Big Tent Ideas

PETER ROFF: Here’s Why The GOP’s ‘Red Tsunami’ Never Materialized

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Peter Roff A former UPI political writer and U.S. News and World Report columnist, Peter Roff is a Trans-Atlantic Leadership Network media fellow. Contact him at RoffColumns AT and follow him on Twitter @TheRoffDraft.
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As late as Election Day 2022, the pundits were almost all predicting big wins for the GOP. Biden’s mishandling of the economy, they thought, would generate a “red tsunami” that would sweep Democrats out of office from coast to coast.

It didn’t happen. Republicans in red states did well. Republicans in purple and blue states took it in the shorts. Until recently, why they did was largely a matter of supposition. (RELATED: Biden’s Commitment To The Church Of Diversity Has Saddled Us With Inept, Unqualified Officials)

Enter David Winston, a pollster with ties to many in the House GOP leadership going back to the Gingrich days, who recently released a memo based on interviews with 1,100 registered voters who participated in the last election.

Republican strategists preparing for 2024 would do well to study his conclusions and the data behind them.

First and perhaps foremost, Winston explains that candidate quality matters. Trump-backed candidates in so-called purple states like Arizona and Georgia tanked, he says, because they failed to connect with enough Republicans and independent voters to bring the victory home.

It’s not that the votes weren’t there because of fraud or early voting. They were. If Blake Masters and Herschel Walker “had simply gotten the same number of votes as House Republicans got in their states,” Winston concludes, the GOP would be the majority party in the U.S. Senate.

That alone, as they say, is worth the price of admission. The choice of Trumpist candidates in both states cost the American taxpayer $1.7 trillion – the price tag on the omnibus legislation funding the U.S. government through the end of September 2023 that passed at year’s end.

If Mitch McConnell and the other Republicans in the Senate who voted for the Omni had known a new GOP majority was within striking distance on the calendar, they would likely have delayed any “big deal” until it could be consummated without the votes of congressional Democrats.

Instead, they had to take the best deal they could get. At least that’s what they’ll tell you if you ask. It might even be true.

Losing Senate seats is only part of it, Winston says. The Republicans also ran poorly among independents whom, he notes, constituted 31% of the electorate in the last election. That’s a bigger portion of the electorate at any time since 1984.

Why didn’t they go with the GOP? The answer, he says, is simple. Donald Trump.

“Independents’ memory of Trump from the previous two elections was significant. His brand image among Independents was 30-66,” Winston writes. “This follows his poor 2020 performance when he lost them by 13, the biggest losing margin of a major party candidate since Walter Mondale in 1984.”

No one wants to be compared to Walter Mondale, not even now. No one else has lost an election in all 50 states. Like Mondale, however, the GOP in 2022 had significant problems at the strategic rather than tactical level.

Many of the GOP candidates who lost could not explain to persuadable voters — mostly independents — how their election would lead to job creation, stopping inflation, or spending restraint.

That matters a lot more than fanciful concerns about early voting and other tactics which, says Winston, didn’t really make a difference. The GOP did not fail to win sweeping majorities in 2022 because of “a turnout problem,” he says.

“Many Republicans have focused on Democrats’ mail-in effort to explain the election outcome, but Democrats made up only 33 percent of the electorate, their lowest level from 1984 forward,” he says, meaning the real problem for the GOP is the failure of too many candidates to explain why they were running.

If they couldn’t, it’s not fair to expect the voters to intuit it. “We’re not them” — the predominant GOP theme in too many 2022 races — is almost never by itself a winning message.

It may get you close but without a reason to vote for you, it’s hard to be the first one across the finish line. Lesson (hopefully) learned.

A former UPI senior political writer and U.S. News and World Report columnist, Peter Roff is now affiliated with several public policy organizations including the Trans-Atlantic Leadership Network media fellow. Contact him at RoffColumns AT or on Twitter & Truth Social @TheRoffDraft.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller News Foundation.

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