Midterm elections normally serve as referendums on incumbent presidents—to whom voters seldom give the benefit of the doubt, and whose parties almost always lose substantial numbers of seats in the House of Representatives and often the Senate, as well. To the surprise of most commentators (including yours truly), that didn’t happen this time. As of a week after Election Day, the number of seats that the GOP will gain in the House looks likely to be in the single digits—a far cry from the 54 seats that Gingrich and company gained in 1994 or the 64 seats that a Tea Party-fueled GOP picked up in 2010.A pair of numbers leaps out of the exit polling: 32 percent of voters said that they cast their House vote to “oppose” President Joe Biden, while 28 percent said they cast their House vote to “oppose” former President Donald Trump. In other words, for every eight votes cast against Biden, all but one was negated by a vote cast against Trump. This is surely unprecedented in a midterm election. It’s nearly impossible to imagine a previous midterm in which almost as many people voted against the loser of the previous presidential contest as voted against the winner. How many people, for example, bothered to vote against Richard Nixon in 1962, Jimmy Carter in 1982, George H. W. Bush in 1994, or even Hillary Clinton in 2018?Of course, it didn’t help Republicans that the leading establishment faces of their party are even less popular with voters than Trump. The former president’s favorability rating in exit polling was -19 percentage points (39 percent favorable, 58 percent unfavorable), worse than Biden’s -15 points (41 percent favorable, 56 percent unfavorable). But Republican House leader Kevin McCarthy’s favorability rating (-26 points, with 27 percent favorable and 53 percent unfavorable) was not only lower than Trump’s but also lower than House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (-24 points, with 36 percent favorable to 60 percent favorable). RealClearPolitics lists Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell’s unfavorability rating as of Election Day as being nearly triple his favorability rating (59 percent vs. 21 percent). Per RCP, McConnell’s net favorability rating of -38 percentage points is 24 points worse than that of his Democratic counterpart, Chuck Schumer (-14 points, with 33 percent favorable and 47 percent unfavorable).
Many observers have blamed Republicans’ lackluster showing in the midterms on their positions on abortion, but exit polling suggests a more nuanced picture. On the one hand, Fox News exit polling indicates that few voters (10 percent) considered abortion to be “the most important issue facing the country.” On the other, 25 percent regarded the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade as the “single most important factor” to them personally when “thinking about voting in this election.”The network consortium’s exit polling found that only slightly more voters think abortion should be “legal” (30 percent) as think it should be “illegal” (26 percent) “in most cases.” But those in the latter camp appear to hold their positions with more conviction, as they were far more likely to support Republicans (90 percent to 9 percent) than those in the former camp were to support Democrats (60 percent to 38 percent). Indeed, the Republicans’ 81-point margin among voters who think abortion should generally be illegal swamped the Democrats’ 22-point edge among those who think it should generally be legal.Moreover, Republicans won a majority of the vote among the 58 percent of voters who, in response to the overturning of Roe, felt “enthusiastic” (16 percent), “satisfied” (21 percent), or even “dissatisfied” (21 percent). Combining those three groups, Republicans won by a margin of 50 points (74 percent to 24 percent). Only the 39 percent who felt “angry” in response to Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization supported Democrats (85 percent to 14 percent).Thus, more moderate voters on this contentious issue—those who were neither enthusiastic nor angry, and those who think abortion should be neither legal nor illegal in every case—were more apt to favor Republicans. Among those with more intense views either way—those who were enthusiastic or angry, and those who think abortion should either always be legal or always be illegal—Democrats prevailed.
- Regarding my predictions on the eve of the election, I was hoping to get 70% correct, not a huge number but one I thought was reasonable given that so many races were within the margins of error in the polling. I ended up calling 87.5% of the races correctly, missing only four: the Arizona and Wisconsin governor races, the Nevada Senate race, and the Indiana Secretary of State's race. I was not right in guessing the Republicans would lose seats in the Indiana House and Senate, that Senate control would be decided by the Georgia run-off and that Kari Lake would be the new MAGA star.
- And, no, the 2022 polling was not "off." People need to understand how the MOE works in polls. Some of the predictions based on the polling was off, but the polls this cycle were very good. Yours truly did very well.
- Saw the Mike Pence interview on Sunday Meet the Press. Pence's repeated attacks on the FBI for simply doing their job is appalling. Likewise, so too is his claim that the accusation of Trump's collusion with Russians in winning the 2016 election was a hoax. The evidence is overwhelming that the Trump campaign warmly accepted the help of Russian officials in that campaign. Saying that that was not "collusion" is an intentional dodge, based on how that term is used in the federal code.
- So sorry to learn of the passing of my political mentor, Rex Early. I will have to write at length about him later.