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Gubernatorial candidate Josh Shapiro, former President Barack Obama, President Joe Biden and Senate candidate John Fetterman attend a rally Nov. 5 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Gubernatorial candidate Josh Shapiro, former President Barack Obama, President Joe Biden and Senate candidate John Fetterman attend a rally Nov. 5 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Patrick Semansky/AP)

Midterms are supposed to be the time when the opposition party can shine.

That should be especially the case when there’s inflation that occurs only once in a generation, and when the vast majority of Americans think the country is on the wrong track.

Instead, President Joe Biden and the Democrats are poised to have one of the four best midterm elections for the party that has controlled the White House in the last century.

So what just happened?

The GOP’s “Candidate Problem”.

Analysts, including myself, noted that Republicans appeared to have a candidate liking problem. Pre-election polls showed that Republicans had negative net preference ratings in every major race. Democrats were generally more popular than their opponents.

Many of these Republicans were endorsed by former President Donald Trump and had — at least at one point — falsely claimed that they believed he won the 2020 election.

The exit polls confirm the Republican “candidate problem”. In every Senate campaign (with the exception of Georgia) that inside elections rated as a failure or just bias toward a party before the election, more voters said the Republican candidate’s views were too extreme than said the same for the Democrat.

We also see this in gubernatorial elections. Republicans have nominated draft dodgers for governor for 2020 in a number of blue or swing states. Neither of them were predicted to be winners, and only Arizona Republican Kari Lake has a chance of winning.

Two presidents on the trail

At the national level, two presidents are in the spotlight: the current (Biden) and the former (Trump). Both men had negative positive net ratings, according to the exit polls.

The fact that you have a current president and a former president, both unpopular, is not uncommon.

Unusually, of the 18% who did not rate either Biden or Trump positively in the exit polls, 40% voted for the Democrats. The backlash against one president that year may have been offset by the backlash against the other.

“Abortion First” voters

What made this half really unique was arguably the abortion. Despite high inflation, only 31% of voters in the Exit poll said it was the most important issue for their vote. A nearly identical percentage (27%) favored abortion, and these voters overwhelmingly chose Democratic candidates for Congress.

This parallels the dynamics we saw in the special elections to the House of Representatives following the fall of Roe v. Saw Wade in June. Democrats fared significantly better than before the Supreme Court ruling.

Read more here.

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