by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
A cloud hangs over Republicans. The election did not go as well as they thought. They expected the results nationwide to resemble the results in Florida, where Republicans walloped Democrats. Didn’t happen. Florida now seems to be as exceptional politically as it is culturally.
Races across the country are much closer than expected. Many have yet to be called. Chances are that the House will flip to Republicans, and Senate control will depend on the outcome of Adam Laxalt’s race in Nevada and a probable December runoff between Raphael Warnock and Herschel Walker in Georgia. It may be a month before we know for sure, but Joe Biden can still become the fifth straight president to lose Congress in a midterm election.
Yet any Republican win will be surprisingly close, hard fought, and ugly. The national exit poll and the Fox news voter analysis help us understand what happened. I came away from the data thinking that the 2022 campaign turned on President Biden, abortion, and which party best represents the American center. None of these factors helped Republicans.
Biden is an unpopular president. The exit poll puts his job approval rating at 44 percent. He’s at 43 percent in the Fox analysis. Since 1946, presidents with less than 50 percent job approval have lost an average of 37 House seats. Biden will do better than average.
Why? Because voters distinguished between the man and his party.
In 2018, 38 percent of voters said that they cast ballots to oppose Donald Trump. They broke 94 percent to 4 percent for the Democrats, helping the party gain 41 House seats. A third of the electorate said Trump didn’t figure into their votes. These voters went for Republicans, but only slightly—52 percent to 44 percent.
In 2022, by contrast, only 32 percent of voters in the national exit poll said that they cast ballots to oppose Biden.