Updated Nov 9, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Trump's the loser as GOP falters

Former President Trump speaks during an election night event at Mar-a-Lago.

Former President Trump speaks during an election night event at Mar-a-Lago. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Former President Trump is facing waves of blame after key Republican candidates lost in midterms.

The big picture: There was no red wave. As of this morning, control of the Senate is undetermined, but appears to be leaning toward Democrats. The House is headed for a very narrow GOP majority, but is also uncalled.

Why it matters: Regardless of the reality with GOP primary voters, Republican elites — and other anti-Trump Republicans — sense blood in the water. There's an increased likelihood of a larger, more boisterous primary field competing against Trump in 2024.

  • The chances Trump can clear the field are vastly diminished.

What happened: Many of former President Trump's handpicked candidates were defeated or struggled in otherwise winnable races — a lineup of underachievers.

  • In Pennsylvania, Mehmet Oz lost his Senate race to Democrat John Fetterman by 2+ points. In Michigan, Tudor Dixon lost her challenge to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) by 8 points.
  • Trump-backed candidates who are trailing: Herschel Walker for the Senate, in Georgia ... and Blake Masters for the Senate, in Arizona.
  • On top of all that, Trump stoked a massive distraction by promoting speculation about his own 2024 campaign in the midterms' final hours.

The intrigue: Trump's planned rally at Mar-a-Lago next Tuesday, where he's expected to announce a 2024 presidential campaign, now won't come after a GOP landslide.

  • Instead, it will follow an election where Democrats have a solid chance to hold or even expand their hold on the Senate — and where Republicans fell way short of their expectations for a sizable red wave.

What he said: Trump said in a TruthSocial post on Wednesday that the election "was somewhat disappointing," but "from my personal standpoint it was a very big victory."

Between the lines: Trump constrained his party's coalition in states where he showed up. In Pennsylvania, Senate victor John Fetterman won independents with 57% of the vote, Hispanics with 67% of the vote and women with 57% of the vote, according to exit polling.

  • In Georgia, where the Senate race is too close to call, Trump-championed Herschel Walker won only 8% of the Black vote, 42% of independents and 39% of Hispanics, exit polls show. His numbers in all three categories lagged Gov. Brian Kemp (R), who won re-election.

By contrast, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' resounding re-election was one of the few bright spots for Republicans.

  • DeSantis' 20-point victory — carrying some big, largely Hispanic counties, including Miami-Dade and Osceola — will provide rocket fuel for a possible presidential campaign.

What to watch: DeSantis wants to run badly and will argue he has similar beliefs to Trump — but can deliver much bigger, broader wins.

The bottom line: Trump's promotion of candidates outside the political mainstream — or celebrities without political experience — proved to be costly for Republicans. DeSantis' Florida model offers Republicans an alternative path. But Trump won't let the party move on without a fight.

House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy takes the stage early today at The Westin City Center in Washington. Photo: Kent Nishimura/L.A. Times via Getty Images

House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy had been expected to take the stage of his election-night party at a D.C. hotel as early as 10 p.m.

  • But come midnight, the main venue floor was empty as a small group of aides and staffers mingled near the open bar.

At 1:59 a.m., McCarthy finally declared from the stage: "It is clear we are going to take the House back."

  • Minutes before, his staff gathered the remaining supporters and directed them to "Grab a sign" and "Pack it in" to the area in front of the stage, where cameras would be showing his speech live.

Editor's note: This version updates results.

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