Campaign Report — Democrats overcome historic headwinds

Democratic Senate leadership for the 118th session of Congress
Greg Nash
Democratic Senate leadership for the 118th session of Congress pose for a photo after their leadership election on Thursday, December 8, 2022.

Welcome to The Hill’s Campaign Report, tracking all things related to the 2022 midterm elections. You can expect this newsletter in your inbox every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday as we make sense of this year’s elections and look ahead to 2024. 

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How Democrats won the midterms

Democrats defied political history in 2022 by growing the first term president’s party to a real majority in the Senate, retaining and winning a number of gubernatorial races, and tempering their losses in the House.

White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain celebrated Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock’s reelection win on Wednesday by tweeting, “POTUS becomes the first President since FDR 1934 to see every Senator in his party re-elected (who was seeking re-election.).”

On top of the historical headwinds, Democrats were also facing attacks from Republicans over rising inflation, gas prices, crime, and the flow of migrants over the southern border. Despite these attacks, Democrats were able to hold their own.

Here’s how: The party’s strategists and operatives say a number of factors played into their much-better-than-expected performance, including candidate quality and messaging on key issues like abortion access and protecting democracy in the wake of the Jan. 6 attacks.

And when it came to the economy, an issue that many thought would be a strength for Republicans, Democrats were able to message in their favor as well.

“The Republicans had no ability to be able to define us from a policy perspective because every single legislative item that has passed the House and the Senate, signed into law by the president, has had bipartisan applause and approval all across the country,” Democratic strategist Antjuan Seawright said.

You can read more about how Democrats were able to flip what was supposed to be a tough election in the latest piece from The Hill’s Julia Manchester.

Senate GOP divisions over Trump 

Another factor in the Democrats’ midterm victories was arguably former President Trump and how a number of his endorsed candidates lost their elections. Herschel Walker’s loss in Georgia’s Senate runoff earlier this week has led a number of Republicans to blame the former president for the party’s losses this midterm cycle.

But The Hill’s Alexander Bolton reports divisions remain among Republicans about the role Trump played this campaign cycle.

“Whether we talk about it or not, Trump was going to be a factor and [for] a lot of the folks that he endorsed he insisted the predicate for that endorsement be that the 2020 election was stolen and that’s a losing argument,” said Senate Republican Whip John Thune.

On the other hand, Trump ally Sen. Lindsey Graham says the argument that Trump brought down Republicans in the midterms is overblown.

“That analysis makes sense in some places, not in others — not in Georgia,” Graham said, pointing out that Biden beat Trump by roughly 12,000 votes in Georgia in 2020.

Graham instead said that Republicans need to put their energy into improving their strategy on early voting.

“Structurally, we’ve got a problem in several states. [Democrats] get too far ahead in early voting. We got to fix that and they’re outspending us three and four to one,” Graham said.

Trump has been grappling with a slew of negative headlines since announcing his third presidential bid, including his legal troubles, endorsed candidates’ losses, meeting with known Holocaust denier and white supremacist Nick Fuentes at Mar-a-Lago, and saying he wants to terminate parts of the Constitution.

And polling shows that the headlines and scandals he’s embroiled in could be dragging down his presidential bid. According to a new Yahoo News-YouGov poll, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis leads Trump 47 to 42 percent among registered voters in a hypothetical matchup.


The NAACP is pushing the Supreme Court to “uphold the integrity” of elections in the wake of oral arguments in the Moore v. Harper case on “the independent state legislature theory.”

The Hill’s Cheyanne Daniels explains how advocates, like the NAACP, are warning that the case could end state courts’ oversight of elections.

“Today is a big day for the future of our democracy. It is of utmost importance that we stand up and speak out when undemocratic forces seek to undermine our fundamental rights,” Derrick Johnson, NAACP president and CEO, said in a statement.

Tags 2022 midterm elections Lindsey Graham Raphael Warnock Ron Klain

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