My prediction of Democratic underperformance was utterly wrong. Yes, the Democrats are likely to lose the House and perhaps the Senate, but the margin of GOP success was so limited as to make these results a defacto win. The GOP had hopes of a 30-40 seat pick-up; instead it may be single digits. Depending the results of three states, Senate control could go either way. Here’s why I think we got the results we got:
1. Trump. More than anything this was a repudiation of Donald Trump. His candidates were by and large soundly defeated and there is today a growing awareness within the GOP that Trump is a boat anchor tied the party. We’ll ignore for now that the rest of America saw this way-back-when. The GOP is in profound electoral trouble the longer its fortunes are tied to the insurrectionist-leading, election-denying ex-President. And I think that spells all kinds of chaos in 2024 for the GOP. (I am, as one might expect, elated about all this. The sooner Trump’s political career is dead and buried, the better.)
2. Dobbs. This is like the apocryphal tale of the man who got everything he dreamed of. The GOP finally overturned Roe via Supreme Court shenanigans, and now it turns out that most of America is in favor individual freedom. Oops. I believe we saw every state-wide pro-choice ballot measure pass and saw every anti-abortion ballot measure defeated. Even Kentucky(!) turned down an anti-abortion ballot measure. Dobbs may well prove to be an enormous pyrrhic victory for the right wing, with pro-life candidates tarred as extremists and wildly pro-choice laws being enshrined at the state level. Rather than banning abortion, Dobbs kicking the decision back to the states may instead ultimately expand sheer number of abortions, hurt GOP candidates, and put many states in a place where abortion-on-demand until birth is the prevailing law (as it is in Oregon). The GOP will wish for the day when the balancing act of Roe protected at least some unborn life. They’re going to be in trouble on this for awhile.
3. Candidate quality. Pennsylvania Senate candidate (now Senator-elect) Fetterman could bare string coherent sentences together in his recent debate with that quack Dr. Oz. Voters didn’t care. They seemed to say, “You know, what? I’m still voting for the mentally impaired guy. He’s better than that lunatic.” I’m not here to say that voters were wrong, either.
I’ve not dived into the demographics of it, but I’m curious how many more rightwing, Covid-denying, anti-vaxxer GOP voters died versus Democratic voters and whether this made any difference in the election. I suspect it had some small, marginal impact, but I rather think the above three reasons are mainly why the election turned as it did.