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How the Democrats stifled the “red wave” despite high inflation, low approval ratings


SPOKANE, WA. — Historically, mid-term elections are a referendum of the presidential party; this means that the party that owns the president usually loses a large number of seats in Congress.

Harry Truman lost 55 House seats, Bill Clinton lost 53, and Barack Obama lost 63.

Despite skyrocketing inflation and an approval rating of only 45%, President Biden did not.

“Democrats lost fewer seats than we expected,” said Dr. Aaron Heitfield, a political science professor at Whitworth University. “Republicans didn’t turn out as well as expected, and that’s surprising for a lot of reasons.”

One of those reasons is that the Republicans were in a year of redistricting; meaning they were able to redraw their constituencies to create a profitable advantage in the midterms. That, combined with low approval ratings, rising crime and economic frustration, has combined to create a great opportunity for Republicans to make a run for Congress.

“Overall, these numbers suggest that we should have expected the Democrats to lose quite a few seats and certainly lose the House by a fairly wide margin.”

Instead, Democrats throttled Republicans in several different races.

Dr. Heitfield, whose area of ​​focus is congressional elections, suggests that this is partly due to Donald Trump remaining active in politics in a way that former presidents typically do not.

“President Trump endorsed hundreds of candidates in this election, many of those candidates lost and lost in high-profile races.”

Some of these races include Pennsylvania and Michigan; where both Trump-backed Republicans failed in key battleground states. Although some Republicans backed by the former president won big, including J.D. Vance, who won in Ohio against incumbent Democratic Sen. Tim Ryan.

However, so far the campaign of most of these candidates has ended in defeat.

Dr. Heitfield theorizes that Trump’s approval rating doesn’t hold as much weight as it used to. In fact, it can work against the party.

“In a way, it shows that this was not an election like the Biden referendum,” Dr. Heitfield said. “But also, in a sense, a referendum on former President Trump.”

He explained that both Democrats and Republicans are unhappy with the Biden administration’s handling of inflation.

Still, despite voters’ disillusionment with the state of the economy, Dr. Heitfield suggests voters preferred holding candidates accountable for their relationship with former President Trump.

“It looks like it may have mobilized voters in a way that Republicans may not have appreciated.”

Another reason Republicans haven’t taken control of Congress could be problems with the ballot. Dr. Heathfield suggests that when it came to abortion, for example, the risk of losing that health care option mobilized Democratic voters to turn out in large numbers in the midterm elections.

The importance of this election is certainly reflected in the total cost – “Open Secrets” predicts that the total cost of the midterm elections will exceed $16.7 billion.

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