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Hard and Clear Lessons Emerge for Republicans Following 2022 Midterms

AP Photo/Ben Gray

As we mentioned on Wednesday, Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock won re-election against GOP challenger Herschel Walker this week, the expected runoff outcome that polling accurately predicted.  Incredibly, top Democrats from Warnock to the White House are still repeating the debunked "suppression" lie, which they cite no matter the outcome.  It's shameful.  Every incumbent Senator has now officially won this cycle, from both parties, with only one open seat flipping from one party to the other.  Looking back at the Georgia race in particular, there are glaring lessons to be learned about the sorts of Republicans that swing and independent voters are willing or eager to support -- and those they are not.  It's part of an imperfect but clear pattern that played out in a host of key races across the country.  Untested, 'high-negatives', MAGA-aligned candidates -- many of whom Democrats actively boosted in GOP primaries, hoping to run against them and beat them in the general, with near-universal success where attempted -- significantly under-performed.  'MAGA' nominees, compared to more 'traditional' Republicans, were slapped by a five-percentage-point penalty, on average, by voters:


Donald J. Trump’s announcement on Tuesday that he would run for president in 2024 came at an especially awkward time for Republicans. They were supposed to dominate the midterm elections — but fell well short. Mr. Trump appears to be a significant reason for that showing, based on an analysis of the results by House district. His preferred candidates underperformed last week, helping Democrats hold the Senate and helping keep the race for House control close. Overall, his preferred primary candidates underperformed other G.O.P. candidates by about five percentage points...The analysis is based on an unusual measure: The Cook Political Report’s primary scoreboard. The Cook report scored each contested Republican primary as a victory for either the “traditional” wing of the Republican Party or for the “MAGA” wing of the party. With the benefit of the final results, we can gauge how well the MAGA candidates fared compared with other Republicans. The five-point penalty measure controls for how the district voted in 2020 and whether the district was an open seat or held by a Democratic or Republican incumbent. Here’s another way to think about it: Non-MAGA Republicans in 2022 ran six points better than Mr. Trump did in 2020; the MAGA Republicans barely fared better than him at all. And many prominent MAGA Republicans ran even further behind recent Republican benchmarks.


One may not like the lessons that were delivered by independent voters, but that doesn't make those lessons any less real or evident. On Stuart Varney's Fox Business show, I was asked about these dynamics, and used the Georgia results to illustrate the consequences of this dichotomy:

Here are some of the receipts, fortifying points I raised in the clips above: 

A 'generic' Republican would very likely have beaten Warnock, because every other statewide Republican prevailed by outright 5-9 point majorities last month.  The difference in the Senate race is that Walker lost Georgia independents by 11 points; Gov. Brian Kemp won independent men, and narrowly lost independent women.  I expanded on some of these points in an extended analysis on my radio show:


I'll leave you with the thought that perhaps growing numbers of Republican-aligned voters are starting to internalize what happened and why, with an eye toward the future:

In the latter poll, Trump (the only declared candidate) leads the potential 2024 GOP presidential field, at 35 percent.  Ron DeSantis is close behind at 33 percent.  Everyone else is in the mid-to-low single digits.  In a hypothetical head-to-head, DeSantis leads Trump by five points.  

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