Aug 10, 2022 - Politics & Policy

August election results suggest GOP's "red wave" may be subsiding

Illustration of a zoomed-in elephant walking on the beach.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Three August elections that pitted Republicans against Democrats on the same ballot on Tuesday are providing fresh indications that Democrats have gained political momentum over the summer.

What's happening: In the Minnesota 1st District special election on Tuesday, Republican Brad Finstad only defeated Democrat Jeff Ettinger by four points in a district that former President Trump carried by 10 points in 2020.

  • Finstad's winning margin was only slightly wider than the late GOP Rep. Jim Hagedorn's three-point victory in 2020.

In Washington's 8th District — a suburban Seattle swing seat in which candidates from all parties were on the same primary ballot — Democrats won 49.6% of the vote (led by Washington Rep. Kim Schrier), while Republicans tallied 49.2% of the vote.

  • Schrier won the seat by four points in 2020. This is a bellwether contest that Republicans should be winning decisively in a strong midterm cycle.

In Washington's Senate race, Democratic Sen. Patty Murray — who has become a Republican target — won 52.5% of the vote, while Republicans (led by top recruit Tiffany Smiley) tallied 41.2%.

  • The results show Republicans are making inroads but not nearly enough to unseat the veteran senator in a solid blue state.

Why it matters: The results suggest Republicans are still well on track to win the House majority in 2022, but not by the historic margins that once looked possible. They also indicate that Republicans can't rely on a big red wave to sweep in their flawed Senate nominees in battleground states.

What's next: Keep a close eye on the Aug. 23 special election in New York's 19th District.

  • Both parties are spending aggressively for a narrative-shaping win, in a district Biden carried by two points.
  • It's shaping up to be a true test of both parties' dominant midterm messages: Democrats are running ads on abortion, while Republicans are focused on inflation and crime.
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