Opinion: Far from a red wave

The midterms are (mostly) over. Though neither Democrats nor Republicans got exactly what they wanted, silver linings and lessons exist for both sides. Overall, Republicans underperformed expectations but did well in key races for the Governor’s Mansion in Ohio, Florida, Texas, and Georgia.

Democrats, in turn, held on by their fingernails in many seats rated as tossups across the country, with a notable upset victory for Democratic Senator-Elect John Fetterman in Pennsylvania.

In Ohio, the scenes played out differently than across the country, with the GOP winning all statewide races. Ohio is no longer a swing state, or so it seems, following this election. Ohio wasn’t all smooth sailing for Republicans, however, where Trump-backed J.R. Majewski lost to Democrat Marcy Kaptur in what should have been a possible Republican flip. Additionally, longtime Republican Representative Steve Chabot lost to local City Councilman Greg Landsman in Cincinnati. That puts the Ohio House Delegation at 10 Republicans and 5 Democrats.

Nationwide, a key theme was ticket-splitting or voting for multiple parties on the same ballot. For example, Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia won comfortably, while Republican Senate Candidate Herschel Walker still trails the Incumbent Senator Raphael Warnock heading to a runoff. In Ohio, Governor Mike DeWine won by a significantly wider margin than Republican Senator-Elect J.D. Vance, indicating that some who voted for DeWine also voted for Tim Ryan. The inverse was true in Pennsylvania, with the Governor candidate Doug Mastriano losing by a wider margin than the more moderate Dr. Mehmet Oz. This ticket-splitting phenomenon shows that, while important, parties have less importance in voters’ minds than the candidates and issues themselves.

Taking another lesson from Oz, Mastriano, DeWine, and Vance, this election served as a referendum on Former President Donald J. Trump. Generally, the moderate candidates outperformed their far-right “MAGA” ticket mates. Between upcoming GOP rival Ron DeSantis having a record night in Florida and Trump-backed candidates losing across the map to more moderate democratic challengers, it’s safe to say that Trump’s night was not a good one. This signifies the need for the GOP to move away from Trump to win elections in competitive seats, as election deniers aren’t winning with voters.

This election, by all accounts, should have been a GOP landslide. President Biden’s approval rating is at an all-time low, hovering even below Trump’s rating at this time in the latter’s presidency. Inflation and crime both emerged as key issues which favored Republicans. And midterms are typically bad for the party in power. So why is the GOP House majority, once projected to be over 30 seats, not yet secured five days later?

Simply put, Americans are fed up, and they let both parties know it. This election was never going to be a Democrat blowout, which it wasn’t, but for Democrats, this election wasn’t too bad. The Democrats held their own against Republicans, aided by the far-right nature of some GOP candidates. Will Republicans win the House? Probably. But this is far from the “Red Wave” pollsters projected.

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