush in 2006, Barack Obama in 2010 and 2014 and Donald Trump in 2018 — whose ratings were low at election time, saw their parties suffer major losses.

Exit polls nationwide were largely in line with polls taken pre-election: Joe Biden is unpopular. His approval rating is 44%, vs. 55% among those who disapprove of the way he is running the country. Moreover, when asked if they thought Biden’s policies helped or hurt the country, barely one-third of voters said they helped. A plurality, 47%, said the opposite, while others believed they had no effect.

And yet, Biden’s party saw a fate similar to that of the Democrats under John F. Kennedy in 1962 and the Republicans under George H. W. Bush in 1990 — very limited losses in the House and a preservation of the status quo in the Senate — where Kennedy and Bush were significantly more popular than Biden was this year.

One theory put forward several months back thus seems to have been validated, at least in part: Even if they were not wild about Biden’s presidency, Americans did not consider the Trumpist alternative as credible.

The Verdict from Independent Voters

We said early in the year that Biden had lost the center of the political spectrum. For more than a year it was the Democratic base that allowed him to maintain support. Voters who identify as “independent,” or as having no allegiance to either party, abandoned him. His approval rating rarely reached 40% among this group. In fact, in the latest national NBC poll released just prior to the elections, Biden’s approval rating, at barely 28%, was at its lowest point since the start of his presidency.

And yet, according to those same exit polls, these more moderate voters made their choice. Across the country, they voted 49% for Democratic candidates and 47% for Republican ones. In an era of such extreme polarization where the parties are much more homogeneous than in the past, the data is remarkable.

Of course, the Democrats succeeded in motivating a large portion of its base to vote by capitalizing on issues like abortion and threats to democracy. Ultimately, however, more Republican than Democratic voters exercised their right to vote.

Thus, these elections played out at the center of the political spectrum, and this center preferred the Democrats. Or, perhaps, it pushed back at the Republicans.

Florida Detached from the Rest of the Country

Over the last 100 years, Florida has voted for the winning presidential candidate with only three exceptions: 1960, 1992, and 2020. This is merely by chance as, nearly every time, the battle was very heated.

From 2000 to 2012, of the 30 million or so votes counted during presidential elections, less than 77,000, or 0.25%, separated Democratic and Republican candidates. Though Florida has since tilted more to the Republican side, all major races there have remained very tight. That is, until this year.

It is in this context that the spectacular victory by Republican incumbent Gov. Ron DeSantis, by more than 20 points, must be seen. It is the biggest margin of victory by any candidate for the post of governor of the Sunshine State in 40 years. Coupled with the disappointing, if not catastrophic, performance of Trumpist candidates in the majority of other key states (notably Pennsylvania, where the Republicans lost the race for governor by nearly 15 points and for a third consecutive year; something not seen since the 1840s), DeSantis’ triumph is all the more striking.

This success leaves DeSantis with a difficult decision: Should he take a chance on the presidency, possibly against Trump as the Republican nominee?

The 2022 campaign has just come to an end, the results are still being analyzed, and we are already looking ahead to a presidential race that promises to be most intriguing.

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About Reg Moss 73 Articles
Reg is a writer, teacher, and translator with an interest in social issues especially as pertains to education and matters of race, class, gender, immigration, etc.

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