Midterms are supposed to be the opposition party’s time to shine.
This should be especially the case when there is once-in-a-generation inflation and when the vast majority of Americans think the country is on the wrong track.
Instead, President Joe Biden and the Democrats are poised to have one of the best four midterms for the party controlling the White House over the past century.
So what happened?
The GOP’s “candidate problem”
Analysts, myself included, noted that Republicans seemed to have a candidate sympathy problem. Pre-election polls showed Republicans in all key races had negative net preference ratings. The Democrats were much better appreciated than their adversaries.
Many of these Republicans were endorsed by former President Donald Trump and had falsely claimed – at least at one point – that they believed he had won the 2020 election.
Exit polls confirm Republicans’ “candidate problem”. says the same for the Democrat.
We also see it in gubernatorial elections. Republicans have nominated gubernatorial deniers in the 2020 election in a number of blue or swing states. None of them have been projected as the winner, and only Republican Kari Lake of Arizona has a chance of winning.
Two presidents on the track
At the national level, there are two presidents in the spotlight: the current (Biden) and the former (Trump). Both men sported net negative positive ratings, according to exit polls.
The fact that you have a current president and a former president who are both unpopular is not unusual.
What’s unusual is that of the 18% who see neither Biden nor Trump favorably in the exit polls, 40% of them voted for the Democrats. The backlash against one president this year may have been negated by the backlash against the other.
Abortion First Voters
You could say that what really made this semester unique was the abortion. Despite high inflation, only 31% of voters in the exit poll said it was the most important issue for their vote. A nearly identical percentage (27%) declared abortion, and those voters overwhelmingly chose Democratic candidates for Congress.
This matches the dynamic we saw in the House special election after the overthrow of Roe v. Wade in June. Democrats have started to do much better than before the Supreme Court decision.
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