In Michigan, John Gibbs, who ousted a House Republican who voted to impeach Donald Trump in a primary in August, was beaten last week by about 13 points. In Washington state, Republican Joe Kent, who also took down GOP impeachment Trump, suffered the same fate when he was expected to lose by a narrower margin over the weekend in a more conservative district.
And in Arizona, Kari Lake, among the most ardent messengers of false claims that the 2020 election was stolen, reportedly lost the gubernatorial race to Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs on Monday. In Colorado, Rep. Lauren Boebert, who made Islamophobic comments and was a vocal defender of rioters during the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, clung to a slim lead in a surprisingly tight race. .
Across the country, many Republicans who ran midterm this year to promote far-right platforms on issues such as abortion, elections, LGBTQ rights and other topics have lost their races, even in some unexpected places where the GOP was favored to win. Many were raised by former President Donald Trump and associated with his militant movement.
In post-election interviews, Democrats and many Republicans said they viewed the results as a decisive rejection of right-wing political extremism, propelled by Trump. In the eyes of some GOP members, this is an alarming development in a year when the party expected to make big gains due to inflation, the president’s low approval rating Biden and historical trends. Now the party counts with the results as it looks ahead to future elections and political debates.
“In any environment where the electorate is unhappy, this should be winnable, but the Republicans failed and couldn’t take advantage of it because Donald Trump promoted primary candidates who were not perceived favorably by a general voting population,” Kevin Madden said. , a longtime GOP operative. “There were a lot of missed opportunities.”
In the primaries, the former president backed far-right candidates, propelling them ahead of more moderate alternatives, who then lost in the general election. In other cases, he joined their side later in the campaign. A representative for Trump did not respond to a request for comment.
It was unclear if the Republican Party as a whole would go in a different direction after what many GOP members considered a disappointing election. Trump has signaled his intention to run for president again. In Florida, there is Republican pressure to implement stricter abortion laws. And a majority of election naysayers on the Congressional or key statewide ballot are expected to win their races starting Monday.
National exit polls showed an electorate concerned about the future of democracy, with 68% of voters saying it was under threat. Nearly 8 in 10 voters said they were confident the election was conducted fairly and accurately in their state, and 61% said Biden was legitimately elected. Only 10% of voters said abortions should be illegal in all cases.
The Democrats retained a majority in the US Senate, and in the House they held their own in many competitive races. With the House majority up for grabs on Monday, it was clear that the massive annihilation some Republicans had hoped to see in the lower house of Congress had not materialized.
In major state races, voters also rejected Republicans who ran on far-right platforms. Voters on the six major battlegrounds where Trump tried to reverse his 2020 defeat rejected election-unwilling candidates running to control their state’s electoral systems. These included GOP candidates such as Jim Marchant in Nevada and Mark Finchem in Arizona, who embraced false claims about the 2020 presidential election.
Republican Arizona Senate candidate Blake Masters was expected to lose last week to Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Arizona). Masters, an early Trump-endorsed candidate in the GOP primary, had drawn attacks from Democrats for considering privatizing Social Security and endorsing a nationwide ban on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.
In Michigan, Governor Gretchen Whitmer easily beat Republican Tudor Dixon. Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers defeated GOP Tim Michels, and Minnesota Governor Tim Walz prevailed against Republican Scott Jensen. The three Republicans had denied or questioned the result of the last presidential election.
While many Republicans and Democrats said Trump was heavily guilty of the midterm results, some pointed to the political stances GOP candidates have taken on issues like abortion and LGBTQ rights, as well as their divisive rhetoric.
Michael Stratton, a longtime Democratic agent in Denver, said many voters rejected the “lack of civility” often displayed by Boebert and his allies. “Ordinary grassroots people were embarrassed by his conduct,” he said, adding that voters were looking for a viable alternative in that district.
Stratton said “People have made a conscious decision to think about the value of democracy and women’s choice, and it’s extraordinary that they’re paying more for bread, more for gas, more for milk , but democracy is still worth it for them”.
Many Democrats have strongly pushed for the protection of abortion rights and called on Republicans to oppose it. Abortion rights advocates won major victories over amendments on the ballot and in local contests affecting laws governing the procedure.
Speaking about the nationwide election, Matt Bennett, president of Third Way, a centrist political think tank, said it was “very clear that the electorate wants the mainstream and not the extreme”. He added that “the attack on democracy sent a message about where this candidate stands on a range of issues; it was a defining attribute. It was not just about democracy; it’s that that person can’t be trusted because they’re so distant.
Some Democrats bet during the primaries that voters would fend off far-right candidates in the general election, promoting them over more traditional GOP alternatives. That gamble paid off in key races, from Michigan’s 3rd congressional district, where Gibbs lost to Democrat Hillary Scholten, to New Hampshire, where Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan fended off a challenge from Republican Don Bolduc, who had groundlessly raised doubts that Biden won the 2020 election, running for governor in Pennsylvania.
In this latest contest, Democratic Governor-elect Josh Shapiro has spent much of the last year warning that Mastriano is the most extreme and dangerous candidate in the country. He spoke specifically about freedoms that he said were under attack from the right. On Election Day, Shapiro’s landslide victory contrasted with narrow swing-state victories won by Trump in 2016 and Biden in 2020.
“We have all come together behind three simple truths. Three simple truths that have sustained our nation for the past 246 years. We value our freedom, we cherish our democracy, and we love this country — and those three truths, those three truths, and your votes, well, that stood up to the extremism that took root in parts of our society,” Shapiro said in his victory speech on election night.
In Washington’s 3rd congressional district, where Trump won by just over four points in 2020, Kent, with Trump’s backing, knocked out Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, one of the few Republicans to vote to impeach Trump after the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol, in the multiparty primary. In the general election, he lost to Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, a Democrat, in a district the GOP had hoped to hold.
In Ohio, Republican JR Majewski, who had been linked to QAnon conspiracy theories, lost 13 points to Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur in a US House battleground district that was redrawn during the redistricting of a dark blue seat to a Trump would have won by more than four points.
Reflecting on the races across the country, former Republican Congressman Charlie Dent, a centrist who left Congress disgusted by the party’s embrace of the Trump brand, said “voters called it crazy.”
“A lot of the more extreme candidates lost; it’s all about Trump because Trump was responsible for nominating a lot of these problematic candidates,” Dent said. “At the end of the day, I never felt there was a future in this angry populism, this isolationism, this nativism that defines Trumpism. I don’t think it’s working, not in the long run.
A Republican operative, who spoke on condition of anonymity to be more candid about the party’s future, said many races have unique factors, but there’s no denying that “Democrats have been able to transform their people with the issue of abortion and to some extent the issue of democracy or electoral denial – Trump, you might say for short.
Amy Gardner contributed to this report.