It’s been a week since election day for the 2022 midterms and many voters and pundits all have the same question: What the hell was that? In a historic rebuke of previous midterm elections where the president’s party usually performs poorly, the Democratic Party greatly outperformed these trends. The party was able to maintain control of the Senate, win numerous competitive gubernatorial races and hold more seats in the House of Representatives than expected. Meanwhile, Republicans greatly underperformed expectations in what was expected to be a “red wave” or even “red tsunami” year, as many of their candidates lost races that they were expected to win or at least come close to winning. With that, let’s take a look at the biggest winners and losers from this year’s midterms.
Ron DeSantis: On a night filled with many disappointing results for Republicans, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ re-election victory stood as a high point of the night. Not only did he win re-election, but he received an impressive 59.4% of the votes over former Governor-turned-perennial candidate Charlie Crist. DeSantis achieved this massive margin by flipping many traditionally Democratic urban counties, with the most notable being an 11-point victory in right-trending Miami-Dade County. With this victory, DeSantis has been given a major boost for a potential presidential campaign in 2024, especially after numerous Trump-backed candidates fell flat this year. Though he would still likely have to face-off against Trump in the primary election, DeSantis seems poised to take on Truth Social’s biggest user.
John Fetterman: Despite a lackluster debate performance and trailing in the polls leading up to election day, Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman defeated crudité enthusiast Dr. Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania’s crucial Senate election. Fetterman’s victory marked the first Democratic win for this Senate seat since 1962, and was a critical gain for the Democrats to help them maintain control of the Senate. In addition to winning the seat by a larger-than-expected margin of 4.4%, Fetterman outperformed Biden’s 2020 margin in all but three counties.
Gretchen Whitmer: Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer cruised to reelection last Tuesday, defeating Republican Tudor Dixon by a margin of 10.6%. Like Fetterman, Whitmer was also able to outperform Biden’s 2020 margin, as every county in Michigan voted more Democratic than 2020. Whitmer’s commanding victory had a significant effect down ballot, as Michigan Democrats took control of both houses of the state legislature for the first time since 1983. With these critical victories, Whitmer’s star power keeps rising in the Democratic Party, bolstering her chances of appearing on the 2024 Democratic ticket.
New York Democrats: Though Democrats exceeded expectations nationwide, they significantly underperformed in New York. Republicans flipped four House seats in New York, including a defeat of Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chair Sean Patrick Maloney and winning two districts on Long Island that voted for Biden in 2020. Though Democrats were able to win all statewide offices, the margins were significantly decreased from 2018. The gubernatorial election was particularly close, as incumbent Governor Kathy Hochul only won by 5.8% — the closest margin of victory in a New York gubernatorial election since 1994. Even the reelections of Senator Chuck Schumer and Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, two electoral powerhouses, were won by less than 15%.
Stacey Abrams and Beto O’Rourke: I’m putting these two together due to the similarity of their careers. Abrams and O’Rourke became rising Democratic stars after their close 2018 campaigns in Georgia and Texas, respectively. But now, they’re both coming off gubernatorial losses, as Abrams failed to recreate her 2018 momentum and O’Rourke lost by double digits. After these losses, their political futures are in doubt. Though they will probably continue to be influential figures in their states, it’s unlikely that they’ll be running for office anytime soon.
Rick Scott: As chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Florida Senator Rick Scott has come under scrutiny after Republicans failed to win key races and cost the party control of the Senate. As chair of the NRSC, Scott failed to recruit quality candidates in winnable states and wasted most of their $181.5 million war chest before September. As such, Scott has been taking heat for squandering the party’s opportunity to win the Senate. It seems unlikely that he’ll retain his position as NRSC chair after this loss, and even less likely that he launches a leadership challenge to Mitch McConnell, which he had flirted with over the past year.