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Republicans Win on Inflation but Lose on Abortion

Prayed-for midterm “red wave” fails to materialize.
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Republicans Win on Inflation but Lose on Abortion
Image: Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

Mayra Flores thought the full moon, which looked red as it passed through the Earth’s shadow in the early hours of Election Day, was a good sign.

The Latina Republican who declared she was “taking Jesus to the halls of Congress” when she won a special election in South Texas in 2021, hoped and prayed for “a red wave” to carry her to reelection on Tuesday.

“The moon controls the tide,” Flores tweeted. “Bring on the red wave!”

But as votes were counted late Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning, it became clear the moon meant nothing. Flores, a conservative with a lot of evangelical support in the Rio Grande Valley, lost by about 11,000 votes. She blamed her defeat on the people who didn’t vote.

“Republicans and Independents stayed home,” she wrote on Twitter. “DO NOT COMPLAIN ABOUT THE RESULTS IF YOU DID NOT DO YOUR PART!”

Votes were still being counted Wednesday morning, but Republicans looked like they were going to win a slim majority of congressional races, taking control of the House away from Democrats. They were not on track to win the sweeping victory that so many had hoped for.

The rapid rise of food and fuel costs was the top issue for voters, according to CNN’s nationwide exit polls. Three out of four people casting a ballot said they were unhappy with the economy. Roughly two-thirds said gas prices were causing them hardship.

Seventy percent of the voters who said inflation was their top issue voted Republican.

Roughly a quarter of the electorate identified as white evangelical or born-again Christian, according to the exit poll. The vast majority of them voted for Republican candidates, but CNN did not share data on the concerns or issues motivating the bloc.

The second most important issue for voters was abortion. But only 16 percent told pollsters they were “enthusiastic” about the Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade in June. Nearly 40 percent told pollsters they were angry about the Dobbs decision.

The majority (76%) of voters who listed abortion as their top priority voted for Democrats.

Pro-life poll watchers were disappointed in the results of several ballot initiatives across the country. Voters in Vermont, California, and Michigan enshrined the right to abortion in their state constitutions with ballot initiatives.

The vote was close in Michigan, where the state’s 1.8 million Catholics were urged to oppose the measure and the Christian Reformed Church called all believers “to a ringing testimony against the evils of abortion.” The amendment ultimately passed, however, with more than 55 percent of voters in favor.

In Kentucky, where abortion is currently banned, voters rejected an amendment that would have made that part of the constitution, becoming the second conservative state to defeat a pro-life ballot initiative after Kansas.

“I'm disappointed in Kentucky,” David O’Bryan, a 73-year-old pro-life advocate in Louisville, told the Courier-Journal. “People misunderstood the amendment, what it means to Kentucky and what it means for Right to Life and pro life issues.”

Lila Grace Rose, president of the pro-life group Live Action, tweeted that the results “show the need to redouble our efforts of education & persuasion on the value of human life” and the “need to 10X pro-life marketing resources to beat the incessant lies.”

An incredible amount of money was raised and spent in this election. The Associated Press reported the midterms cost roughly $16.7 billion, nearly double the amount seen in nonpresidential elections a decade ago.

The largest single donor was George Soros, the liberal billionaire who is often at the center of antisemitic conspiracy theories. Most of the top donors this election, however, gave to conservative candidates and causes. Shipping goods magnate Richard Uihlein gave $80.7 million; hedge fund manager Ken Griffin, $68.5 million; banking heir Timothy Mellon, $40 million; and tech investor Peter Thiel, $32.6 million. But the results, for conservatives, were mixed.

Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life, said the abortion-rights ballot victories convinced her that going forward, the pro-life movement needs to focus on the fight at the federal level.

“Like other injustices our nation faced in our past,” she wrote on Twitter, “some states will just refuse to acknowledge human rights and progress.”

Several races became proxy battles over abortion. Montana saw an unprecedented amount of spending in one nonpartisan judicial race as activists and outside groups claimed one state supreme court judge could “save abortion in Montana.” With about 74 percent of the vote counted by the end of Tuesday, the pro-choice candidate had a 17,000-vote lead.

In North Carolina, Democratic governor Roy Cooper claimed victory when Republicans failed to win enough seats in the state legislature to overturn his promised veto of any ban on abortion. The state saw a dramatic increase in abortions in the months after Dobbs was decided, with as many as 75 percent of patients at one Planned Parenthood clinic coming from outside of North Carolina.

“North Carolinians voted for balance and progress,” the governor tweeted.

Control of the Senate was up in the air Wednesday morning, with races in Nevada, Arizona, Wisconsin, and Georgia too close to call.

The Georgia race may not be decided when the counting is complete, since rules there say the winner must have more than 50 percent of the vote. Incumbent Raphael Warnock, a Black Baptist minister, claimed 49.4 percent on Wednesday morning but couldn’t quite wrest the majority from his scandal-plagued Republican opponent Herschel Walker and a Libertarian who grabbed about 2 percent.

Some Republicans won handily, though. J. D. Vance, author of the best-selling Hillbilly Elegy and a popular speaker at the National Conservative conference, was able to declare victory with 53 percent of the vote about an hour after polls closed.

Texas governor Greg Abbott never appeared seriously threatened by Democratic challenger Beto O’Rouke and won reelection to a third term. Florida governor Ron DeSantis—who ran an ad saying God needed him to “take the arrows and stand firm in the wake of unrelenting attacks” and save people’s jobs, livelihoods, liberty, and happiness—cruised to victory with nearly 60 percent support from voters.

Abbott and DeSantis have both been touted as potential Republican presidential candidates in 2024, possibly even challenging former president Donald Trump in the primary. Trump, who campaigned for a number of candidates in the midterms, has teased the imminent announcement of his 2024 election bid.

Some of Trump’s key supporters who falsely claimed he won the 2020 election lost their own races yesterday, however. Secretary of state candidates who promoted baseless conspiracies about rigged elections lost in Arizona and Michigan. Representative Lauren Boebert, a Republican who has been one of Trump’s most strident supporters, was unexpectedly trailing a few points in the vote count in Colorado.

Democrats seemed to benefit from emphasizing concerns about the state of democracy and the message that “democracy is on the ballot.” Nearly 7 out of 10 voters said they agreed that democracy in the US is under threat. Those voters were a few points more likely to vote Democratic.

That may have made the difference in the Grand Rapids area, where Democrat Hillary Scholten won Michigan’s 3rd congressional district by about 9 points. Last election, Scholten, a Christian Reformed Church deacon and former Department of Justice attorney, lost to Republican Peter Meijer by 6 points.

Then Meijer voted to impeach Trump following the January 6 riot at the US Capitol and lost the next Republican primary to a Trump-endorsed challenger. The Democratic Party spent $425,000 in ads raising the profile of Meijer’s more extreme opponent, hoping he would be easier for Scholten to beat.

The gamble apparently paid off.

But Scholten, a pro-choice Christian, said she hoped her victory would help move the country away from extremism and increasing partisan polarization.

“This campaign has, and continues to build, something new here in West Michigan,” she said. “A new political home for people on the right, the left, the center, who are tired of politics as usual, who are ready to cast aside the old frame of division, ‘us versus them,’ and join hands together for a better, brighter West Michigan for all of us.”

She will join a closely divided Congress debating economics, abortion, and the next two years of president Joe Biden’s agenda in January.

January/February
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