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What the Hell Happened to the GOP Last Night?
Exit poling may help us understand. Here are my knee jerk reactions
The GOP went into last night with lofty and probably unrealistic expectations of what was achievable. The Real Clear Politics general congressional ballot is an excellent representation of why.
Republicans are typically successful in elections where they are slightly negative in the party preference polling, so seeing a +2.5 going into last night meant there was good reason for optimism. However, things did not exactly turn out that way.
As expected, it looks like the GOP will take the house, though with a (significantly?) smaller advantage than expected, and while the Senate is still up in the air, it’s not looking good for the GOP. That said, it’s worth remembering that this Senate cycle was tough for the GOP with several GOP seats in purple states, including one with an incumbent retirement (PA) and most of the open Dem seats in solidly blue states.
As of this writing, it looks like the GOP will hold seats in North Carolina, Ohio, and Wisconsin. The Dems will hold seats in New Hampshire, Colorado, and Washington, with a flip in Pennsylvania from red to blue. Flips from blue to red are still possible in Nevada (maybe) and Arizona (probably not), with George going to a run-off likely (with how strong Warnock ran, I’m not optimistic about this one).
However, the question remains, how could the GOP so severely underperform with an immensely unpopular president and an economy that is in full-scale collapse? I think the CNN House exit polls potentially offer us enlightenment.
First, let’s look at voters’ view of the state of our economy:
This blew me away. 23% of voters felt the economy was “excellent or good,” and 88% of those were Democrats. I simply can not wrap my head around this. The bad news for the economy has been persistently non-stop for the past 18 months; how can so many Dems believe it is in good shape? The one indicator which hasn’t quite turned yet is the unemployment rate…but that is about to jump significantly as, from a PWC survey, half the companies surveyed are planning to start lay-offs soon. So maybe this last disaster needs to hit before this segment of voters gets it? But then there is this:
52% of voters felt that their family’s financial situation is “better” or “about the same,” with ~75% of those respondents being Dems. I am assuming these folks put gas in cars, buy groceries and cars, have tried to buy or sell a house and worry about credit card debt. How can this possibly be the case? Have they all received big raises since the bed was crapped? Again, maybe we haven’t hit the tipping point with these voters yet.
And then you have the age disparity:
The Dems cleaned up with the 18-29 age group. As expected they represented the smallest voting block, but the nearly 2:1 differential shifted the overall vote total by 2 pts.
Whatever the case is, all of the above leads to this:
If we translate the above chart to actual numbers, this is what we get:
58% of Dems care more about abortion than inflation, which I have to assume is a proxy for the economy for most voters, though I wish CNN had asked about that explicitly. But in either case, this is wild to me. Everyone knew abortion would be a motivating factor, but I assumed it would be muted because of the state of the economy. However, since, apparently, many Dems are not feeling (or accepting) the economic pain (yet), or are too young to have any comparison for what a good economy looks like, they can continue to focus on social issues.
I strongly suspect that come 2024, the economy will still be struggling, though maybe by then, we will be coming out of the current recession (yes, we are in a recession) by then. If it is still an issue, and those economic factors have caught up to the Dems, I wonder if abortion will still be the top-of-mind issue it appears to be now.
Only time will tell.
Until next time