GOP observers say Donald Trump cost Republicans in critical midterm battleground races

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The former president endorsed extremist candidates who then lost races experts say should have been winnable in a midterm election.

Republicans went into Tuesday's elections puffing their chests and boasting of the incoming "red wave" that was going to sweep their party into power in the House and the Senate.

However, the predicted "red wave" did not happen: Election observers said on Wednesday that Democrats appeared to have a good shot at retaining control of the Senate, and that Republicans had massively underperformed expectations in the House. The New York Times forecast just a narrow GOP majority in the House, whereas Republicans had been predicting a 60-seat gain.

Some of those very Republicans who had been cocky about their chances are now placing the blame on one person: former President Donald Trump.

"Can't say that I blame them because voters favor predictability. They rejected Trump because they were tired of having to check Twitter every day to see if he had started World War III. They didn't want his candidates who were as unpredictable," tweeted Erick Erickson, a Georgia Republican radio host who had been predicting a massive "red wave" until results started to come in Tuesday night.

Indeed, a number of GOP candidates Trump endorsed lost — including in places Trump carried in 2020.

In Pennsylvania, Trump endorsed Republicans Doug Mastriano and Mehmet Oz for governor and Senate, respectively; both men lost. Democratic Gov.-elect Josh Shapiro easily beat Mastriano by a 13-point margin in a state President Joe Biden carried by just a single point; Democratic Sen.-elect John Fetterman defeated Oz by 3 points.

In Michigan, Republican candidate Tudor Dixon lost the governor's race to Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer by 9 points, with Whitmer far outperforming Biden's 3-point victory in 2020.

In Wisconsin, Republican challenger Tim Michels fell to Democratic Gov. Tony Evers by nearly 3 points.

In Kansas, a state Trump carried by 15 points in 2020, as of Wednesday morning Trump-endorsed state Attorney General Derek Schmidt was trailing in his race to unseat Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly.

Farther down on the ballot, Trump-endorsed House candidates also lost. Michigan 3rd Congressional District GOP nominee John Gibbs lost to Democrat Hillary Scholten by 13 points. Two Ohio Republicans endorsed by Trump — incumbent Rep. Steve Chabot and Madison Gesiotto Gilbert — lost their races to Democratic candidates. And in North Carolina, Republican Bo Hines lost to Democrat Wiley Nickel in the newly drawn and Republican-leaning 13th Congressional District.

Democrats had made highlighting the Trump-endorsed candidates as extremists a part of their campaign strategy.

Shapiro focused on Mastriano's ties to white supremacists, his avowed Christian nationalism, and his anti-abortion stance.

Fetterman was able to paint Oz, a wealthy television personality, as an out-of-touch con man who got rich selling phony miracle cures.

As results came in Tuesday night and it became clear that the GOP was falling far short of expectations, Republicans took to Fox News to criticize their own party's candidates.

"There wasn't a red wave. That is a searing indictment of the Republican Party," Marc Thiessen, a Republican columnist for the Washington Post, said on Fox News. "That is a searing indictment of the message that we have been sending to the voters. … The Republican Party needs to do a really deep introspection look in the mirror right now because this is an absolute disaster."

Fox News' Jacqui Heinrich tweeted: "If it wasn't clear before it should be now. We have a Trump problem."

The fact that some Republican consultants are blaming the party's poor midterm performances on Trump does not mean that Trump's hold on his party has slipped.

A Politico/Morning Consult poll of registered voters conducted at the end of October found Trump leading with the 2024 Republican primary electorate with 49%, with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis a distant second at 24%.

Ultimately, Trump is still popular among the Republican primary electorate, with 81% of Republican voters viewing him favorably, according to that same Politico/Morning Consult survey.

Political strategists say that that is the very issue for the GOP.

"The problem for Republicans going forward, even if the leaders course correct on 'candidate quality' — The type of people who used to show up for GOP primaries to vote for the normalest son of a bitch in the race aren’t in the party anymore — Trump is alive," tweeted Tim Miller, a formerly Republican political operative who later opposed Trump.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.