Wednesday, January 4, 2023

Political Winners and Losers of 2022

I was tied up with some things last week, so I only now have been able to identify the political winners and losers of 2022.  Although I've numbered them, they are in no particular order.

Biggest Winners

1.  President Joe Biden -  On July 14th, over 75% of the people in the Real Clear Politics polling average said that the country was on the wrong track, the worst number registered in 2022.  A week later, President Joe Biden's job approval hit its low mark for the year, measuring nearly 20 points underwater.  Despite bad polling numbers, Biden succeeded in getting several groundbreaking bills passed and then went on to an historically good mid-term election for a first term incumbent President.  Biden has now strengthened his position to the point that, if he wants the nomination again in 2024, it is his.

2.  Florida Republican Party - My first inclination was to list Governor Ron DeSantis as the "winner" given his strong performance in his re-election bid.  But then I took a look at two other down ballot Florida races, for Attorney General and Treasurer.  The Republican candidates in those races actually outperformed, albeit slightly, DeSantis.  That shows how strong the GOP brand has become in Florida.  The Republican Party in Florida has learned to attract Latino votes, a lesson that other Republicans in the country could emulate.

3.  Georgia Republican Party -  Like DeSantis, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp won easily in his re-election effort.  But, also like DeSantis, Kemp trailed a number of Republican statewide candidates in the Peach State.  The best performing statewide candidate in Georgia was actually Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who earned the ire of Donald Trump for refusing to "find" enough votes for Trump to win the state.  While Trump's Senate recruit Herschel Walker lost, that sole Republican statewide defeat wasn't because of the GOP brand but because of Walker's unique horribleness as a candidate  

4.  National Democratic Party - With inflation soaring, it seemed certain that the Democrats would be slaughtered in the midterms.  Instead, Democrats overcame those numbers and history to do shockingly well in the midterms, losing only a handful of seats in the House, gaining a seat in the Senate, and gaining a couple governorships.  

5.  New York Congressional Republican Candidates - Republicans scored three upset wins in New York congressional races.  These Long Island districts, which were won by Joe Biden in 2020, were flipped by moderate Republicans emphasizing crime. Unfortunately, one of those Republicans is George "Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire" Santos.  Nonetheless, were it not for these upset New York congressional wins, the GOP margin in the House would be one vote.

6.  Volodymyr Zelenskyy - Not inclined to put non-Americans on this list, but I can't ignore the leadership of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy who has, thus far, repelled the invasion of his country by, at least what was thought, the second strongest military in the world.  Thanks in no small part due to the military aid given by western democracies, for over ten months the Ukrainian military has fought the Russians to a draw.  When Ukraine initially was invaded, many thought Zelenskyy would flee his country, living his life out in exile.  Instead the former comedian and actor decided to stand with his countrymen and fight.   If only American politicians had a fraction of Zelenskyy's courage.

7.  Michigan Democrats - While Republicans were winning in places like Florida and Georgia, Democrats were winning just as impressively in Michigan.  Democrats in Michigan easily won all the statewide races and won control of the state house and senate for the first time in nearly 40 years.  

8.  January 6th Committee - From the outset, I had little faith that the January 6th Committee would have any success in shaping public opinion about the insurrection.  But somehow the Committee's presentation of evidence and its findings managed to seep into the public's consciousness.  When mid-term voters cast their ballots, they overwhelmingly rejected election denying candidates and those who supported the insurrection.  

Biggest Losers

1.  Donald Trump - I'm trying to think of anything that went right in 2022 for Trump.  He started out the year as the presumptive favorite for the Republican re-nomination.  It was even doubtful whether he'd have serious competition.  Now he faces a slew of opponents. During the year he was hit with several criminal investigations and civil lawsuits, and almost certainly 2023 will bring his indictment.  During a series of hearings, the January 6th Committee proved Trump's leading role in the insurrection.  His tax returns have finally been made public confirming, once again, that Trump is a really, really bad businessman.  In November, virtually all of the election denying candidates he endorsed lost.   Trump is rightly seen as a loser...but, to be fair, Trump has been costing Republicans elections for a long time.  It's just now some Republican leaders are waking up to that fact.

2.  Kari Lake - Her Democratic opponent, Katie Hobbs, for the Arizona governorship was so low profile, I thought for awhile Lake was running unopposed. But Lake managed to steal defeat from the jaws of victory by employing the not-so-brilliant strategy of alienating her base of voters.  Days before the election, Lake told McCain Republican voters she didn't want their support.  They obliged by voting for Hobbs.  Goodbye Kari Lake.

3.  Election Deniers - 2022 was an odd election.   Democrats did well in certain states while Republicans did equally as well in other states.  But there was one consistency when looking at the election results - Trump-endorsed candidates who backed the false claim that the 2020 election lost or ran well behind Republican candidates Trump didn't endorse.

4.  Pro Life Movement - The losses the pro life movement took on election day have been exaggerated in the media.  After all, Republican pro-life candidates did extremely well in Florida, Georgia, Ohio, and Texas.  In my home state of Indiana, Republicans actually picked up seats in the legislature despite passing a law which nearly bans abortions in the state.  On the other hand, it is clear that the pro life movement was not prepared for how to discuss the abortion issue to mainstream, general election voters.  The movement allowed the issue to be defined by the most rare and extreme cases, such as a 10 year old rape victim seeking an abortion.   If pro lifers don't moderate their message, they're going to lose the political battle over the issue.

5.  Stacey Abrams - While Abrams is good at putting together a political organization, as a candidate she has never been impressive.  Abrams' political strategy was to emphasize her liberal positions to maximize progressive turnout.  By contrast, Georgia Senator Raphael Warnock instead worked to appear and sound like a moderate.  Warnock easily won while Abrams badly lost.  

6.  Beto O'Rourke - Like Abrams, O'Rourke was delusional for running in this cycle.  Both may be finished as political candidates.

7.  Kevin McCarthy - McCarthy made a conscious decisions to sell out his honor and integrity in a bid to be elected Speaker.  Now that bid looks hopeless.  While the vote for Speaker is taking place in 2023, the roots of McCarthy's failure is based firmly in 2022.

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