The Election Was A Little Bit of Everything
Oh, it's a little bit of everything,
It's the matador and the bull,
It's the suggested daily dosage,
It is the red moon when it's full.
All these psychics and these doctors,
They're all right and they're all wrong,
It's like trying to make out every word,
When they should simply hum along,
It's not some message written in the dark,
Or some truth that no one's seen,
It's a little bit of everything.
— Dawes, “It’s A Little Bit of Everything”
This election was supposed to be a red wave. Everyone, myself included and all the Democrats too, expected it.
But it wasn’t.
The only ones who got it right are the regular contrarians who go the opposite way on everything and scream loudly when they finally get it right. But actually, I have to tip my hat to Chuck Todd of Meet the Press who, in August, said maybe the old rules don’t apply anymore. They don’t and they do at the same time. It was a weird election. There are, however, some clear lines running through it.
I have friends who say it was all about Trump. I have friends who say it was just about early voting and ballot harvesting. I have friends who say it was about candidate quality. I have friends who say it was all about abortion. I have friends who say it was about message. I have friends who say it was about none of those things.
Yes. The answer to each is yes.
I have spent the last few days studying the voting patterns, the voting discrepancies, the exit polling, and more. What emerges is a simple, elegant picture of voters tired of the chaos and would rather stick with the stability of the status quo around which they can plan their lives than the potential of massive disruption by a party, the loudest voices of which want retribution for their own grievances than a different path forward for everyone.
I hesitate to dive too deeply in because everyone has a bias, and the bias reads into explanations. My bias is against Trump as a future candidate. I know that. But the data really does add up. His candidates underperformed generic Republican candidates. Independent voters really are tired of the chaos and were afraid Republican candidates would introduce even more chaos.
Independent voters are tired of both parties. A measurable part of the GOP is tired of Trump. Combined, they broke for the Democrats.
For the first time in four elections, independent voters went for the party in power, not out of power. For the first time in a very long time, a sizable portion of the GOP voted Democrat.
Frankly, people are just tired of the chaos. Republicans seemed to offer degrees of chaos. Generic Republicans won. Trump Republicans lost. Culture war Republicans lost. Economic Republicans won. But, importantly, culture war Republicans who ran on economic issues and crime won too. Stolen election Republicans dragged down everyone around them. Kari Lake could have won, but claiming the stolen election was the number one issue was like telling victims of a plague the number one issue is last year’s Christmas tree still being up.
Oz still could have won Pennsylvania, but Mastriano tanked the GOP.
This election was not an endorsement of the Democrats. It was not an affirmation of progressive cultural values. In fact, voters hate the Democrats, the economy, the state of the nation, the wokes, and more. But voters also would rather go with what they know they hate than embrace a GOP brand that is divided against itself.
Trump was a problem. Voters rejected Trump-backed candidates. Kari Lake in Arizona outperformed Blake Masters but underperformed the GOP vote in Arizona by six points. She’s so tied to Trump and Trumpism that Republican voters in a slightly Republican-leaning state rejected her. Even Democrats have expected her to win and Republicans voted Democrat to stop her.
When you start hearing about the Arizona election being stolen, remember the GOP congressional level races went very, very well for the GOP. They’re going to win a majority. Lake underperformed the rest of the GOP everywhere in Arizona and Masters underperformed her.
Voters are tired of Trump. It is clearly more of a problem in certain regions of the country than others, but generally, voters are tired of him. Voters in Washington State flipped a R+13 seat where the GOP candidate won a primary against a Republican who’d voted to impeach Trump. In North Carolina, Ted Budd won, but it was super close at a time the GOP won a supermajority in their State Senate and flipped the Supreme Court. Bo Hines, a Trump backed candidate lost a safe Republican seat, giving the Democrats another of our seats. The Trump backed Republican who beat Peter Meijer in the primary lost another of our seats to a Democrat.
Trump supporters can point out this article that claims Trump’s endorsed candidates actually didn’t do too badly. The problem is in most cases they were in races way closer than they should have been and that forced the GOP to spend money it should not have had to spend. Or they were in such massively big Republican districts that they were not going to lose. But time and time again, in the close races, they lost and races that should not have been close were.
You can complain, again, about McConnell spending money, but he had to pour money into Ohio for Vance when the GOP gubernatorial candidate won massively there. Every dollar spent in North Carolina and Ohio could not be spent in Arizona or Nevada to save other Trump candidates.
Candidate quality mattered. Voters in Pennsylvania had already elected John Fetterman to statewide office. Oz was an interloping transplant who never gelled with Pennsylvania voters. They went for the native vegetable over the transplanted New Jerseyian. Oz was a bad fit. Mastriano made the whole thing worse. Oz never got a majority of Republicans to give him positive approval ratings and Mastriano made those Republicans more furious.
When you point to Fetterman and say candidate quality must not matter, you really should be looking at Fetterman and realize Pennsylvania voters thought, “Dammit. He’s still better than that other guy.”
Time and time again, independent and a sizeable portion of Republican voters voted against the newbies who tried to do their best Trump impression. These voters are exhausted by instability.
Abortion mattered. Republicans did quite well in deep blue states where abortion is not threatened. Suburban women in swing states went Democrat over abortion. That was not enough to pull the election away from the GOP in every case, but when combined with independents and Republicans tired of stolen election rhetoric and Trump, it mattered.
Ballot harvesting programs mattered. The Democrats banked big leads before election trajectories changed. The GOP used to dominate early voting, but thanks to Trump’s wild claims about voting and theft, the GOP waits till Election Day and a lot of them sat home, assured the wave was so big they did not need to vote.
Messaging matters. The GOP had no message. Rick Scott wanted to tax social security. For all the blame Trump acolytes are heaping on McConnell, spare some for Scott whose message was tax increases on social benefits. It played very badly and ruined the GOP’s Senate chances. Rick Scott gave the Democrats a talking point voters could believe because Scott put it in writing.
The GOP made good gains with Hispanic voters but pissed it all away by alienating independent voters and even some Republicans. Hell, the data suggests a significant portion of Republicans are afraid of a GOP majority led by crazy town.
Turns out funding Ukraine is popular even with Republicans, and all the crazy talk about stopping the funding was not helpful. Trump rearing his head in the final days of the election was likewise not helpful. When you see how popular standing with Ukraine is, it is not hard to extrapolate that Kevin McCarthy’s late comments about not giving a blank check did impact some voters.
The bottom line of this election is that the red wave did not come because voters are exhausted with chaos and radical swings. They want stability and would rather the stability of a Democrat-led disastrous economy than the wild swings that might come with “stop the steal” Republicans.
Again, and this is very important, Republicans who ran on the economy won. Republicans who were tied to Trump lost. Republicans who were tied to Trump in prominent positions dragged down other Republicans around them.
Voters really like generic Republicans. They handed the GOP big wins in Florida, North Carolina, Georgia, Ohio, New York, Iowa, Arizona, Virginia, and more. Tudor Dixon brought the whole thing down on the GOP’s head in Michigan as a Trumpian culture war candidate. Lee Zeldin, in New York, successful unshackled himself from Trump and ran as a generic law and order Republican in New York and saved the GOP the House of Representatives even has he could not save himself.
The GOP needs more Lee Zeldins and less Tudor Dixons.
The good news for Republicans is that these are easy fixes.
Stop with the “stop the steal” conspiracies.
Put the crazies out to pasture. You on the right should now realize just how alienating our fringe is to independents. The “Squad” nearly handed the House to the GOP in 2020 with their alienation of independents. The loud fringe of the GOP nearly cost the GOP the House in 2022.
Work on a ballot harvesting program nationwide.
Stop sounding like assholes on TV.
Focus on constituent service and not punditry on Fox.
Republicans need to show they are grownups and stop performing for social media Twitter bros.
Say it with me: Voters do not like election deniers.
Replace the RNC Chair. We need a more professional operation less tied to the fortunes of one man.
Republicans do not misinterpret the data as voters going left, embracing wokism, or anything close. Understand, independent and Republican voters are simply tired of the GOP being perceived as the party of chaos. If you get that and fix that, you win.
Voters last week decided they’d rather the mess they are in than a potentially worse mess with the agents of chaos who fight, but get nothing done.
It was, in other words, a little bit of everything. The danger is that the GOP will focus on one piece of data and ignore the rest. The data suggests the GOP has a multifaceted problem, but they can overcome it.
An upfront solution is simple — reject Kevin McCarthy as Speaker.
McCarthy suggested he’d cut funds to Ukraine, a stance that is unpopular with Americans. In fact, McCarthy probably hurt the GOP nationally with that coming out before the election, given how well supporting Ukraine polls.
Likewise, McCarthy is seen as Trump’s guy, and both independents and a significant share of Republicans voted against Trump’s candidates. Propping up McCarthy ignores the exit polling of actual voters. McCarthy was the guy who condemned Trump, went to Mar-a-Lago, then came back and has engaged in performative leg humping every day since.
This is not the man you put in the Speaker’s Chair after voters just told you they don’t want election deniers, their enablers, or clowns in office. You need to send a visible signal you get the message. Tossing McCarthy is that signal.
Start, Republicans, by cleaning up your own house, which signals to independents you lost and Republicans you lost that you are listening and want to change. That is something Democrats cannot do, but you can. Do it and set yourselves up for 2024.
Get rid of McCarthy. Get rid of “stop the steal” nonsense. Get off TV and put in the legislative work. Start winning with a message of responsible governance.
Last word — don’t give up on culture. But there is one thing I was very right on in this election. Voters give you license to fight on culture, when you fight first on their issues, which are pocketbook issues. The Republicans who did that, did well. The Republicans who did not do that crashed and burned.
Ron DeSantis’s Florida model is a good one to follow. He prioritized jobs and the economy, winning Hispanic and Democrat votes, and they permitted him to take on culture as he made their pocketbooks better.
Trump’s Captain Chaos routine died last Tuesday. The Democrats are now stuck with Biden in 2024. Our side gets a reboot with fresh faces if we will do it.