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Well, folks, this week did not go as almost all of the poll averages, race handicappers, and TV pundits predicted. Put simply, the "red wave" did not happen. Not even a little. Election Day was Tuesday, it's now Thursday, and we still don't know for sure which party controls the U.S. Senate or the House of Representatives.
It looks like, in the upper chamber, everything is going to come down to what happens in Georgia, where a runoff was forced after neither Raphael Warnock nor Herschel Walker surpassed the 50 percent mark.
Meanwhile, in the House's balance of power, Republicans have picked up just a handful of seats, and the final tally remains to be determined by the slow vote-counters in western states. It looks like the GOP will take control, but after what developed on Tuesday, it seems foolhardy to take anything for granted.
The biggest winners coming out of the 2022 midterms are Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis — heralded by The New York Post's Wednesday cover as "DeFUTURE" — J.D. Vance, who succeeded in Ohio, and New York Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin, who came within striking distance of unseating Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul while driving turnout that carried down-ballot candidates to victory. It's worth noting that Zeldin's colleague Elise Stefanik also is due credit for Empire State Republicans' success on Tuesday night.
But when it comes to the midterms' losers, there's RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, NRCC Chairman Rep. Tom Emmer (R-MN), NRSC Chairman Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL), and former President Donald Trump. After hearing what they said in the first 10+ months of 2022 and then watching results come in since Tuesday, one can only ask: What were these Republicans doing?
In a Wednesday Tipsheet, I dove into the answers and accountability that these GOP leaders owe to their party's voters — what the heck happened in the border district House races, the supposedly easy pickup seats in Virginia, and the gubernatorial races that saw GOP challengers seeking to topple unpopular Democrats who failed their citizens during COVID and have overseen a surge in violent crime?
But, now facing calls from Republican voters and probably more than a few of their own candidates for some accountability, these Republican leaders are doubling down on their inexplicable actions and seemingly trying to make things even worse for themselves.
On Fox News Wednesday afternoon, Ronna McDaniel claimed that the RNC never used the term "red wave" in 2022 before confusingly saying a red wave "did happen." But, in fact, the RNC did refer to a coming "red wave," and Tuesday definitely did not see a Republican surge.
Just a cursory search of the GOP and McDaniels' tweets finds numerous examples of "red wave" hype being used earlier in 2022. So why claim the national party "never" raised hopes of a "red wave" in November?
When it comes to the committees tasked with securing, protecting, and expanding GOP majorities in Congress, we've already covered how Sen. Rick Scott was on a yacht in Italy in August while the NRSC was running low on funds just as voters began tuning into the midterm races en masse. Was that a result of misplaced confidence? The wrong priorities? Just poor planning?
For Rep. Tom Emmer's part, what was he doing directing NRCC funds to make three last-minute six-figure ad buys in congressional districts that Biden carried by 20 points in 2020? Why not make targeted buys to ensure that more within-reach tossup districts were going to flip red on election night?
Of course, as the polls closed and races were called on Tuesday, it became clear that Republicans were not going to see a red wave sweep through Biden +20 districts, and Emmer's efforts did not see much pickup in many of the "tossup" districts that could have benefitted from more funding in the midterm campaign's final days.
Opposite Emmer's efforts to expand the GOP's congressional map into what became inconceivable territory, Democrat campaign groups triaged their battle map, made some tough choices when it came to allocating ad money and were able to hold the GOP to a margin so slim that we still don't know for certain who will control the House in the next Congress. Why was the NRCC throwing money at long-shot races instead of shoring up GOP incumbents and spending money in more winnable districts?
Then there was House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy. As Vespa reported, McCarthy's "victory" (huh?) speech came more than six hours after he told supporters to be at a D.C. party to celebrate what he promised would be a decisive victory for Republicans.
Vespa noted the remarks were "beyond tone-deaf" when, around 2:00 a.m. on Wednesday, McCarthy finally showed his face and promised, "When you wake up tomorrow, we will be in the majority, and Nancy Pelosi will be in the minority." But by the time most Americans woke up on Wednesday, that was still not the case.
McCarthy had rolled out his "Commitment to America" as his rendition of Newt Gingrich's "Contract With America" with the promise it would win over voters and be the blueprint for their healthy majority in the new Congress. What happened there?
Last but certainly not least is Trump. What on earth was he doing Tuesday night into Wednesday morning? First, he made a celebratory post on Truth Social cheering the fact that GOP nominee Joe O'Dea had lost the Colorado U.S. Senate race which made…zero sense.
If Trump really intends to run and win in 2024, he's going to need friendly senators, or at least as many with an "R" next to their name as possible, if he wants to get anything done. Sure, Murkowski, Collins, and Romney aren't always on board with the rest of the Republican conference, but they're more likely to be of help than a Democrat.
Trump also ripped one of his own candidates, Don Bolduc, whom he'd endorsed in New Hampshire, for losing his Senate race against incumbent Maggie Hassan. According to Trump, Bolduc was unsuccessful because he didn't keep talking about the 2020 election outcome as much as the former president wanted.
But where was Trump's financial support in New Hampshire and elsewhere across the country after his endorsements helped push primary candidates through to the general election? He bragged about how much he fundraised for his midterm candidates, but the amount he spent was a fraction of what his PACs brought in. Why the hesitancy to spend the money that could have helped push Bolduc and Oz to victory or helped Herschel Walker avoid a runoff in Georgia?
After Tuesday night and the rest of this week's results, Republican voters and conservative activists are deeply disappointed and have growing questions about how so many leaders in the national GOP apparatus got so far ahead of themselves only to deliver an overall abysmal outcome in a year that should have been easy to win.
For those same leaders to now flippantly try to skate by without acknowledging their role in what went wrong won't fly. It's time for answers on what Republican leaders were doing in the run-up to Tuesday, and it's time for answers on what Republicans are doing now to make sure this doesn't happen again.