The “Red Wave” Resulted in Democrats Making Gains in the Senate. Who Is to Blame?

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Senate Majority Leader, Chuck Schumer

Jake Richfield, Opinions Writer

The results of the November 8th Midterms were best described by New Hampshire’s Governor, Chris Sununu, a Republican. Sununo recognized the dangerous extremity in the Republican party, stating a message shared with him by voters: “Fix policy later, fix crazy now.” 

 

Sununu, who won his race in the former swing-state of New Hampshire by 16 points, while both of New Hampshire’s congressional districts and the state’s state election went comfortably to the Democrats, is an embodiment of what the Republican party should have shifted to after the January 6th insurrection almost 2 years ago. 

 

Yet, over the last two years, the Republican party has failed to make a transition away from Donald Trump. His leadership of the party – although much less solidified with him no longer in the White House – is still very much intact. Proof of this attachment can still be clearly seen; Trump’s endorsements of candidates in Arizona, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, and Georgia helped decide primaries and influenced general elections in these states. Yet, in all of these important races, Trump’s support, while helpful in the primary, proved poisonous in the general election. 

 

In New Hampshire, Don Bolduc, a retired general, was the Republican nominee for senate. He consistently stated that Donald Trump had won the 2020 Presidential election and took many other extreme positions throughout the race. In aligning himself with the former President, he was able to win his close primary over the much more electable Chuck Morse, who had the endorsement of Governor Sununu. Although the state of New Hampshire overall rejected Trump twice, both in the 2016 and 2020 elections, New Hampshire’s Republican voters once again decided to stick with the former president and got the exact same result: a loss. 

 

In Arizona, a state that, until Trump’s entry into politics, was considered strongly conservative, Blake Masters won the Republican primary over his opponent Attorney General Mark Brnovich. Brnovich had won his election during the “Blue Wave” in 2018, after receiving an endorsement from Trump. Even though Republicans could have chosen a candidate who had already proved himself electable in years where the Republican party had the disadvantage, they instead went with the Trump endorsed candidate. Thus, Democrat Mark Kelly was able to widen his election margin from two years ago, leading Masters by 5 percent in what should have been a much worse year for the Democrats. As a result, Arizona, a state that had not elected a Democrat to the Senate for 30 years prior to 2018, now has two Democratic Senators.

 

In Georgia, a state that shocked the country by voting for Biden in 2020 and subsequently electing 2 Democratic Senators in a run-off election, Republicans were hoping to pick up a seat – and seemed poised to do so. Trump’s early endorsement of former football player Hershel Walker ensured his victory in the Republican primary, but at the same time, another Trump endorsed candidate was trounced in his. Former Senator David Perdue was handily defeated by incumbent Governor Brian Kemp, despite receiving the Trump endorsement. This should have been a clear signal for the Republican party that Donald Trump was not loved by many Georgia voters and they should likely distance themselves. Yet, Walker did nothing of the sort and, in turn, unlike in 2020, Democrat Senator Warnock actually won a plurality of the vote in the first round of the election and, with Donald Trump’s announcement he is running in 2024 and Governor Kemp not on the ballot to help carry Walker to victory, it seems certain that Warnock is on his way to victory. Thus, another state that had been solid for the Republican party prior to Trump’s entry into politics is likely to have 2 Democratic Senators until 2026. 

 

Finally, the race that embodied the Republican failures this election cycle: Pennsylvania. Trump chose to endorse Dr. Oz, the celebrity surgeon who had lived in northern New Jersey for decades prior to moving his legal residence to Pennsylvania in late 2020, over David McCormick. McCormick – who did not have Dr. Oz’s baggage of promoting questionable products on television for decades or being considered a carpetbagger – had experience in government and was seen as more moderate, especially in his rhetoric, and thus was considered the more electable candidate. Oz’s weakness as a candidate was demonstrated to the entire state when, in a primary with over 1.3 million votes cast, he won by less than 1,000 votes. Trump’s backing did little to convince voters to support Oz, with a large portion of Republicans deciding to support the far-right conservative Kathy Barnette instead. In the end, Dr. Oz’s baggage, stance on abortion, and support from President Trump ended up aiding the campaign of Democratic nominee, Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman. Fetterman won by almost 5 points over Oz in the midterms, flipping a Republican Senate seat – despite his stroke and Biden’s unpopularity. 

 

Although it is easy to place the blame of these underwhelming results fully on the former President, it is not that simple. The truth is, the Republican party is still Trump’s party, and even though the midterm results may have caused his control over the party to weaken, he is still poised to win the 2024 Republican nomination comfortably based on polling. There are also figures like Marjorie Taylor Greene who – no matter if Trump wins or loses in 2024 – will continue to show the influence of Trump’s brand of politics far into the future. Thus, it is not simply Trump, but the entire Republican party which needs to change for them to once again obtain the support of the American people. Until they do decide to fundamentally change their party, “the crazy” will not be fixed.