How Democrats stifled the ‘red wave’ despite high inflation, low approval ratings
SPOKANE, Wash. — Historically, the midterm elections are a referendum of the President’s party; meaning the party belonging to the president typically loses an abundance of seats in Congress.
Harry Truman lost 55 House seats, Bill Clinton lost 53, and Barack Obama lost 63.
Despite soaring inflation and an approval rating of just 45%, that hasn’t been the case for President Biden.
“Democrats lost fewer seats than we were expecting,” said Dr. Aaron Hitefield, a political science professor at Whitworth University. “Republicans didn’t show up as well as expected and that’s surprising for a lot of reasons.”
One of those reasons being that Republicans were in a redistricting year; meaning they were able to redraw their districts to create a favorable advantage in the midterms. That, coupled with low approval ratings, rising crime, and economic frustrations blended into the perfect opportunity for Republicans to swarm into Congress.
“Overall, those indicators would suggest that we should’ve expected to see the Democrats lose quite a few seats and definitely lose the House by a pretty large margin.”
Instead, Democrats stifled Republicans in several different races.
Dr. Hitefield, whose area focus is congressional elections, suggests that could be due in part to Donald Trump, who has remained active in politics in a manner that former presidents typically don’t.
“President Trump has endorsed hundreds of candidates in this election, quite a few of those candidates have lost and lost in high profile races.”
Some of those races include Pennsylvania and Michigan; where both Trump-backed Republicans fell short in pivotal battleground states. Although, some Republicans endorsed by the former president picked up major wins, including J.D. Vance who pulled out a win in Ohio against Democratic Incumbent Senator Tim Ryan.
So far, however, the bulk of these candidates have seen their campaign end in defeat.
Dr. Hitefield theorizes that the weight of a Trump endorsement doesn’t hold the power it once did. In fact, it might actually be working against the party.
“What that suggests, in a way, is that this wasn’t as much of a referendum election on Biden,” said Dr. Hitefield. “But also a referendum in a way on former President Trump.”
He explained that Democrats and Republicans alike are not happy with the Biden Administration’s handling of inflation.
Yet despite voters’ frustration with the state of the economy, Dr. Hitefield suggests that voters prioritized holding candidates accountable for their relationship with former President Trump.
“It seems as though that might have mobilized voters in a way Republicans may not have estimated.”
Another reason Republicans didn’t overwhelmingly take control of Congress might be because of the issues on the ballot. Dr. Hitefield suggests that when it came to abortion, for example, the risk of losing that healthcare option mobilized democratic voters to come out in large numbers for the midterms.
The importance of this election was certainly reflected in total cost – ‘Open Secrets’ is projecting the total cost of the midterms to exceed $16.7 billion.
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