Blue and Red Waves Swirl; What Happened in the ’22 Midterms

By Maddon Hoh-Choi

Wow! What an election night. As of the time this article is being written, California is still counting ballots (with 43% in so far), but races for the House, Senate, and Governors are being called across the country. 

Despite many expectations of a red wave sweeping across the nation, the GOP hit a roadblock on their quest to put a check on President Biden. The results were extremely unusual for a midterm election under a Democratic President, with Dems unexpectedly making big gains in Governor races, likely holding the Senate, possibly holding the house, and even flipping several state legislatures. Abortion access and fear of threats to democracy seemingly managed to eclipse the economy and crime as the most important issues to voters in the final stages of the election cycle. In this issue of Madd on Politics, we’ll go through a rundown of some of the important results of this year’s midterm elections. 

Voters Uphold Abortion Rights

According to Gallup Polling, the percent of Americans who identify as “Pro-Choice” surged after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, which ended the conditional right to an abortion. The defeat of anti-abortion propositions (starting with Kansas’s May referendum) and the landslide wins of pro-choice propositions show a clear backlash to the decision, even among moderate and conservative voters. 

Pictured: California’s proposed amendment that adds a provision protecting abortion access in the State Constition

California’s Prop 1, which would ensure abortion access is protected by the state constitution, and is currently winning 65% of the vote. Michigan’s “Constitutional Right to Reproductive Freedom” Proposition, which would permanently repeal the state’s 1931 abortion ban, won with 57% of the vote. Moreover, red states such as Montana and Kentucky rejected anti-abortion propositions that were placed on the ballot by their conservative legislatures. The question now is: will this pro-choice surge continue into future election cycles?

Pictured: Kentucky’s proposed amendment clarifying that that their state constitution does NOT protect abortion access

Red Tsunami for #4 and #3

While Florida experienced an influx of Conservatives leaving New York because of COVID restrictions in 2020, a red wave hit both the 4th and 3rd largest states last night. 

In 2020, Donald Trump won Florida by a close 3-point win over Joe Biden. Last Tuesday, however, Republican Governor Ron DeSantis crushed his opponent to win reelection by a whopping 20-point margin. In a show of strength of the local GOP, DeSantis also flipped Miami-Dade County, which is majority Hispanic, and voted for Hillary Clinton by almost 30 points in 2016. Moreover, Florida also reelected Republican Senator Marco Rubio and (partially because of a gerrymandered map drawn by Republicans) flipped 4 Congressional seats red. National Democrats have declared the FL Dem state party dead, calling for President Biden to not even bother contesting it in 2024. 

New York also broke hard against Democrats, with their incumbent Governor Kathy Hochul, currently only leading Republican nominee Lee Zeldin by a weak margin of 5-points (In comparison, Biden won the state by 23-points in 2020). Democrats also lost 6 Congressional districts that voted for Biden in 2020, two of which voted for Biden by double digits. Many pundits have blamed an increase in crime as the cause, with NY Dems collapsing in the suburbs around New York City and Upstate. New York’s 4th Congressional district, located in suburban Nassau, is a strong example of local Dem failures: Republican nominee Anthony Despacito won by 4-points, despite the district being won for Biden by 15-points in 2020. The incompetence of the NY state party is a mix of their Dem gerrymander being struck down by the courts and the top of the ticket (Senate and Governor candidates) significantly underperforming, which dragged down Democratic candidates on the rest of the ballot.

Democratic Governors Defy Political Headwinds

It would’ve been completely unbelievable to say this summer, but it’s looking increasingly likely that not a single Democratic incumbent Governor will lose reelection, and Democratic candidates have flipped multiple open seats. Our Governor, Gavin Newsom, was declared the victor by the Associated Press two minutes after polls closed. Colorado’s Jared Polis romped, crushing his opponent by a 17-point margin, turning a traditionally purple state dark blue. Swing State Democrats in Michigan and Wisconsin held on, even making gains from their 2018 wins. Moreover, the Oregon Governor’s race, which had all the factors pointing to a GOP flip, saw Democrat Tina Kotek still pull off a narrow win. With moderate GOP incumbents retiring or term-limited, Democrats also flipped Governor’s offices in Massachusetts and Maryland. 

Notably, Democrat Josh Shapiro —who has been floated as a potential Presidential candidate in the future — beat election-denier Republican Doug Mastriano by a landslide 14-point win in the crucial swing state of Pennsylvania. Moreover, Democratic Kansas Governor Laura Kelly pulled off the upset of a lifetime, narrowly winning reelection in her Trump+15 state. 

Nevada Arizona’s gubernatorial races are still in question, as networks are still waiting to see who mail-in and late ballots break towards. Overall, Democratic Governors and most (but not all) candidates were able to successfully create their own personal brands, managing to escape any negative impacts of President Biden’s low approval ratings. 

Pictured: The 2022 Gubernatorial Elections; Democrats strongly outperformed expectations. (Nevada, Arizona, and Alaska have not been called yet)

Most Republican Incumbents Crush Dem Challengers 

A sore spot for Dems is the loss of Stacey Abrams in Georgia and Beto O’Rourke in Texas. There was hope that they could flip their respective states blue, but they ultimately failed to unseat the GOP incumbents. In a rematch from 2018, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp defeated Abrams by a solid 8-point margin, significantly gaining from his narrow 2-point win in 2018. Kemp won by a solid margin, despite Incumbent Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock leading in his Senate race by 1%. Texas’s Greg Abbott whooped O’Rourke by an 11-point margin: significantly outperforming Trump’s 2020 performance.

Much like Florida, Governor’s Races in the traditional swing states of New Hampshire, Ohio, and Iowa also ended in double-digit routes for GOP incumbents. One of the last liberal Republicans in the country, Phil Scott of Vermont (who says he voted for Biden in 2020), won reelection by a whopping 50-point margin, winning a commanding 71% of the vote. The level of ticket-splitting that made this win possible was impressive, as the VT Democratic nominee for Senate simultaneously won by 40 points on the same ballot. This race, and other GOP reelection landslides across the country, was made possible by liberal and moderate voters, many of whom voted for Biden in 2020, also approving of GOP leadership at the state level. 

Pictured: Vermont’s Centrist GOP Governor, Phil Scott, sweeping every town and city in the state.

Dems Hold the Senate, GOP poised to flip House

In a crushing defeat for Republicans, Democrat John Fetterman beat Mehmet Oz, a celebrity doctor and Republican Nominee, in the Pennsylvania Senate race — flipping the Seat blue. There wasn’t much partisan change otherwise: Democratic incumbents won reelection in New Hampshire, Colorado, and Washington, Arizona, and Nevada. Meanwhile, Republican incumbents held on in Florida, Wisconsin, and Utah, and GOP candidates kept Ohio and North Carolina red. 

Georgia, again, will go to a runoff between Democrat Raphael Warnock and Republican Hershel Walker. This will not be necessary for Senate control as Democrats already have the 50 seat minimum for a senate majority.

The House is more complicated to analyze but long story short, Democrats flipped several seats across the country, offsetting tough losses in New York, Florida, and other areas. If Democrats want to keep control of the House, they need to sweep swing districts in California (a states that has a reputation for counting mail-in ballots slowly). As ballots are counted in the coming days, the West coast will now decide whether Democrats can keep their trifecta and can expand Biden’s agenda, or whether Republicans can flip the house and create a check on the President’s power. 

The people of America have voted, now all we need to do is wait and see the results.

Pictured: The 2022 House Elections; dark red indicates a GOP Flip, dark blue indicates a DEM flip, light colors indicates a hold, grey indicates that a race has not been called yet. (Map courtesy of Twitter user @maxtmcc)