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The red wave that wasn’t

Wednesday, Dec 7, 2022 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Pollsters John Anzalone and Matt Hogan

By all major political indicators, 2022 should have delivered the type of shellacking that the president’s party typically endures in midterm elections: Over 70% of voters believed the country was on the wrong track, 76% rated the economy negatively, and President Biden’s approval rating of 43% has historically resulted in a loss of about 40 House seats. Yet, despite these strong headwinds, Democrats and President Biden bucked history by holding the Senate and only narrowly losing the House of Representatives. So how did they do it?

* The topline answer

Democrats made this election a choice rather than a referendum on President Biden. Midterm elections are typically a referendum on the president, but Democrats outperformed the negative political environment by managing to make this one a choice instead. A choice not only on the economy and inflation, but also on issues like abortion and the state of our democracy, and on the quality of Republican candidates, many of whom expressed extreme views that alienated voters. Instead of a referendum on President Biden, Democrats managed to make the midterms a referendum on extreme GOP candidates like Oz, Masters, Walker, and others across the country.

In past midterm elections, even those voters who only somewhat disapproved of the president have heavily favored the opposition party in their vote for Congress. This was the case in both 2018 and 2014, when those who somewhat disapproved of Trump and Obama voted against each president’s party by more than 20 points. However, 2022 represented a dramatic reversal of this trend, with those who somewhat disapproved of President Biden favoring Democratic congressional candidates by a 25-point margin. Despite these voters’ dissatisfaction with Biden, they still strongly preferred his party in their vote for Congress.

* I excerpted some analysis highlights, which is supported by their polling data

Democrats won by winning over Independents, not by turning out their base.

Democrats were able to make this election a choice due to abortion and threats to democracy being as important to voters as inflation and the economy.

Abortion and threats to democracy resonated most strongly with different age groups, making them a potent combo for Democrats.

Democrats performed well among seniors thanks to these voters focus on threats to democracy and Social Security.

Late deciders did not heavily break towards Republicans. In midterms, those who don’t decide whom to vote for until late in the campaign typically break heavily against the president’s party. But this year, Republicans won those who decided whom to vote for in the last week by only 3 points, which was not nearly a big enough margin to create a red wave.

Voters, and especially Independents, expressed a clear desire for more bipartisanship. A key factor in Democrats’ ability to win over Independents was that these voters wanted more bipartisanship and felt Democratic candidates were more likely to deliver it.

The passage of the Inflation Reduction Act and CHIPS Act allowed Democrats to cut into the GOP advantage on the economy and reduce frustration over a lack of legislative accomplishments.

Democrats overperformed because voters disliked Republican candidates more, not because voters liked Democrats more than we thought.

Click here to read the full analysis.

       

30 Comments
  1. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, Dec 7, 22 @ 10:43 am:

    ===Democrats won by winning over Independents, not by turning out their base.

    Democrats were able to make this election a choice due to abortion and threats to democracy being as important to voters as inflation and the economy.

    Abortion and threats to democracy resonated most strongly with different age groups, making them a potent combo for Democrats.

    Democrats performed well among seniors thanks to these voters focus on threats to democracy and Social Security.===

    It was all far easier to see these trends if one took just 5 minutes to understand women felt in danger by the GOP… Rick Scott added seniors with Social Security… and the Trumpkin / election deniers lost “everywhere” because even independents felt the GOP threatened our Republic while they were bragging about it too.

    I dunno… just my thoughts


  2. - vern - Wednesday, Dec 7, 22 @ 10:48 am:

    The Democratic plan “find out what swing voters want and campaign on that” seems to work much better than the Republican strategy “don’t offend our highly sensitive base under any circumstances.” Dems are less afraid to tack center, so they win more votes in the center. Blueprint for the Republicans is very clear, if they can work up the bravery to follow it.


  3. - Homebody - Wednesday, Dec 7, 22 @ 10:52 am:

    The frustrating thing to anyone who has been paying attention is that the GOP has been trying to achieve these goals for decades, and haven’t exactly been subtle about it. It took a SCOTUS that does not at all match the breakdown of the American population’s political opinions actually removing people’s rights, as well as the GOP tacitly (or in many cases overtly) condoning terrorism against their disfavored fellow Americans to get some independents to finally realize what is going on.


  4. - Jibba - Wednesday, Dec 7, 22 @ 10:54 am:

    Over 70% of voters believed the country was on the wrong track===

    Yes but a good chunk of those are Democrats who blame Republicans for our current crises of democracy and human rights.


  5. - watchful eye - Wednesday, Dec 7, 22 @ 10:55 am:

    Very interesting. Going forward, maybe pollsters prior to elections need to disclose an ideological lean. BS polls for last three weeks of voters breaking to GOP. And this analysis sums up exactly why the GOP in Illinois is done unless it breaks from Trumpism.


  6. - Amalia - Wednesday, Dec 7, 22 @ 11:01 am:

    turns out that the positions on abortion and other reproductive choices that the Democrats hold are not far left, they are at the center. this made a difference with Independents. Democrats also scored big on the Inflation Reduction Act, not only topic wise but strategy wise. McConnell never saw it coming and the win helped people in ways that voters like.


  7. - Jerry - Wednesday, Dec 7, 22 @ 11:02 am:

    I can only guess that women are furious that the Government regulates their bodies and that they have no Right to Privacy. Wait till Griswold goes away!


  8. - JS Mill - Wednesday, Dec 7, 22 @ 11:10 am:

    In past years it has been posited that republicans hold the edge on economic and foreign policy issues. In this last cycle these were also easy targets for democrats given the wealthy tax breaks and fealty to russia that the gop engaged in.

    Add threat to democracy and horrendous candidates by the gop and the crazy spending and soft on crime perception of the democrats (some of those perceptions are real) was not as powerful as the gop had hoped.

    But keep running on crime ilgop.


  9. - Streator Curmudgeon - Wednesday, Dec 7, 22 @ 11:10 am:

    ==Democrats performed well among seniors thanks to these voters focus on threats to democracy and Social Security.==

    Not in Streator and LaSalle County, which have large numbers of seniors, but the county remains heavily Trumpcentric.


  10. - Miss Molly - Wednesday, Dec 7, 22 @ 11:10 am:

    The GOP picked up House seats in the last 2 election cycles. Also, the GOP won a majority of the votes cast for the House. Not a bad place to be going into 2024.


  11. - Norseman - Wednesday, Dec 7, 22 @ 11:11 am:

    === A key factor in Democrats’ ability to win over Independents was that these voters wanted more bipartisanship and felt Democratic candidates were more likely to deliver it. ===

    Biden understood this point and tried and sometimes successfully implemented a strategy of pursuing bipartisan action. Much to the consternation of the far left of his party.

    While the MAGA GOP House focuses on saying no to all things Biden, Hunter’s laptop and their revenge agenda, the Dems need to be laser focused on addressing the problems ordinary people care about.


  12. - TheInvisibleMan - Wednesday, Dec 7, 22 @ 11:25 am:

    –Democrats overperformed because voters disliked Republican candidates more–

    This is something I’m concerned with. It’s not sustainable, and it moves the locus of control over the parties future from internal to external. That’s not a good position to be in, even if it brought a short term victory. This should be addressed as quickly as possible by the party leadership.


  13. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, Dec 7, 22 @ 11:29 am:

    ===The GOP picked up House seats in the last 2 election cycles. Also, the GOP won a majority of the votes cast for the House. Not a bad place to be going into 2024.===

    The GOP lost state legislatures, lost some where both chambers are now in Dem hands, and the GOP lost an open US Senate seat with a reality show quack of a doctor.

    Biden is the first POTUS not to lose a US Senate seat in a midterm since… FDR

    Women will still face serious dangers with Republicans and their health, the GOP will waste time “investigating” for cultists, and no inroads with POC voters.

    It’s not like this Hobbs decision was overturned with this election.


  14. - Roadrager - Wednesday, Dec 7, 22 @ 11:34 am:

    ==Democrats performed well among seniors thanks to these voters focus on threats to democracy and Social Security.==

    And yet we still have members of the GOP talking up Social Security “reforms” with their new razor-thin House majority.

    I don’t care how much culture war brain poison you feed older voters ever night on Fox News, pushing cuts to something your voters have paid into their entire lives and were promised for decades is a message that’s going to rise out above trying to scare them with crime from a city they don’t live in, or whatever you’re defining “woke” as this week.

    Even if you lace it with promises of grandfathering and implementation down the road, your lowest-information voters have lived here long enough to know that when you allow the rich and powerful to take away something, it doesn’t ever come back and it encourages them to take more. And they will vote accordingly, no matter who’s reading what to whom down at the library.


  15. - Joe Bidenopolous - Wednesday, Dec 7, 22 @ 11:40 am:

    =Yes but a good chunk of those are Democrats who blame Republicans for our current crises of democracy and human rights.=

    And some folks (women, others) may not want to be governed by a fundamentalist Christian Supreme Council.

    =Also, the GOP won a majority of the votes cast for the House.=

    This is true but not for the reasons you think. Republicans had twice as many (20-10, IIRC) seats that were entirely uncontested and where they got 100% of the vote. And they also had more districts (20-13) that had only nominal opposition and racked up huge margins.


  16. - Demoralized - Wednesday, Dec 7, 22 @ 11:54 am:

    ==Also, the GOP won a majority of the votes cast for the House. ==

    What difference does that make if they didn’t pick up the seats to go with that. That’s just a stupid analysis of what happened.


  17. - Demoralized - Wednesday, Dec 7, 22 @ 11:56 am:

    ==Democrats overperformed because voters disliked Republican candidates more==

    This should be a key takeaway for Republicans but I suspect they won’t learn from this. They had a lot of bad candidates and they suffered at the polls because of it. If they don’t get control of the kooks that are driving who comes out of the primaries they are going to see this sort of thing continue.


  18. - JS Mill - Wednesday, Dec 7, 22 @ 12:31 pm:

    =This should be a key takeaway for Republicans but I suspect they won’t learn from this.=

    This all day. McCarthy is going to placate the farrrr right like MTG and the rest of the nuts. They will focus on culture wars and that will help the D’s in 2024.


  19. - Grandson of Man - Wednesday, Dec 7, 22 @ 12:38 pm:

    Republicans need compassionate, decent people running for office, reflecting the millions of voters who would not give them a resounding midterm victory. But, this party has its leader, who’s caused so much electoral damage, already running for the 2024 presidency. Paul Ryan and Chris Christie understand.


  20. - Homebody - Wednesday, Dec 7, 22 @ 12:56 pm:

    == Republicans need compassionate, decent people running for office ==

    If they were those things, they wouldn’t be Republicans. They certainly wouldn’t support the bulk of the ghoulish GOP policies that seem to animate their base, and won’t win a primary.


  21. - 47th Ward Moderate - Wednesday, Dec 7, 22 @ 12:56 pm:

    -Not a bad place to be going into 2024. -

    The Dems have to defend an awful lot of U.S. Senate seats in 2024.


  22. - Streator Curmudgeon - Wednesday, Dec 7, 22 @ 1:12 pm:

    ==And yet we still have members of the GOP talking up Social Security “reforms” with their new razor-thin House majority.==

    If it should come to Social Security cuts, we’ll see how many GOP seniors value party over their own well-being.

    Congresscritters who receive fat pensions cutting Social Security. Good thing ILGOPers don’t have such an opportunity.


  23. - Joe Bidenopolous - Wednesday, Dec 7, 22 @ 1:15 pm:

    ==This should be a key takeaway for Republicans but I suspect they won’t learn from this.==

    Totally. I’m sure a 100% pro-life, anti-immigration, anti-democracy candidate who was a pleasant person on the stump would’ve won where Bailey lost /s


  24. - Friendly Bob Adams - Wednesday, Dec 7, 22 @ 1:20 pm:

    While the Dems may have done well appealing to independents, no one wins an election without motivating their base.


  25. - Pujols for President - Wednesday, Dec 7, 22 @ 3:06 pm:

    The R’s won the House. If it is a sporting event and you win by a point, a run, a goal, you have won.

    That is what matters. The R’s bench for 2024 is loaded with blue chippers for the national election.


  26. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, Dec 7, 22 @ 3:20 pm:

    ===If it is a sporting event and you win by a point, a run, a goal, you have won.===

    Friend, this whole post is about a wave… you’ve lowered what shoulda been a big wave in a midterm to “you win by one”… LOL

    The bench is hoping Trump doesn’t run and ruin things like here in 2022.

    Not a single operative worth their salt thinks this cycle was good good for the GOP, it’s a cautionary election… and abortion is still not settled.


  27. - Hot Taeks - Wednesday, Dec 7, 22 @ 3:31 pm:

    A Prevailing theory is that Democrats have become the party of normies who are very turned off by the GOP and MAGA movement. This is something that won’t reverse itself quickly with new Republican candidates not named Trump as the realities of a post-Roe world deepen.

    Also, shoutout to two college kids on Election Twitter who nailed this midterm: @ettingermentum (formerly @cityafreaks) and @jacobdotgov . Them alongside Split Ticket dominated prognostications for these Midterms.


  28. - MisterJayEm - Wednesday, Dec 7, 22 @ 3:48 pm:

    “The R’s bench for 2024 is loaded with blue chippers for the national election.”

    In 2016, your party’s primary field was “loaded with blue chippers” — five governors, four senators, a Fortune 500 CEO and the Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

    Your party’s voters chose a demented reality television star.

    – MrJM


  29. - MyTwoCents - Wednesday, Dec 7, 22 @ 3:51 pm:

    Pujols for President, this isn’t sports. Yes the Rs gained a lot of power with control of the House but that’s still only 50% of Congress. Better GOP candidates and who knows what could have been with the Senate. Also, as the last couple years have proven, slim majorities make governing difficult. I do not envy McCarthy, it’s not going to be easy. If this was a traditional wave year then the GOP would have a lot more wiggle room in their ability to control Congress. No way around it, 2022 was overall a loss for the GOP.


  30. - btowntruth from forgottonia - Wednesday, Dec 7, 22 @ 5:36 pm:

    “The R’s bench for 2024 is loaded with blue chippers for the national election.”

    Same R’s that pushed Walker and Oz and Lake?


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