On Nov. 8, Americans will go to the polls, casting their votes for a wide variety of local, state and national elections. Midterms are generally a referendum on the sitting president, especially in a president’s first term. Politicians, voters and analysts see the elections as a way to gauge American approval of a president’s work on a much larger scale than general presidential approval polls.
This year’s midterms, however, are not only a referendum on President Biden and the Democrats but former President Donald Trump and his grasp on the GOP, as well.
Trump-endorsed candidates include incumbents and primary challengers, with mixed results in many states. In Arizona, candidates endorsed by the former president won their primary elections by wide margins. Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake won over Karrin Taylor Robson (who was endorsed by both Trump vice president Mike Pence and current GOP governor of the State Doug Ducey.)
Of the ten Republicans who voted to impeach the former president following the Jan. 6 Attack on the US Capitol, nine were defeated in their primary races. Only one – Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA) – won their primary to advance to the general election in November.
Trump refused to give his support to candidates that would not overturn the results of the 2020 election. This proved to have mixed results, as well. In Georgia, incumbent governor Brian Kemp defeated Trump-backed David Perdue. Kemp did not support Trump in changing the election results in 2020. In Arizona, however, election denier Kari Lake won the GOP primary.
In all, 140 of 141 Trump-backed incumbents in the House and Senate won their races (Rep. Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina did not). Trump endorsed 16 challengers in Congressional races, in which all but two will advance to the general election. In open House races, the former president endorsed 18 candidates, with 16 claiming victory.
Some of these candidates have tried to distance themselves from Trump, but the majority – along with the GOP as a whole – are embracing him. The former president still holds a tight grasp on the Republican party. Candidates seek his endorsement instead of shying away from it.
The former president’s rhetoric and policies ignited in 2016 a base that had not been politically active to this height in a long time. The rise of the Tea Party in the early 2000’s began this resurgence, but the candidacy and election of Trump cemented the GOP’s new position further right than ever before.
It worked, and continues to work, too. Some Republican voters found a candidate in Trump that spoke to their innermost beliefs about the direction the United States was headed and where it should go. There have been some that feel alienated now that the GOP has shifted further away from the ideological center.
This has been seen in the Democratic Party, too. The two parties have shifted further towards their respective sides of the ideological spectrum. The Democrats have seen a slow shift further left, however, where the Republicans have seen a rapid shift away from the center.
Trump-endorsed Republicans had a strong showing in primary races throughout the country, but it is still yet to be seen how they will fare against Democratic candidates. If the 2020 presidential election is any indication, the GOP could be in trouble.
Recently, President Biden has had several legislative wins. The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act was the most comprehensive gun legislation passed in decades. The CHIPS and Science Act of 2022 “will boost American semiconductor research, development, and production, ensuring U.S. leadership in the technology that forms the foundation of everything from automobiles to household appliances to defense systems.” The PACT Act promises to help veterans receive greater healthcare coverage after the inhalation of toxins.
The president also announced recently that his administration will be canceling student loan debt for Americans making less than $125,000 a year (more about this here).
These actions boosted Biden’s approval rating. The Democratic Party struggled at the start of the summer, but moving into the fall, they have a strong foundation to build upon.
Whether the GOP will be able to beat the Democrats is unknown. As of Sept. 16, RealClearPolitics gave the Democrats a 45% likelihood of winning on a generic congressional ballot. The Republicans were given a 44.1% chance. This is one of the handful of times that Democrats have held a higher chance of winning over Republicans this summer, and it is the largest margin they have held since last fall.
In some districts, Trump endorsed Republicans will win by large margins. Overall, however, the former president’s influence on the 2022 midterms is uncertain. The GOP is still very Trump-centric in Congress, but the alienation of moderate Republicans could cause the party to lose on Nov. 8.
Commentary writer Price Wilborn can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @pricewilborn.