A novel explanation for the GOP’s disappointing midterm comes from Missouri Sen.
The problem, he writes, wasn’t candidate quality but substance: “The old Republican Party is dead.” Because too few candidates backed a Trumpian agenda of protectionism, less legal immigration, a crackdown on Big Tech and an end to tax cuts, “the red wave didn’t land.” Working people who support the Trump agenda “chose to stay home.”
The data don’t bear this out. There were 113.7 million votes cast for House candidates in 2018. Republicans got 51 million and Democrats 60.7 million. Though votes are still being counted in California, so far this year Republicans received 54 million votes to 50.5 million for Democrats. Democrats had an 8.6% margin over Republicans in 2018; Republicans have a 3.3% edge in 2022.
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Mr. Hawley also argues that working-class voters “have little enthusiasm” for the GOP. Data don’t back up this claim, either. According to the Fox News Voter Analysis, white noncollege voters in 2018 were 40% of the turnout and broke 59% Democrat, 39% Republican. In 2022, their share of the turnout ticked up to 41% and the Republican advantage grew to 65% to 32%. It appears Democrats have bigger problems than the GOP does among working-class voters.
Yet Mr. Hawley has half a point: The election results do reflect a problem of substance, specifically the damage Republicans did with candidates who went full-on Trumpy. If they echoed the former president’s issues, tone and stolen-election claims, they often lost and in almost every case ran behind the rest of the Republican ticket.
Ohio’s Sen.-elect J.D. Vance won with more than 2.1 million votes, or 53%, a margin of almost 7 points. But Gov.
a quintessential traditional Republican, won re-election with 63%, receiving 380,000 more votes than Mr. Vance and sweeping the onetime swing state by more than 25 points.
Mr. Vance trailed the rest of the Buckeye Republican statewide ticket, each member of whom won with bigger margins. He received 286,000 fewer votes than the GOP’s attorney general candidate, 248,000 fewer than the Republican secretary of state, 201,000 fewer than the auditor hopeful and 194,000 fewer than the party’s treasurer nominee. All this despite Sen.
super PAC spending $35 million to help Mr. Vance’s struggling campaign.
In the Arizona Senate race, one of Mr. Trump’s biggest acolytes,
lost by 126,000 votes, or 4.9%, the worst performance by a Grand Canyon State GOP Senate candidate in 34 years. The GOP’s secretary of state hopeful,
who claimed the 2020 election was “stolen,” lost by 120,000 votes, or nearly 6%. The more traditional Republican nominee for state treasurer,
won 56% to 44%, receiving nearly 200,000 more votes than either Mr. Masters or Mr. Finchem.
New Hampshire’s Trumpian Senate nominee,
lost by more than 9 points and nearly 57,000 votes, while the Trump-endorsed candidates for the state’s two congressional seats lost by a combined 61,000 votes, both running about 10 points behind the GOP’s expected performance in their districts. Republican Gov.
cruised to a 57% re-election, beating his Democrat opponent by nearly 95,000 votes and running ahead of Mr. Bolduc by 77,000 and the combined vote for the GOP’s two House candidates by almost 75,000.
Washington state’s Third Congressional District provides another example of the Trumpian problem. Propelled by Mr. Trump’s endorsement, veteran
pushed aside incumbent GOP Rep.
Jamie Herrera Beutler
in the primary. But he then lost the general election by less than 1% while the GOP’s extraordinary Senate candidate,
ran ahead of him by 3 to 6 points in every county in the district. Similarly, with Mr. Trump’s endorsement in Michigan’s Third District,
took out incumbent GOP Rep.
in a district rated D+1, then lost in the general election by nearly 13 points.
There are dozens of other examples, but the point is obvious: The principal reason Republicans came up short was that just when Americans were ready to vote for them to check Democratic excesses, the GOP nominated too many radicals and weirdos. Mr. Hawley—who raised a clinched fist in solidarity with those who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021—may not see that, but voters did.
Mr. Rove helped organize the political-action committee American Crossroads and is author of “The Triumph of William McKinley” (Simon & Schuster, 2015).
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