In Surprising Election Night, Republicans—Not Trump—Are Victors

Graham Quigley, Sports Editor

Despite Trump’s presidential loss, Republicans had a shockingly good November election night: the entire party massively overperformed polling predictions and forecast data. As it currently stands, the GOP is expected to pick up seats in the House of Representatives and hold a Senate majority that many analysts predicted that they’d lose. The polling averages, as well as the election forecast published by 538 in the leadup to November 3rd, reflected this consensus: the final forecast gave Democrats a three in four shot of winning the Senate chamber, and had Democratic candidates in Maine, North Carolina, Arizona, and Colorado favored to oust their Republican opponents, while Iowa was labeled a toss-up. 

In the leadup to the election, the Senate map was one of the most favorable for Democrats in years; Republicans were forced to defend 23 seats to the Democrats’ twelve seats. Although many of these elections were in conservative-leaning states, the large disparity in the number of seats Republicans had to defend compared to their Democratic counterparts enabled Democrats to be on the attack and direct large swaths of funding to those who might otherwise have been considered longshot candidates. In light of this inherent advantage, Democrats were expected to be competitive in South Carolina, Montana, and Alaska—all states that have been considered red for decades. In addition to these conservative states, Democrats were favored to pick up seats in the battleground states of Maine, North Carolina, Iowa, Arizona, and Colorado. 

Although Senators Mark Kelly from Arizona and John Hickenlooper of Colorado managed to flip their states from red to blue, every other Democratic candidate from the aforementioned states lost, including Cal Cunningham of North Carolina, who was given nearly a 70% chance of winning his race against the Republican incumbent, Thom Tillis.
Georgia’s Senate elections both triggered runoffs scheduled for January 5th, 2021 due to no candidates reaching the 50% threshold needed to claim victory. However, like so many other states, Democrats also have an uphill battle to climb in a state that, despite a Biden win, is a conservative bastion. 

The results obviously indicate flaws in polling

The results obviously indicate flaws in polling—a continuation of 2016 trends, where Clinton was favored to win the presidency by 3 points; however, they also symbolize the inherent rural Republican skew that the Senate has: a problem that Democrats have fought against for decades. According to 2017 statistics published by 538, the ideological median Senate seat is over 6 points more Republican than the popular vote’s ideological leanings.

The overperformance by Republicans did not solely occur in the Senate. Perhaps most perplexingly, Republicans managed to pick up an approximate net gain of ten seats in the House—reducing the Democratic advantage to a mere twelve members with three elections remaining uncalled. Similarly to the Senate, the Republcian showing was unexpected: 538’s election forecast gave the GOP a 1 in 6 shot of gaining six or more seats, yet they are expected to exceed this number—demonstrating a significant wave of Republican down-ballot enthusiasm. 

The House wave can certainly be attributed to a decision made by GOP high-ranking officials to promote female candidates across the nation—a response to the 2018 Democratic strategy of running women in many of these same districts. Female Republican candidates flipped a record-breaking seven blue seats, and could win four more by the time all races are fully accounted for prior to the January third inauguration date.

It is also clear that the progressive rhetoric promoted by many on the left, such as terms like “defund the police,” had a detrimental effect, especially when compared to the healthcare message and platform that was attributed to the overwhelming success in 2018. In statements made to Good Luck America, former President Barack Obama, claimed “you know you’ve lost a big audience the minute you say [defund the police], which makes it a lot less likely that you are actually going to get the changes you want done.”

the “red wave” is almost an inevitability

The positive result achieved by Republicans in Congress this year sets the party up incredibly well for 2022 midterm elections, where the party is almost certainly going to be favored. The incumbent president’s party nearly always loses the House during a midterm year, and with the considerable gains made in this year’s election, the “red wave” is almost an inevitability. If Democrats want to have any chance of a positive outcome in the upcoming midterm election, they must shift away from the generally unpopular “defund the police” slogan, and shift to the economic populist messages—healthcare and welfare—that have proved time and time again to benefit Democrats who utilize them.