Commentary

Republicans had all the advantages in the midterms. They’ve blown every one of them

Republicans had all the advantages in the midterms. They’ve blown every one of them
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Just a few weeks ago, Republicans thought the 2022 midterms were going to be an easy march to victory. Runaway inflation, ongoing supply chain shortages and a string of unfulfilled promises made for the perfect plan of attack against Democrats.

Now it looks like the GOP is on the verge of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

Thanks to a combination of Democratic successes and Republican incompetence, Democrats seem well positioned not only to hold onto the Senate but to actually increase their margin there. While the House is still likely to fall to the Republicans thanks to gerrymandering that favors the party, victory doesn’t look like the blowout that pundits had once predicted.

The biggest boost to the Democrats has been the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act. The massive legislation tackles climate change, increases taxes on the wealthiest Americans, and offers relief from rising drug prices for seniors on Medicare. Every one of these measures is exactly what the vast majority of American voters want, giving Democrats a potent platform on which to run this fall. That the bill appeared to be dead only to be resurrected and swiftly passed only added to the sense of Democratic momentum.

While Republicans are still pinning their hopes on messages about inflation, they are finding them counterbalanced by the Supreme Court’s decision to allow bans on abortion. That decision, overturning nearly 50 years of women’s right to choose, has electrified Democratic voters and has emerged as a powerful rallying tool for candidates.

Meantime, Republicans have proven themselves to be inept, to put it politely.

To begin with, in their unyielding fealty to Donald Trump, the party faithful has put forth a string of MAGA warriors who are also really lousy candidates. That doesn’t matter in deep red states, but in swing states, it’s a recipe for failure.

In Pennsylvania, GOP gubernatorial nominee Doug Mastriano is almost the perfect prototype for the candidate least likely to appeal to suburban voters. An unabashed Christian nationalist, Mastriano is a hardliner on abortion (although he’s tried downplaying that since the Supreme Court ruling). The Congressional committee investigating the January 6 insurrection wants to talk to him about his participation in the event; Mastriano was there, but says he didn’t enter the Capitol.

The GOP nominee for governor in Maryland is a “QAnon whack job” according to the departing Republican governor, Larry Hogan. The Republican’s choice for governor in Illinois, Darren Bailey,  wants to remove Chicago from the state. Tudor Dixon, the GOP candidate for governor in Michigan, says that rape victims who become pregnant shouldn’t be able to have abortions because they find “healing” in giving birth. 

In the Senate, things are so bad that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has all but said that he expects to remain Minority Leader. In large part, that’s because Trump-endorsed candidates are turning out to be disastrous. In Pennsylvania, Mehmet Oz, the television doctor who lives in New Jersey, painted a target on his back with his tone-deaf ad about the high price of crudité. In Georgia, Herschel Walker has been such an erratic candidate that he can’t seem to recall how many children he has in addition to the flamboyantly non-gay one. 

And then there are the acolytes of gay billionaire Peter Thiel: Blake Masters in Arizona and J.D. Vance in Ohio. Both are underperforming. Masters is behind incumbent Mark Kelly in the polls. While Ohio is more Republican-leaning than Arizona, Vance is struggling to raise money, pulling in a paltry $2.3 million in the last reporting, less than a quarter of what his Democratic opponent, Tim Ryan, raised.

Surprisingly, money is turning out to be a big problem for Republicans this year. The National Republican Senatorial Committee has canceled $10 million worth of television ads, including in the critical states of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Arizona due to lack of money. The Committee raised more than $173 million this election cycle, but somehow managed to burn through all but $28 million of it, infuriating Republicans demanding to know where the money went.

If the Democrats manage to hold onto the Senate and even increase their margin, they will have been incredibly lucky. But that doesn’t mean everything will run smoothly. A Republican-controlled House will engage in all kinds of nonsense, right up to and probably including impeachment proceedings against Biden. That will just be a preview of what to expect in the big battle of 2024.

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