Former President Donald Trump answers questions from reporters during an election night party at Mar-a-Lago, Tuesday, November 8, 2022 in Palm Beach, Florida. (Phelan M. Ebenhack for The Washington Post / Getty Images)
Democrats likely have former President Donald Trump to thank for their surprisingly strong midterm election results.Trump’s endorsed candidates have severely underperformed in state after state and district after district, costing Republicans key races across the country—and likely blowing Republicans’ chances of taking Senate control. And it’s clear this wasn’t just a bad night for Republicans writ large—it was specifically a rejection of pro-Trump candidates. The gap between normie Republicans and Trump’s MAGA minions is glaringly obvious: Old-school Republicans without Trump’s baggage did pretty well last night, while many of Trump’s favorite candidates flamed out spectacularly.
The most obvious case was in Pennsylvania. Dr. Mehmet Oz, who won a very close Senate primary after Trump endorsed him, went on to lose a winnable Senate race to Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman last night in one of the three races most likely to determine Senate control.Oz’s significant baggage from his years on TV promoting questionable medical treatments likely cost him big-time and Republicans have been privately carping for months that if Trump had stayed out of the race, businessman David McCormick would have won the nomination—and been much stronger in the general election. In the race for governor, Trump-endorsed extremist nominee Doug Mastriano was shellacked by Democratic Attorney General Josh Shapiro. Mastriano and Oz’s bad campaigns appear to have dragged down Republicans in at least three tossup House races, making it that much harder for the GOP to win the House majority.In Michigan, Democrats cruised to big wins in every statewide race and won unified control of state government after Trump backed a slate of hard-right candidates for office up and down the ticket. Those results also likely cost Republicans a trio of House seats in close races. But another Trump endorsement likely played a role, too: He helped former Trump administration official John Gibbs beat a House Republican who’d voted for impeachment in the primary, only to watch Gibbs lose a swing seat Tuesday night.
That’s not the only Trump-backed nominee who is costing Republicans. He helped extremist Joe Kent beat Republican Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, who voted to impeach Trump, in a primary. Kent is currently trailing in the general election in a district that Trump had won by four points. Beutler would have been a shoe-in for reelection.In Georgia, Republican Gov. Brian Kemp cruised to a comfortable seven-point win over Democrat Stacey Abrams—but Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock is clinging to a one-point lead over Trump-backed Republican Herschel Walker in a race that may be headed to a runoff. The difference? Kemp is as conservative as they come—but Trump hates him because he refused to embrace Trump’s lies that the state was stolen from him in 2020. But Trump cleared the primary field for his old football buddy Walker, only to have Walker’s plethora of personal scandals drag him down and possibly cost the GOP Senate control.In Nevada’s governor race, moderate Republican Joe Lombardo is running about a point ahead of Trump-backed election-denying Senate nominee Adam Laxalt, two points ahead of QAnon-loving secretary of state candidate Jim Marchant, and six points ahead of conspiracy theorist Sigal Chattah. All of these races are coming down to the wire, and Lombardo may be the only Republican to hang on once all the votes are counted.In New Hampshire, Trump-critical Republican Gov. Chris Sununu leads his race by a 15-point margin, and national Democrats didn’t even bother spending money to try to beat him because he was so popular statewide.
But Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan, whom Republicans viewed as vulnerable in a wave election, leads MAGA-aligned Don Bolduc by a double-digit margin as well. Bolduc wavered in echoing Trump’s election lies after he won his primary, but returned to them by the election, and Trump blamed that for Bolduc’s loss.“Don Bolduc was a very nice guy, but he lost tonight when he disavowed, after his big primary win, his longstanding stance on Election Fraud in the 2020 Presidential Primary. Had he stayed strong and true, he would have won, easily. Lessons Learned!!!” Trump declared Tuesday night on Truth Social.That’s hard to believe given how Sununu, who regularly criticizes Trump, ran far ahead of Bolduc. Republicans desperately wanted Sununu to run for Senate. If he had, this would have been a very different race.Even in some states where Republicans won, Trump’s picks struggled. Trump endorsed JD Vance in a crowded Senate primary, and though he won, his current margin of victory is just six points, while moderate Republican Gov. Mike DeWine won his race by a whopping 25-point margin. Republicans were also forced to spend tens of millions of dollars to make sure Vance won—money that could have been spent elsewhere. And while Trump’s candidates struggled across the map, his most likely 2024 primary foe cruised to reelection. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis won his race in the former swing state by a nearly 20-point margin, arguably the most impressive showing for a Republican of the midterm election.This is the first midterm election in two decades where the party that holds the White House didn’t get shellacked. And Democrats have Trump to thank for that.