How Trump Sank the Senate for His Own Party


Michael A. Cohen

Sun, 13 November 2022 at 3:35 pm

Samuel Corum
Samuel Corum

Twenty-five days from now the state of Georgia will hold its sixth Senate election in less than two years — a runoff between Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock and Republican Herschel Walker. Not long ago, one might have assumed that this election, like the Senate runoffs waged in January 2021, would be a fight for control of the US Senate.

But voters in Nevada and Arizona made sure that didn’t happen.

On Saturday night, the major news networks finally called the Nevada Senate race for Democrat incumbent Catherine Cortez Masto after giving the nod to Arizona Senator Mark Kelly the day before. Warnock, who beat Walker by just over a point, but failed to reach the 50 percent threshold in order to avoid a runoff, will likely be slightly favored to keep his seat (Georgia Republicans no longer have to hold their nose and vote for a clearly unqualified candidate because Senate control hung in the balance).

While Democrats deserve credit for a campaign well run, this extraordinary and unexpected outcome is the direct result of a Republican Party that embraces extreme, deeply unpopular views — and is led by an extreme, deeply unpopular former president.

Democrats Keep Control of the Senate

Going into the 2022 midterms, which based on historical experience should have favored the GOP, Democrats had one thing going for them — few vulnerable members.

Two years ago many political observers viewed New Hampshire Senator Maggie Hassan as, perhaps, the most endangered Democratic incumbent in the country. But when her expected opponent, Governor Chris Sununu demurred on running, her path got a bit easier. Then in September she was blessed with an over-matched, Trump-endorsed, MAGA-loving, first-time opponent in Retired General Don Bolduc, who defeated a more moderate Republican in the state’s GOP Senate primary. On Election Day she won handily by nine points.

Hassan’s experience was hardly unusual. Like a lot of Democrats this cycle, she avoided her toughest possible opponent and instead faced off against a weaker one, endorsed and promoted by Trump.

In Pennsylvania, another conventional, establishment Republican Dave McCormick barely lost the Republican nomination to Dr. Mehmet Oz, whose narrow victory was likely the result of Trump’s endorsement. Oz’s favorability numbers were terrible and never recovered as he lost on Election Day to John Fetterman.

In Georgia, Trump threw his support behind Walker. In Arizona, Blake Masters got the Trump nod. In Nevada, Adam Laxalt was the chosen one. The latter two lost and Walker may soon join them. All three were weak candidates with little cross-party appeal.

Nowhere was this more true than in Nevada. On the surface, Laxalt might have seemed like a mllquetoast, establishment Republican. But with Trump’s backing he adopted a similar uncompromising personae. He embraced Trump’s 2020 election lie. He went out of his way to tell voters that he had no interest in working across the aisle with “the radical, leftist Democrat Party” and promised investigations of Hunter Biden and Dr. Anthony Fauci.

Laxalt is not a unicorn. Masters, Walker, and Oz all, to a varying degree, adopted similar positions. They all appeared to forget that once their Republican primaries were over they needed to appeal to non-Republican voters.

To be sure, not all Trump-endorsed candidates fared so poorly. JD Vance won his Senate race in Ohio, as did Ted Budd in North Carolina, but both ran in red states where a GOP victory should have been expected. And in the case of Vance, he was such a weak candidate that Republicans dumped millions of dollars into the race propping up his faltering campaign. That was money that clearly could have been better spent elsewhere.

The only exception was Ron Johnson in Wisconsin, who unlike the aforementioned candidates, had already won two elections in Wisconsin and was blessed with a weak and under-funded opponent in Mandela Barnes.

The lesson from all this is clear: While Trump’s backing can help Republicans get over the finish line in red states he’s an albatross everywhere else.

Trump Is ‘Ready for War’ With 2024 Presidential Announcement

While Trump deserves blame, so too, quite clearly, does to the Republican-appointed judges on the Supreme Court. When the High Court overturned Roe v. Wade this past June they radicalized millions of pro-choice voters. In race after race, Democrats hammered their opponents on the issue. Indeed, it’s fitting that the last two races called for Democrats, Arizona and Nevada, saw some of the most abortion ads run by Democratic candidates this cycle. No issue loomed larger in this election.

The GOP has no one to blame but itself. For years, they have embraced uncompromising and unpopular positions on abortion. They played to the radicalism of the anti-abortion movement, likely assuming that they would never face an election in which abortion rights were actually on the ballot.

On Election Day, those chickens came home to roost — and in places like Pennsylvania, Michigan, Arizona, Nevada, and various House races across the country it cost them dearly.

Ultimately, this all creates an intractable problem for Republicans. Trump and Trumpism are not going away. Indeed, Trump plans to announce his third bid for the White House in approximately 48 hours. Abortion politics will also be with us long after the new class of Senators and Congressman are sworn in early next year. Outside their red state enclaves the Republican brand, which was soundly rejected on Tuesday, is unlikely to improve without a major, and unlikely course correction.

Election Day 2022 was a nightmare for the GOP… but more likely than not, it’s also a preview of what’s to come.

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