The midterm’s big loser: Trump suffers multiple defeats

Donald Trump is seen leaning forward, gesturing with his right hand, as he talks to man seated across a table from him.
Former President Trump speaks to guests at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida on election day.
(Andrew Harnik / Associated Press)
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There’s a lot we don’t yet know about the midterm election results, but one outcome is clear: Donald Trump‘s road back to the White House just got much steeper.

Amid the wreckage of Republican hopes for a sweeping midterm victory, party activists are looking to cast blame, and the former president will likely receive much of it — for good reasons.

Two candidates whom Trump hand-picked for Senate races — Dr. Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania and Herschel Walker in Georgia — lost or trail in states where Republicans had high hopes of winning. The Trump-endorsed Blake Masters in Arizona is also badly behind. Their failures may hand Democrats another two years of control of the Senate, although the final outcome may not be known until December, when Georgia’s race will be resolved in a runoff.

Even in the races where they won, candidates whose nominations Trump helped secure ran well behind other Republicans. In Ohio, for example, J.D. Vance took 53% of the vote in defeating Rep. Tim Ryan to hold that state’s Senate seat for the GOP. Other Republican candidates for statewide offices won roughly 60% of the vote.

Trump, in his usual style, poured salt on the GOP wounds: The first election-night message he posted on his social media site, Truth Social, celebrated the defeat of the party’s Senate candidate in Colorado, who had shown some independence from the royal court of Mar-a-Lago: “Joe O’Dea lost BIG! MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!!!” he wrote.

A strong showing for Democrats

The results overall, even with many races remaining uncalled, are shaping up to be one of the best outcomes for a president’s party in the modern political era.

Republicans may well still win a majority of seats in the House — the outcome won’t be clear until close races, including several in California, are resolved. But instead of gaining 40 or more seats, as once seemed likely, they now are on track to net no more than about a dozen, and there remains a chance — although a slim one — that Democrats could hold their majority.


Control of the Senate also remains uncertain, with races in Arizona, Nevada and Georgia still undecided. Final control of the Senate could come down to a runoff in Georgia next month if Sen. Raphael Warnock, who currently leads the race, falls short of 50% of the vote.

Trump can’t be directly blamed for all of that. The voter backlash against the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe vs. Wade clearly played a major role in boosting Democrats.

The two exit polls of voters — one conducted by the Associated Press and the other by a consortium of TV networks — both found that around 60% of voters said abortion should be legal in most or all cases, compared with just under 40% who said it should be illegal in all or most cases.

Democrats won about two-thirds of the votes of those who said abortion should be legal in most or all cases.

In some states, abortion played an even larger role in the outcome. That was most notable in Michigan, where an abortion-rights amendment to the state constitution passed with about 56% of the vote and helped power Democrats to apparent control of both houses of the state Legislature for the first time since Ronald Reagan was president.

Democrats also gained because of strong support from younger voters. Voters ages 30 to 44 made up somewhere between one-fifth and one-quarter of the electorate — the two exit polls vary slightly on their estimate — and gave a majority of their votes to Democrats.

Democrats did even better with voters younger than 30, who made up about 1 in 8 voters. Republicans won among voters older than 45.

Those factors applied nationwide. The Trump-specific factors played out in individual races and reinforced a lesson that Republican professionals have already learned — even though many of the party’s rank-and-file resist it: Trump’s style of politics works well with the party’s core voters but turns off the swing voters who determine elections in closely divided states.


But the failure of his Senate choices was only the start of Trump’s problems Tuesday night.

In 2020, a big part of Trump’s effort to overturn President Biden‘s victory involved trying to bully Republican lawmakers in battleground states into either blocking the vote count or simply declaring Trump the winner of their states’ electoral votes.

Those maneuvers failed in the last election, thanks in large part to a handful of Republican legislators who resisted Trump’s pressure, like the speaker of the Arizona House, Rusty Bowers, who was defeated in his primary this year as a result of his defiance.

Trump’s allies have made clear that they would try the same tactics again in 2024 if they could.

But Tuesday night, Republicans lost control of several legislative chambers that would be required to make that ploy work.

In addition to Michigan, Democrats also appear likely to win control of one house of the Pennsylvania Legislature, which Republicans have controlled for decades. And control of Arizona’s Legislature remains uncertain, with many races still undecided.

Assuming those Democratic victories hold up in the final vote counting, they would block an avenue that Trump and his allies were clearly eyeing as a way to subvert the next election.


In addition, in several states, candidates who embraced Trump’s falsehoods about the 2020 contest lost races for offices critical to the election process, such as secretary of state.

The most galling result for the former president, however, may have been a Republican victory — the one in the state he now calls home.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis emerged as one of the biggest stars for the GOP on a night that otherwise mostly featured disappointments for them. He won almost 60% of the vote in his reelection.

Given how close the House outcome is shaping up to be, DeSantis can also claim that the gerrymander he pushed through the Florida Legislature early this year proved critical to the party’s overall effort to win the House.

Those successes will surely increase the number of Republicans who want to see DeSantis as their next nominee — a sentiment that’s clearly not popular at Mar-a-Lago.

Trump has been stepping up his gibes at DeSantis in recent weeks, labeling him “Ron DeSanctimonious” at a recent rally. The Florida governor has largely ignored such attacks, while positioning himself for a presidential run.


Coyness, however, doesn’t win nominations. At some point, if DeSantis wants the prize, he’ll have to fight for it and either try to bluff Trump out of the race or defeat him in a primary.

Since 2016, most Republican elected officials have been too frightened of Trump and his hold on GOP voters to take him on. In the aftermath of Tuesday’s results, which vividly demonstrated Trump’s weakness, that may be about to change.

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The L.A. races

— The race for mayor of Los Angeles remains too close to call with hundreds of thousands of ballots yet to count. As of Wednesday, Rick Caruso, the billionaire developer, led Rep. Karen Bass by about 1.5 percentage points. At this point in the June primary, Caruso led by about 5 points, and Bass went on to win by about 7 points, as Julia Wick, Ben Oreskes and Jim Rainey reported. Whether a similar shift will occur this time won’t be known for days.

— The race for Los Angeles County sheriff seems less uncertain. With an estimated 36% of the vote counted, Robert Luna, the former Long Beach police chief, was leading incumbent Sheriff Alex Villanueva by 53% to 47%, Alene Tchekmedyian, James Queally and Libor Jany reported. That’s in line with our final poll of the race, which showed Luna leading by about eight points. A measure to allow the Board of Supervisors to remove a future sheriff from office — a product of the constant fights between Villanueva and the supervisors over the last four years — was also passing overwhelmingly.

— Two-term City Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell was trailing in his race against Hugo Soto-Martinez, a labor organizer in a district that covers parts of Hollywood. As David Zahniser, Jeong Park and Emily Alpert-Reyes reported, the race has been closely watched as a test of the ability of progressive voters to shift the council to the left. Another hotly contested race, in the Venice area, also remains close.


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Statewide results

To no one’s surprise, Gov. Gavin Newsom easily won reelection, taking about 58% of the vote. As Taryn Luna reported, the race was called by the Associated Press within minutes of polls closing. Newsom’s administration will have some new faces for the second term, Luna reported. Jim DeBoo, his top staff member, is leaving and will be replaced by Dana Williamson, a Sacramento political strategist and former Cabinet secretary to Gov. Jerry Brown.

Democrats appear on track to win all the statewide races. As Hannah Wiley reported, incumbent state Atty. Gen. Rob Bonta is leading his Republican opponent, Nathan Hochman, although the race hadn’t been called as of Wednesday morning.

Some political analysts had speculated that Republican Lanhee Chen might be able to break the long pattern of GOP futility in California races, but that doesn’t appear to be happening. Chen is currently trailing Democrat Malia Cohen by 54% to 46%, as Mackenzie Mays reported.

Sen. Alex Padilla, who took office by appointment in 2021 easily won election. As Seema Mehta, Hannah Fry and Terry Castleman reported, he becomes the first Latino to be elected to represent California in the U.S. Senate.

And the statewide ballot propositions went as predicted, with a large majority of voters approving an abortion-rights amendment to the state constitution and two measures on sports betting going down to defeat, as Melody Gutierrez reported. A measure to raise taxes on millionaires to fund electric vehicles, which Newsom had denounced as “corporate welfare,” is trailing so far.

The national picture

Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) may finally achieve his goal of becoming House speaker, but as Nolan McCaskill reports, the narrow Republican majority he’s likely to have will make the job more difficult than normal.

For the complete picture of what the elections meant nationwide, read the story from Noah Bierman, Melanie Mason and McCaskill.

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