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What do the 2022 midterms mean for 2024?

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The 2022 midterm elections will have a huge impact on the 2024 presidential contest. Republican gains were much smaller than anticipated, and while they seem poised to assume control of the House with control of the Senate still hanging in the balance, there are some implications for 2024 that are not likely to change as the final votes are counted.

Here are four of them.

First, the impact on the Democratic contest. If Democrats had suffered a major reverse, the pressure on President Biden to stand down in favor of a fresh face would have been intense. Instead, the choice is now the president’s to make, and the midterm election results will probably resolve any doubts he may have had about running for reelection.

The impact on the Republican contest is even greater. With his landslide reelection victory, Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis was the biggest story of the 2022 election. He won 57% of the Hispanic vote and even swept historically Democratic Miami-Dade county. His performance will persuade many Republicans that he would be their strongest presidential candidate in 2024, and it is hard to believe that he won’t throw his hat into the ring. As Brutus says in Julius Caesar, “There is a tide in the affairs of men, which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.” It is high tide for Ron DeSantis, and if he misses his moment, he may not get another as good.

Conversely, the 2022 elections have weakened Donald Trump’s hand. On the whole, his hand-picked candidates did not do well, and this could be the second straight election in which his intervention in Republican primaries has cost his party a Senate majority.[1] To be sure, J.D. Vance won the open Senate seat in deep Red Ohio, but he underperformed Republican governor Mike DeWine by a stunning 9 points. Mehmet Oz lost to John Fetterman in Pennsylvania, and Herschel Walker is trailing Raphael Warnock is Georgia. (Neither Georgia candidate received 50% of the vote, and the contest may well end up in a December runoff.) In Arizona, ground zero for MAGA Republicanism, Blake Masters is trailing incumbent senator Mark Kelly by 6 points with almost two-thirds of the vote counted, and Kari Lake is behind Katie Hobbs by 2 points in the governor’s race. (Neither race has been called, however, and these standings could change as the remaining votes are counted.)

This brings me to my final point: Democrats did well in the gubernatorial races that will shape how the 2024 presidential elections are administered. Democratic incumbents held on in Michigan and Wisconsin, and Josh Shapiro won a handsome victory in Pennsylvania. Yes, Republican incumbent Brian Kemp trounced Stacey Abrams in a rematch of their 2018 faceoff, but he has already shown that he can withstand pressure from Donald Trump to distort election results. This leaves Arizona, where a come-from-behind victory by Kari Lake could lead to a bitterly contested outcome in 2024 if the presidential vote narrowly tilts toward the Democratic candidate, as it did in 2020.

In sum, the midterm elections have set the stage for a titanic struggle between Trump and DeSantis for the Republican nomination and have made it more likely that the winner of this contest will face an incumbent Democratic president who has avoided a damaging challenge to his re-nomination.


Footnote

[1] In 2020, Trump’s criticisms of mail-in voting may have cost the Republicans two Senate seats in the Georgia runoff election.

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