Opinion: National GOP Fell Short Of Expectations

By John Hood

RALEIGH — The victors are crowing. The vanquished are moaning, or spinning, or deflecting blame. Pundits and campaign professionals are scouring the precinct-level results or poll exits for evidence that validates their strategies or proves their favorite theories.

That’s all fine with me. I’ve long been fascinated with the art and science of campaigns myself, though as a journalist rather than a practitioner.

When it comes to the 2022 midterms, however, I don’t think we need elaborate statistical models or inside information to understand what happened. Generally speaking, the issue environment favored the Republicans. In some key races, however, Democrats nominated superior candidates.

In North Carolina, the net result was a good Republican cycle. The GOP regained a supermajority in the North Carolina Senate and got within a seat of it in the House (and may end up with a working supermajority on budget issues, at least). The GOP won both seats up for grabs on the Supreme Court, as well as four more on the Court of Appeals. Republicans made gains on county commissions and school boards. And, of course, North Carolinians contributed to the Republicans’ play for the U.S. Senate by electing Ted Budd.

Still, Democrats won the state’s two most-competitive races for the U.S. House: the 1st District (Don Davis defeating Sandy Smith) and the 13th District (Wiley Nickel defeating Bo Hines). And outside of North Carolina, the Republicans fell considerably short of expectations.

Both parties’ bases turned out strongly, motivated as much as anything else by negative polarization (“the other side must be stopped!”). But as is clearly evident in the contrasting performances of Republican gubernatorial and Senate candidates in places like Georgia and New Hampshire, there were enough swing voters present — soft partisans, ticket-splitters, and true independents — to determine the outcomes.

The issues these voters cared about most were inflation, the economy, law and order, and abortion. On three of the four, Republicans had an edge.

For example, swing voters blamed the Biden administration and the Democratic Congress for runaway inflation, fueled both by excessive demand (i.e. trillions of dollars in debt-funded giveaways) and inadequate supply (constrained first by COVID-era rules and then by other regulations). To the extent they assume the Federal Reserve’s anti-inflation policies will trigger a recession in the coming months, these voters blamed Biden and his party for that, too.

As for law and order, swing voters resented being told they were imagining the recent spikes in violent crime and the crisis on the southern border. They also resented being told that if they truly cared about democracy and the rule of law, they should vote for Democratic candidates for federal, state, and local office. Of course most of these voters didn’t agree with the rioters who broke into the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. But they also didn’t agree with the rioters who broke many of America’s downtowns during the summer of 2020. They remember the dozens of deaths and serious injuries that ensued, the billions of dollars in property damage, and the craven responses of many public officials in urban areas, overwhelmingly Democrats.

Most of these voters want their governments to fund and deploy more police, not fewer. They want order restored. And they want their reasonable expectations to be met, not deplored.

Given this generally favorable issue environment, why didn’t the Republicans fare better at the polls, particularly outside of North Carolina? Because in many instances they nominated inexperienced and unappealing candidates. Some couldn’t stop indulging Donald Trump’s delusions about the 2020 elections. Others mishandled the abortion issue — opposing its legality even in cases of rape and incest — or failed to articulate a credible alternative to Biden’s economic policies.

On inflation, the economy, crime, the rule of law, school closures during COVID, and a host of other issues, the policies Democrats enacted or championed are unpopular. To the extent Republicans failed to translate this opportunity into sweeping victories around the country, they have no one to blame but themselves.

John Hood is a John Locke Foundation board member. His latest books, Mountain Folk and Forest Folk, combine epic fantasy with early American history (FolkloreCycle.com).

29 COMMENTS

  1. GOP fell short of the expectations BECAUSE of the GOP and RNC. They are failures for NC. But overall, in the country, we gained more than we lost.

  2. The fact that Fetterman, who has clear and undeniable cognitive impairments beat a well spoken medical doctor in Pennsylvania is a testament to the state of American politics. The left is completely insane and bewildered. Don’t have to worry about a candidate being a free thinker if they cannot think at all. Just a shell of a robot able to vote.

    • “… well spoken medical doctor” who was banned for two years from presenting research at the American Association for Thoracic Surgery conference after submitting a shoddy study that he ultimately was forced to withdraw.

      Or, how about the slew of products Oz peddled on his show, such as his promotion of green coffee bean extract for weight loss and a diet of “endive, red onion and sea bass” to treat ovarian cancer. Both treatments, and many others Oz promoted on his show, have been challenged as ineffective by healthcare and physicians’ groups.

  3. That’s because Americans do not want to live under Autocratic Dictatorship, and LIES spouted by the idiots in GOP leadership. It’s not a left or right thing, it’s about America and doing what’s best for all of America. Our elected officials use to compromise to do what’s best for this country. Now all these idiots want to do is pander to get re-elected. The only thing they want is power, and don’t get me started on the Orange 🍊 Idiot……………..

      • In case you missed the exchange with Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Supreme Court confirmation, it began with Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) asking “Can you provide a definition for the word ‘woman’?” as she questioned Jackson about a transgender athlete.
        “Can I provide a definition? No. I can’t,” responded Jackson.
        It was clear what kind of answer Blackburn wanted: Something chromosomal. Something to do with uteri or double X’s or estrogen — never mind the millions of women (postmenopausal, post-hysterectomied, infertile or living with Turner syndrome) who would not fit those definitions. Or maybe what Blackburn wanted was exactly what she got: Jackson declining to answer so that conservative groups could use that as political fodder.

      • @Brett: A woman is someone who earns $0.80 for every dollar of male wage. A woman is someone who represents 52% of registered voters but only 27% of congressional seats. A woman is someone who represents 57% of the labor force but only 8% of CEOs.

        But nice job deflecting the actual question

    • “A person was on a plane, said there were about six people like that person, more or less, and what happened is the entire plane filled up with the looters, the anarchists, rioters — people that were obviously looking for trouble,” Trump insisted. “And the person felt very uncomfortable on the plane.” He added: “This would be a person you know. So I will see whether or not I can get that person. I’ll let them know, and I can see whether or not I can get that person to speak to you,” he said. “This was a firsthand account of a plane going from Washington to wherever.”

      “But with regard to the forest, when trees fall down after a short period of time, about 18 months, they become very dry, they become really like a match stick and they get up you know there’s no more water pouring through and they become very, very they just explode.”

      “Thanks to advances, we have pioneered the fatality rate.” djt, RNC acceptance speech, Aug 27, 2020

      “The Continental Army … seized victory from Cornwallis of Yorktown … Our army … It rammed the ramparts. It took over the airports, it did everything it had to do…” — Donald Trump, July 4, 2019, talking about the battle of Yorktown in 1781.

      “And I tested very positively in another sense, this morning. I tested positively toward negative, right? So I tested perfectly this morning. Meaning I tested negative. … But that’s a way of saying it: positively toward the negative.”

    • @Captian,
      “Anyone who voted for a person whose brain is not fully functioning should…… have THEIR head examined” A perfect example of a Trump voter!!

  4. The GOP underperformed because they always play nice and want to ‘reach across the aisle.” The sooner they run harder and more aggressive campaigns, the better. Florida is an excellent example of that.

    • The “Party of No” will never reach across the aisle when the President is a Democrat. And the “Party of No” will not reach across the aisle if the Democrats control either the House and/or Senate. That strategy was adopted during the Obama terms and remains in place today.

      • Why should they? Every time that they have done so, they get s****ed over by the Demokkkrats and don’t so much as get a jar of vaseline for their trouble.
        I’d rather see a deadlock in DC than Biden’s agenda advance one inch. I mean why should the Repubs even cooperate with the ‘unifier’ when he basically called them and their followers Nazis?

        • Interesting Kim that you’ve contradicted yourself. Which is it — Republicans reach across the aisle or they don’t?

          Not sure what the jar of Vaseline is about. Could you please describe what that means? Thanks!

          • Affordable Care Act for one when The “Maverick” McCain voted to let it go through and passed the bill to us taxpayers. What did the Repubs get? Not a d*** thing.
            Or, what about that so-called Infrastructure Bill that our Repub Senatards voted for? What did they get? Nothing. Except for more name calling by Biden.
            As for the vaseline comment: think about it.

        • What does the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act mean for North Carolina?

          On Dec. 9, 2021, the NC Chamber hosted state and federal policy leaders and infrastructure experts for a virtual conversation, “What the Infrastructure Bill Means for NC.”

          Roads and bridges: North Carolina could receive $7.2 billion for highway programs and another $457 million for bridge replacement and repairs through congressional funding formulas. North Carolina can also compete for the $12.5 billion Bridge Investment Program for economically significant bridges and nearly $16 billion of NEW national funding in the bill dedicated for major projects that will deliver substantial economic benefits to communities.

          Public Transportation: The state could receive $911 million to improve public transit options.

          Electric Vehicle Charging Network: The state could receive $109 million over the next five years to expand an EV charging network. The state could also apply for some of the $2.5 billion in grant funding for EV charging that is included in the bill.

          Broadband: North Carolina would get at least $100 million (a minimum) to support additional broadband development throughout the state.

          Airports: The state will receive $460 million for infrastructure developments at our airports.

          Climate: North Carolina will get $32 million for protection against wildfires and is eligible for the $3.5 billion in federal funds for weatherization included in the bill.

          Cybersecurity: $27 million

          Water Infrastructure: $1.1 billion

          Source: https://ncchamber.com/issues-advocacy/infrastructure-investment-and-jobs-act/

          • Nothing like spending money we don’t have. Because we so desperately need EV charging stations and expanded public transit.

        • Get a horse! “You’re crazy if you think this fool contraption you call an automobile and you’ve been wasting your time on will ever displace the horse.” Gramps Kim, 1900

          • Not if you drive it like you stole it. Also, how do they generate electricity to charge those precious EVs? Not to mention that those EVs are outside the price range of most consumers.
            Oh yeah, save the climate while going broke in the process. Makes sense if you want to make a statement.

    • They will be under water soon because the politicians don’t believe on science though…so there is that. But at least we have a decent president in office who doesn’t care what party the governor belongs to and doesn’t beg him to kiss his butt in order to get federal aid, which is the state’s right to get after a disaster hits.

          • The Mag gots don’t believe in science – the uneducated at their finest. I am older so I won’t be around for the worst of what is to come – but my grandchildren and future great grandchildren will be. The Arctic has warmed and the ice is melting but that does not mean that we won’t still have snow in some places – so the Republican trick of holding a snowball and denying climate change is beyond ignorant. The weather worldwide is affected in different ways because of the melting ice sheets. Polar vortex ring a bell? it would if you lived up north and froze your butt off and it is caused by the warming of the climate. Norfolk Virginia is already experiencing rising sea levels , then add it stronger hurricanes and periods of heavy rain. Read about what Miami is doing and how much they are having to spend just to keep their roads from flooding now – it isn’t a very long term solution and they know it. They can deny all they want and live in an alternate reality world, but they cannot change the facts about what is happening already and will continue to happen sin the future.

          • Of course. Just like the panic mongering of another Ice Age gracing the cover of Time magazine when I was a kid. That was 40 years ago and here we are-no glaciers covering the Northern Hemisphere.

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