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5 Ways Republicans Won the Midterm Elections Despite Disappointing Results

The midterm elections left the GOP with less governing power than expected, but the results also showed signs of new Republican strengths.

SO WHAT

If what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, Republicans could be in much better shape for 2024.

WHAT HAPPENED

Despite having history and polling on their side in last week’s elections, Republicans failed to win control of the Senate and were expected to barely take the House.

(Source: The Washington Post)

And yet, the GOP’s performance defied critics who say the party can’t appeal to a majority of Americans, including women, racial minorities and the working class.

  • Here are five ways Republicans won the midterms.

THE POPULAR VOTE

Democrats have often complained that Republicans win elections even when they get fewer votes, but this time the reverse appeared to happen.

  • Election analysts projected Republicans to win more than 51% of the popular vote in the midterms, which saw exceptionally high turnout.

MINORITIES

Until recently, it was conventional political wisdom that the Democrats were headed for permanent majority party status due to simple demographic trends, but that wasn’t how it played out.

  • Democrats’ share of the Latino vote in the midterms fell by about 10 percentage points compared to 2018, to 56%-60%, according to exit polling by The Associated Press.
  • The black Democratic vote declined by four to seven points, to 82%, per The AP.
  • Among Asian-American voters, Democrats lost 7 to 21 points, depending on the exit poll, down from more than 70% support from the demographic in 2018.

THE WORKING CLASS

After decades when Republicans were widely viewed as the representatives of big business and the economic elite, the GOP in 2022 continued its reinvention as the party of the working class.

  • Exit polls showed about 55% of voters without a college education — who make up 57% of the U.S. population — backed Republican candidates in 2022 — a notable shift from the 2018 election, when the voters were evenly split.
  • College-educated voters, who make up 43% of the population, this year favored Democrats by 54%-43%.

WOMEN

Women also shifted to the Republican Party in significant numbers, confounding Democratic expectations that the Supreme Court’s June decision overturning Roe v. Wade’s constitutional right to abortion would rally “pro-life” female voters to their side.

  • While women concerned about abortion may have helped Democrats win swing states like Michigan and Pennsylvania, nationally the Democratic lead among women collapsed from 19 points in 2018 to just eight points in 2022, according to CNN exit polls.
  • Large majorities of white women favored Republican candidates in the South and the suburbs, the polls showed.
  • Economic worries and concerns about education, including COVID school closures and ideology, ranked top among considerations driving female voters towards the GOP.

THE ISSUES

Exit polls showed that a majority of voters aligned more closely with Republicans than Democrats on a range of issues. 

  • Around half of voters named the economy, including inflation, as the top issue facing the country in exit polls, and a narrow majority blamed inflation on Democratic policies, while around one in 10 said abortion was their top concern.
  • Center-right columnist Andrew Sullivan noted that Democratic focus on gender ideology was out of step with most Americans, as “26 percent said our society’s values on gender identity and sexual orientation are changing for the better, 50 percent for the worse.”
  • Voters also rejected radical racial ideology, in the form of “critical race theory,” wherever it was presented on the ballot, Sullivan noted, pointing to conservative success in school board elections.

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