Why did the predicted red wave turn into a ripple?

Some key races in the 2022 midterm elections have not yet been decided, but the vote’s bottom line seems clear: Republicans did not do as well as they had hoped, and Democrats did better than expected.

Why We Wrote This

Democrats overcame historical trends and poor economic conditions in a number of key races, though the full picture is still emerging. Voters in particular seemed to reject statewide candidates who denied the 2020 results.

If there is a message from the razor-thin midterms, it could be: American voters care about democracy. Candidates who echoed former President Donald Trump’s false claims about the 2020 election lost every governor’s race except in Arizona, which remained too close to call Wednesday. And polls pointed to weak Republican candidates in some important races. 

“Even though there is a lot of latent dissatisfaction about the way the country is going and the state of the economy and the performance of the president, there just isn’t an enthusiasm for the alternative,” says David Hopkins, a political scientist at Boston College.

As of this writing, control of the Senate was in the balance, and could remain so until a December runoff in Georgia. The GOP appeared to be in a better position to gain a majority in the House.

Voters interviewed in three key states – Pennsylvania, Georgia, and Arizona – were not necessarily delighted with their choices.

“They both seem so extreme. Where’s the middle?” asked Helene Dunn, a Pennsylvania voter.

Why did the predicted red wave lap onto the beach as a relative ripple?

Some key races in the 2022 midterm elections have not yet been decided, but the vote’s bottom line seems clear: Republicans did not do as well as they hoped. Democrats showed unexpected strength, given the political fundamentals of President Joe Biden’s unpopularity and voters’ widespread economic concerns.

If there is a message from the razor-thin midterms, it could be: American voters care about democracy. Candidates who echoed former President Donald Trump’s false claims about the 2020 election lost every governor’s race except in Arizona, which remained too close to call Wednesday.

Why We Wrote This

Democrats overcame historical trends and poor economic conditions in a number of key races, though the full picture is still emerging. Voters in particular seemed to reject statewide candidates who denied the 2020 results.

Other immediate takeaways: Candidate quality still matters, with polls pointing to weak Republican candidates in some important Senate and gubernatorial races. And in a post-Roe America, abortion is a driver at the ballot, with voters in five states – Michigan, Vermont, Kentucky, Montana, and California – all voting in favor of abortion rights.

“Even though there is a lot of latent dissatisfaction about the way the country is going and the state of the economy and the performance of the president, there just isn’t an enthusiasm for the alternative,” says David Hopkins, a political scientist at Boston College.



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