Why Independent Voters Broke for Democrats in the Midterms

Wall Street Journal

GOP candidates closely aligned with Trump turned off some centrists and in-play Republicans

“Not allowing the election to be settled, it’s very divisive,” Ms. Ghelfi, a semiretired attorney from Paradise Valley, said of the 2020 race. “I think the election spoke for itself.” She said she voted for Republicans down-ballot who weren’t as vocal about election fraud or as closely tied to Mr. Trump, yet couldn’t support Arizona’s four major Republican candidates because they echoed Mr. Trump’s false claims. Republicans succeeded in one of their top goals this year: They brought more of their party’s voters to the polls than did Democrats. But in the course of energizing their core voters, Republicans in many states lost voters in the political center—both independents and many Republicans who are uneasy with elements of the party’s focus under Mr. Trump. Control of the House and Senate, which had seemed poised to land with the Republican Party, is coming down to a handful of races that so far are too close to call, though the GOP remains on track to winning a narrow majority in the House. Republicans have won nearly 5.5 million more votes in House races than have Democrats, a tally by the nonpartisan Cook Political Report finds, as many voters were motivated by anxiety over high inflation and a low opinion of President Biden’s response. At the same time, Republican analysts said their unexpectedly weak showing in the election indicated that they had failed to press hard enough on those issues. In Michigan, the Republican Party’s state committee said a failure to talk to voters in the political center was a central reason that Tudor Dixon, the party’s Trump-endorsed nominee for governor, was crushed in a 10 percentage point defeat by Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. “Tudor’s efforts focused largely on Republican red-meat issues, in hopes of inspiring a 2020-like showing at the polls,” a memo from the GOP committee said. “There were more ads on transgender sports than inflation, gas prices and bread-and-butter issues that could have swayed independent voters.”

More than 30% of the midterm voter pool, by one measure, were independent voters, or people who don’t affiliate with either political party. David Winston, a Republican pollster who consults with the party’s House and Senate leadership, said polling showed that they were unhappy with the country’s direction and assigned blame for high inflation to President Biden.

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