The unique strategy of the Democratic Party in this year’s midterms.


Source: BBC

Presidential picks were snubbed, the red wave was subdued, and Georgia finally claimed for the democrats. The midterm elections have come and gone, and it looks to be a historically good turnout for the democrats. Democrats came into this midterm with the expectation of a massive loss of seats in both the House of Representatives and Senate; luckily it seems that their unique campaign strategies have paid off.

Democrats had every reason to be worried going into this midterm cycle. Biden’s approval rating is sitting at around 39 percent, a relatively low approval rating- but not too surprising for some with the state of the economy and the political division within this country. Democrats were well aware of the correlation that links the president’s approval ratings to the midterm results for their party. For example, during the 2010 midterms, Obama’s approval rating hovered around 48 percent, and after the midterms, the Democrats had lost a total of 63 house seats and 6 senate seats. In 1994, Bill Clinton held an approval rating of 39 during the month of the midterms, and once the results were in, the democrats had lost 54 house seats, 8 senate seats, and 10 governors. If this year’s midterms were to follow this trend, Americans could expect a pretty significant red wave. 

The democrats were well aware of the potential for a red wave. Though it may sound counterintuitive, their strategy involved backing far-right candidates. According to the Washington Post, the democrats spent 19 million dollars on ads that promoted far-right candidates in hopes that they would beat out the more moderate republicans in the midterms. As a result, these fringe candidates would then be easier to beat when facing the general election. Democrats knew that if they could secure far-right candidates, they would end up facing “weaker competition in the fall” according to the Washington Post. It seems that this extremely risky strategy has paid off. 

With the results finalized, it looks like the democrats were able to hold out and withstand the red wave. Democrats retained control of the Senate, which is now a 50 (Dem) 49 (Rep) split, and only lost 8 seats in the house 214 (Dem) 221 (Rep). The democrat’s strategy paid off, especially when you look at places like Arizona. Democrats backed the far-right conspiracy theorist Kari lake in her primary against moderate Karrin Taylor Robson by exposing documents that showed Robson had donated to democrats in past elections. Democrats took a gamble and it paid off. Kari Lake lost the general election to Katie Hobs. 

In Pennsylvania’s gubernatorial election, Josh Shapiro’s campaign donated 840,000 dollars on television ads to boost far-right candidate Doug Mastriano. Again, the strategy paid off. Josh Shapiro won by a considerable amount in an election that was predicted to be a very highly contested race. 

Despite these results, some in the democratic party don’t see this strategy of backing fringe candidates as a positive. Sarah Cifuentes, a registered democrat in Brooklyn, believes that “it only gives extremists a platform.”

This concern should not go unnoticed. By giving far-right candidates money to promote their views, the democratic party is running the risk of compromising democracy. For example, because the democrats paid for ads promoting Mastriano’s extremist campaign, he dominated the electoral cycle and his belief that the 2020 election was stolen was displayed to millions. 

It’s also important to remember the other factors in this election. Bruce Lowry, a registered Republican in California, said, “I voted for Steiner in this most recent election because LaMalfa was backed by Trump.” Doug LaMalfa, who ended up winning the election for California’s 1st district against democrat Max Steiner, was a Trump-endorsed candidate. Like many voters, Mr. Lowry turned off the republican candidates that were backed by Trump. 

Trump’s backing also had an effect on the election results. Many of the candidates that Trump backed performed much worse than expected. For example, Trump’s backing of Herschel Walker might have ended up hurting him in the long run. Frank Luntz, a political advisor said in a recent interview, “One by one, trumps handpicked candidates for Senate flopped. I can’t remember a time when the environment for Republicans was so good and yet the results were so bad.” In a poll done in Georgia voters stated that Trump’s endorsement of Hershal Walker “did not help” ultimately Trump’s endorsement was a blessing in disguise for the democrats. 

The strategy employed by the democrats was undoubtedly risky and it’s hard to tell if it paid off. The argument could be made that the money spent on republican candidates could have gone to elections where the democrats need the most help like in Georgia’s Senate race. This election was not like any other we have seen in the past, as big-ticket items like abortion were on voters’ minds, and impacts from the Trump presidency caused some republicans to abandon their party. Overall, we will just have to wait and see if this strategy pays off in the future.