As cruel as it may seem in the era of participation trophies and college admissions without tests, there are winners and losers in each election cycle, even when the election – like this one – is pretty much a status quo election.
Despite what you may have read or seen, last night was not a good night for congressional Democrats. They lost their majority in the House and maybe in the Senate. That said, the bleeding was not nearly as bad as anticipated.
For the Republicans, it was also not a very good night, as expectations exceeded performance and a midterm election that should have been triumphant turned inexplicably into a disappointment.
It was a mixed night for President Biden. Assuming the Republicans take the House, the administration’s legislating days are over, and a close Senate with Sens. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Jon Tester of Montana up for reelection in 2024 is not great either. But they avoided a complete disaster in the worst midterm environment in 40 years.
It was a very good night for Gov. Ron DeSantis as he showed the way forward by winning large, complicated Florida by 20 points and winning Hispanics and women and driving supermajorities in the state legislature.
Former President Donald Trump had the worst night. While he did well with most of his endorsements, the ones that really mattered lost (Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania) or are struggling (Herschel Walker in Georgia). Candidates adjacent to Mr. Trump underperformed almost everywhere. His grip on the party, which has been slipping for 24 months, has been further diminished.
It was a bad night for Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. The conclusion from the election results seems pretty clear: The voters seem content with the current situation, or at least unconvinced that a Republican-controlled Congress will make a material difference. Who can blame them? The Republicans offered no positive agenda – and have not for six years — so it was difficult for voters to figure out how they might differ from the current ruling party.
Also, Mr. McCarthy now has to deal with a smaller-than-anticipated caucus, which is significantly to his right and significantly more Trump-adjacent. It will be a difficult two years.
It was a tough evening for right-to-life advocates, who lost ballot initiatives in California, Michigan, Vermont and Kentucky and who may have underestimated the relative importance of the issue in some legislative races.
It was a good night for opinion researchers, who seem to have been pretty close to the target, which suggests they have corrected the problem of under-sampling Republicans.
It was a good night for campaign consultants. Donors continued to pour cash into campaigns (about $10 billion spent this cycle), despite the fact that money has become so prevalent in politics that it no longer appears dispositive with respect to campaigns (ask Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke).
It was a good night for conspiracy theorists. Three-quarters of voters indicated the nation is off on the wrong track, yet as of this moment, not a single incumbent governor or senator lost his or her reelection. That seems odd and will provide a grist for the theorists for the next two years.
Finally, and perhaps most inexcusably, it was a bad night for those who make predictions, including this columnist, who was off by five or so seats in the House and one or two seats in the Senate. Sorry about that.
• Michael McKenna, a columnist for The Washington Times, co-hosts “The Unregulated Podcast.” He was most recently a deputy assistant to the president and deputy director of the Office of Legislative Affairs at the White House.