Saturday, November 12, 2022

How the 2022 Midterms Became a Squeaker

At the New York Times, "Interviews with more than 70 current and former officials show the outside forces — and miscalculations and infighting — that led to an improbable, still-undecided election":

Late one mid-September evening, the leaders of the House Democratic campaign arm were in the middle of a marathon meeting, grappling with an increasingly hostile midterm landscape. Two choices were on the table: a more defensive posture to limit their losses in the face of a potential red wave or a more aggressive approach in hopes of saving their paper-thin majority.

Leftover Chinese food was strewn about. The hour approached midnight. The decision was made. They would go all in for the majority — the pundits, polling and punishing political environment be damned. Representative Sean Patrick Maloney, the chairman of the group, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, walked to the whiteboard and scrawled a single word.


The man who made that Ted Lasso-style exhortation went down to defeat on Tuesday. And Democrats are still facing the likelihood of ceding control of the House of Representatives to Republicans, no matter their morale-building exercises.

Yet Democrats turned in the strongest midterm showing in two decades for a party holding the White House, keeping the House on such a razor’s edge that control is still up for grabs days after the polls closed. In the Senate, Democrats have a path not only to keeping power but even to expanding their majority if the remaining races go their way, including a Georgia runoff. And the party won several key governorships, too.

The breadth of success caught even the most optimistic corners of the party by surprise. House Republicans had planned a big victory party on Tuesday, while Speaker Nancy Pelosi was hunkered down behind closed doors at a Democratic headquarters.

All the conditions appeared to have been set for a Democratic wipeout: inflation at 40-year highs, concerns about crime, elevated gas prices, the typical thrust for change.

How the midterms turned out so improbably was, in many ways, a function of forces beyond Democrats’ control. A Supreme Court decision that stripped away a half-century of abortion rights galvanized their base. A polarizing, unpopular and ever-present former president, Donald J. Trump, provided the type of ready-made foil whom White Houses rarely enjoy.

But interviews with more than 70 people — party strategists, lawmakers and current and former White House officials — also revealed crucial tactical decisions, strategic miscalculations, misreading of polls, infighting and behind-the-scenes maneuvering in both parties that led the G.O.P. to blow its chance at a blowout...

Keep reading.