It was supposed to be a red wave that the former president Donald Trump he could ride triumphantly toward the Republican nomination as he prepares to launch another White House bid.
Instead, the disappointing results tuesday night for the GOP are raising new questions about Trump’s appeal and the future of a party that has fully embraced him, seemingly at its peril, while at the same time giving new impetus to its most powerful potential rival .
In fact, some allies were calling on Trump to delay your planned announcement for next week, saying the party’s full focus must be on Georgia, where Trump-backed football great Herschel Walker’s effort to unseat Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock is heading for a second round that could determine control of the Senate once again.
“I will advise you to hold your ad until after the Georgia runoff,” said former Trump adviser Jason Miller, who spent the night with the former president at his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida. “Georgia should be the focus of every Republican in the country right now,” he said.
Trump sought to use the midterm elections as an opportunity to demonstrate his enduring political clout after losing the White House in 2020. He endorsed more than 330 candidates in electoral contests, often elevating inexperienced and deeply flawed candidates. He reveled in his major victories. But many of his positions, including echoing Trump’s lies about a stolen 2020 election and taking hardline views on abortion, were out of step with the political mainstream.
Trump scored some big wins Tuesday, particularly in Ohio, where his Senate pick, “Hillbilly Elegy” author JD Vance, sailed to an easy victory after Trump’s endorsement catapulted him to the front of a crowded primary pack. In North Carolina, Rep. Ted Budd, one of Trump’s first picks, held a vacant Senate seat held by the Republican Party .
But Trump lost some of the biggest prizes of the night, particularly in Pennsylvania, where Dr. Mehmet Oz, who narrowly won the Senate primary with Trump’s endorsement, lost to Democrat John Fetterman . Trump-backed candidates also lost gubernatorial races in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Maryland, and a Senate race in New Hampshire, though Trump seemed to celebrate the latter and criticized Republican Dan Bolduc for trying to moderate his positions by backing down. in his acceptance of Trump’s election. lies.
“If he had stayed strong and loyal, he would have won easily,” Trump said on social media. “Learned lessons!!!” (Trump also applauded the loss of the Republican candidate for the Colorado Senate, Joe O’Dea who had said he thought it was time for the party to move away from Trump).
Other high-stakes races in Arizona and Nevada were too early to call.
In fact, the biggest Republican win of the night came in Florida, where Governor Ron DeSantis won re-election cementing his status as a rising national Republican star as he contemplates his own potential 2024 run.
“I have only begun to fight”, he told his supporters in his victory speech.
While Republicans still appear well-positioned to flip the House and ultimately could take the Senate as well, those who had believed that frustrations with record inflation, combined with President Joe Biden, would produce quick and decisive victories were pointing fingers at the former. address of the president. The message of the night, they argued: The American people want to move on.
“I mean, we had a historic opportunity and Trump’s recruiting of ineligible candidates blew it,” said Scott Reed, a veteran Republican strategist. “Trump has now lost three elections in a row for the Republican Party and it is time to get out of this nonsense.”
Reed argued that the party “had everything going for us: money, the thematic agenda, Biden being in the tank,” but said Trump’s efforts to stay in the spotlight sparking a race late in the race. “Obviously they generated a lot of independents and Democrats to turn out and vote.”
Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a longtime Trump friend and adviser-turned-critic who is considering his own 2024 run for president, said Republicans “have a fundamental choice to make.”
“We lost in ’18. We lost in ’20. We lost on the 21st in Georgia. And now, on the 22nd, we’re going to lose net governorships, we’re not going to get as many seats in the House as we thought, and we may not win the Senate despite a president who has a 40% job approval rating. ” he said. “There is only one person to blame for that and that is Donald Trump.”
He blamed Trump for promoting deeply flawed candidates, who won their primaries but struggled in the general election.
“The only cheering factor (for him) in determining an endorsement is, ‘Do you think the 2020 election was stolen or not?'” Christie said. “It’s not, ‘Can you raise money?’ It’s not, ‘Do you have an articulable vision for the future of your state or your district?’ It is not evidence of past success in communicating with voters. It is a completely self-centered determination.”
Meanwhile, Trump publicly insisted that he was happy with the results.
“While yesterday’s election was somewhat disappointing in a way, from my personal point of view it was a great victory: 219 WINS and 16 losses overall. Who has done better than that? he wrote on his Truth Social network on Wednesday afternoon.
His spokeswoman, Taylor Budowich, also touted Trump’s endorsement record, saying, “As President Trump looks to the future, he will continue to defend his America First agenda that he won overwhelmingly at the polls last night.”
But Republican strategist David Urban, a former Trump adviser, said the Trump brand is hurt no matter what the former president says.
“Of course, you’re going to claim victory, right? The president touts a record of achievement that includes wins in uncontested races. He can say what he wants. But how do people feel in America? I think people don’t feel very good about the Trump brand right now,” Urban said. “It is bad.”
Some now worry that if Trump goes ahead with his planned announcement next week, he could pave the way for a repeat of the Republicans’ losses in Georgia in 2021 by dominating the race.
Former Trump press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, who now works for Fox News, advised on air that Trump should postpone an announcement until after the Georgia Senate runoff.
“I think you need to put it on pause,” he said. When asked if Trump should campaign in the state, he said: “I think we have to make strategic calculations. Governor DeSantis, I think he should be welcome in the state, given what happened last night. You have to look at the realities on the ground.”
Budowich did not respond to questions about such efforts, but Trump appeared to throw cold water on the council.
“We had tremendous success,” told Fox News Digital on Wednesday . “Why would anything change?”
Meanwhile, Trump’s setbacks were giving new hope to the long list of potential rivals who have been waiting in silence and now face the decision to run as well.
That includes DeSantis, who emerged as the obvious winner of the night. “DeFUTURE,” declared The New York Post. In addition to his wide margin of victory, DeSantis won the Democratic stronghold of Miami-Dade and did so without Trump’s endorsement. (Although Trump told reporters that he had voted for the governor days after calling him “Ron DeSanctimonious.”)
“DeSantis is coming out of the election with a lot of momentum,” said Republican strategist Alex Conant. “Trump has been weak for a long time, but it was not clear who the alternative was. … For the first time, Trump really has a formidable rival within the party.”
Even some Democrats admitted DeSantis’ strength.
Miami-based Democratic strategist Jose Parra said Trump’s rival enters the 2024 conversation with “a lot of wind in his sails” after a stronger-than-expected performance across the state, especially in the Miami-Dade County, in South Florida.
Speaking at the White House on Wednesday, Biden said his “intent” is to run again. But pointing to the emerging competition between Trump and DeSantis, he said it would be “fun to see them square off.”