Republicans trip over themselves

Republicans are likely to win a narrow majority in the House of Representatives, but Democrats could defend the Senate. For conservatives, this is a bitter disappointment. Trump’s possible rival for 2024, on the other hand, can rejoice.

Republican supporters watch as election results are announced in New York.

Justin Lane/EPA

In fact, everything seemed set for a big Republican victory on Tuesday. History says that the president’s party is almost always defeated in midterm elections. Especially when the man in the White House has to complain about poll numbers as low as Joe Biden’s.

His approval rating is currently around 40 percent. Parties of such unpopular presidents have lost an average of 36 seats in the House of Representatives and 4 seats in the Senate in the midterms of past decades.

At the same time, record-high inflation darkened the electoral prospects of the Democrats. Virtually every poll came to the same conclusion: The economy, and especially inflation exceeding 8 percent, is the most pressing issue for Americans. So the expectations for election day seemed pretty clear. Biden’s Democrats should receive a painful reward for their rampant spending policies that have contributed to high inflation.

The Republicans themselves, as well as the American media, even expected a “red wave” or a “tsunami”: The devastating defeat of the Democrats in the House of Representatives and the loss of their narrow majority in the Senate seemed likely.

On the eve of the election, a campaign worker for Democratic candidate Lucy Rubio.

Lucas Boland / Imago

Trump and the issue of abortion are slowing down the “red tide”.

Instead of a “red wave”, the conservatives, convinced of victory, are now experiencing a small blue miracle. Republican Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who is expected to take over the House Speakership, had to postpone his victory speech scheduled for Tuesday night. And even on Wednesday morning, the outcome of the election was still up in the air.

Republicans are expected to win a majority in the upper chamber, but it will be narrower than expected. At the same time, the Democrats have a great chance to defend control of the Senate. Republicans have so far won 49 seats in the small chamber, Democrats 48. Three seats are still open. Right now, the trends are toward a crucial round of voting in the Georgia Senate in December.

In order to find out the reasons for the relatively good results of the Democrats, an in-depth analysis is necessary in the coming days. But two factors probably played an important role. In June, the Supreme Court overturned the country’s abortion law after 50 years. The decision mobilized the Democratic base and likely many swing voters.

According to polls, most Americans support the right to abortion. And it was also confirmed by several referendums on Tuesday. Among other things, Michigan citizens passed an initiative calling for the right to abortion into the state constitution.

The second factor in the moderate success of the Republicans is Donald Trump. Although the former president’s name never appeared on the ballot, he made countless campaign appearances in support of numerous candidates across the country. Her performance could be crucial to Trump’s claim to leadership in the Republican Party and his aspiration to run for president again in 2024.

Donald Trump during a speech in Palm Beach, Florida on Tuesday.

Donald Trump during a speech in Palm Beach, Florida on Tuesday.

Andrew Harník / AP

Midterm elections are usually a referendum on the record of an incumbent president. But Biden and the Democrats seem to have managed to turn it into a vote for Trump. Notably, in a major keynote address in September in Philadelphia—the birthplace of the United States—Biden declared the Republican People’s Forum and its movement an “extremist” threat to American democracy and the soul of the nation.

Should the Democrats actually manage to defend their 50 Senate seats and hold on to a slim majority with Vice President Kamala Harris’s deciding 51st vote, Trump will have to shoulder some of the blame.

With his support, many Republican candidates were able to win the primaries, but now it has become clear that some of them are unable to win a majority in the important races on Tuesday. A prime example of this is Pennsylvania: in a swing state, Democrats were able to wrest a Senate seat from Republicans with their progressive candidate, John Fetterman. Trump-backed “TV doctor” Mehmet Oz is a dazzling figure, but he has never lived in the state before and has no political experience.

DeSantis recommends a big win for 2024

Just like two years ago, the Senate race could now be decided by a runoff in Georgia. But even there, Trump’s nominee Herschel Walker is a controversial figure. The football legend presented himself in the election campaign as a convinced Christian, anti-abortion and family man. However, two women accuse him of encouraging them to have an abortion. One of his sons said that his father never cared for his children. Walker now only received about 48 percent of the vote, while Trump-banned Republican Gov. Brian Kemp secured his re-election with more than 53 percent of the vote.

But one Republican celebrated a big victory Tuesday: Gov. Ron DeSantis won his re-election with nearly 60 percent of the vote. He also managed to win a majority of Hispanic voters in former Democratic strongholds. DeSantis said, “We not only won the election, we rewrote the political map.”

One of the few convincing Republican winners: Gov. Ron DeSantis in Florida.

One of the few convincing Republican winners: Gov. Ron DeSantis in Florida.

Luis Santana / Imago

Trump probably won’t like that either. His candidacy for the presidency will probably be announced by the People’s Tribune next Tuesday. The only one who could threaten him in the Republican primary seems to be DeSantis. The Republican, who is popular even beyond Florida, made the best advertisement for himself with his big election victory. And it seems that Trump is already afraid of the governor. In an interview Tuesday, he threatened to dissuade DeSantis from running: “I could tell you things about him (DeSantis) that are not very flattering. I know more about him than anyone else.”

However, the narrow victory of the Republicans in the House of Representatives could also have a dark side for the Democrats. McCarthy and the GOP leadership likely rely much more heavily on votes from the right wing of the party to push their agenda. Votes that want, for example, to cut off money to Ukraine or seek impeachment against Biden could be given more weight than they would be in the case of a big Republican victory.

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