'An earthquake': GOP rides high after Democrats' Tuesday shellacking

'An earthquake': GOP rides high after Democrats' Tuesday shellacking
© Greg Nash

Republicans are jubilant, brimming with confidence about what Glenn YoungkinGlenn YoungkinOvernight Energy & Environment — 'Forever chemical' suits face time crunch Lawmaker asks ex-EPA chief why he couldn't convince Trump climate change is real Virginia governor knocks school boards challenging order making masks optional MORE’s gubernatorial win in Virginia means for their 2022 hopes to take back control of Congress.

Less than a year after finding themselves locked out of the White House and banished to the minority in both chambers of Congress, GOP lawmakers are feeling bullish about their chances next year with the House and Senate both up for grabs.

Republicans acknowledge that the political environment could shift between now and the home stretch of the midterm election, when most voters will start tuning in. But they contend the results in Virginia and the closer-than-expected results in New Jersey’s gubernatorial contest underscore that the pendulum is swinging back in their direction. 

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“I think this is an earthquake,” said Sen. Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleySenate Republicans press federal authorities for information on Texas synagogue hostage-taker Missouri Senate candidate says Congress members should go to jail if guilty of insider trading On The Money — Ban on stock trading for Congress gains steam MORE (R-Mo.). 

Sen. John CornynJohn CornynSenate Republicans press federal authorities for information on Texas synagogue hostage-taker Senators huddle on Russia sanctions as tensions escalate Momentum builds for new COVID-19 relief for businesses MORE (R-Texas), a close ally of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSchumer vows to vote on Biden Supreme Court pick with 'all deliberate speed' It's time for 'Uncle Joe' to take off the gloves against Manchin and Sinema Democrats should ignore Senators Manchin and Sinema MORE (R-Ky.), described himself as “elated.” 

“The Biden administration and Democrats have certainly given us a lot of issues to run on, and I guess the question is going to be can we recruit and nominate quality candidates that can take advantage of that,” Cornyn said.

The optimism on the right comes as the setbacks in Virginia quickly set off sirens among Democrats, who worry that it could foreshadow a rough 2022 midterm unless the party course corrects and sharpens their messaging. 

“As one who is running for reelection in 2022, I need results that I can show the American people that Congress can deliver,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.).

The first midterm is typically rough for the party that controls the White House, and the setback Tuesday night immediately drew comparisons to 2009, when Republicans won the Virginia governor’s race under former President ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaClyburn predicts Supreme Court contender J. Michelle Childs would get GOP votes Progressives see Breyer retirement as cold comfort The names to know as Biden mulls Breyer's replacement MORE. 

GOP leaders believe they could see a wave in 2022 even larger than the 2010 surge that handed the House to Republicans and marked the rise of the Tea Party. Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiHouse Republicans bash Democrats' China competition bill Man seen wearing 'Camp Auschwitz' sweatshirt on Jan. 6 pleads guilty to trespassing Democrats should ignore Senators Manchin and Sinema MORE (D-Calif.) lost 63 seats that year and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyHouse Republicans bash Democrats' China competition bill Press: Newt says lock 'em up – for doing their job!  The Hill's Morning Report - Biden, NATO eye 'all scenarios' with Russia MORE (R-Calif.) — who has his eye on the Speaker’s gavel — said the GOP might surpass that mark next year. 

“It’ll be more than 70 [Democratic seats] that will be competitive. There’s many that are going to lose their races based upon walking off a cliff from Nancy Pelosi pushing them,” he told reporters. 

During an interview with Fox News, McConnell on Wednesday said the off-year elections in New Jersey and Virginia are frequently “a precursor of what happens in the next year.” 

“That’s what happened in 2009, the first year of the Obama administration and the second year of the Obama administration they got crushed. That is likely to happen again a year from now,” he added. 

Republicans are so upbeat in part because of President BidenJoe BidenNorth Korea conducts potential 6th missile test in a month Clyburn predicts Supreme Court contender J. Michelle Childs would get GOP votes Overnight Defense & National Security — US delivers written response to Russia MORE’s margin of victory in Virginia last year. The president carried the state by approximately 10 percentage points and carried New Jersey by nearly 16 points. 

A GOP strategist working on Senate races who spoke on background noted there are several states where Senate Democrats are up for reelection next year where Biden had a narrower margin of victory than he did in Virginia. That includes Georgia, Arizona, Nevada and New Hampshire, where Sens. Raphael WarnockRaphael WarnockWarnock outraises Walker in Georgia Senate race Herschel Walker reports .4M raised in latest quarter for Senate bid Senate Democrats urge Biden to get beefed-up child tax credit into spending deal MORE (D-Ga.), Mark KellyMark KellyPoll: Sinema approval higher among Arizona Republicans than Democrats Documentary to be released on Gabby Giffords's recovery from shooting Kelly pushes back on Arizona Democrats' move to censure Sinema MORE (D-Ariz.), Catherine Cortez MastoCatherine Marie Cortez MastoThe names to know as Biden mulls Breyer's replacement Democrats torn over pushing stolen-election narrative These Senate seats are up for election in 2022 MORE (D-Nev.) and Maggie HassanMargaret (Maggie) HassanDemocrats say change to filibuster just a matter of time Democrats torn over pushing stolen-election narrative These Senate seats are up for election in 2022 MORE (D-N.H.) are on the ballot. The source pointed to Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, which are currently Republican-held Senate seats up for reelection, Biden narrowly carried both states in 2020. 

The strategist also noted they are “further afield” but that “may warrant adjusting … expectations” given Tuesday night’s results, including states like Colorado where Sen. Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetSenate Democrats urge Biden to get beefed-up child tax credit into spending deal These Senate seats are up for election in 2022 Overnight Energy & Environment — Starting from 'scratch' on climate, spending bill MORE (D) is running and Illinois where Sen. Tammy DuckworthLadda (Tammy) Tammy DuckworthThese Senate seats are up for election in 2022 Democrats call on Biden administration to ease entry to US for at-risk Afghans We must learn from the Afghanistan experience — starting with the withdrawal MORE (D) is also facing reelection. Biden carried those states in 2020 by 13.5 and 16.9 percentage points, respectively. 

McConnell added that “the wind is going to be at our backs” in 2022 and that the majority runs through states including North Carolina, Georgia, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire and Arizona.

“All of those states are getting redder every day,” he said.

McCarthy, speaking to reporters, sent his own warning shot saying that any House Democrats in districts Biden won by 16 percentage points are now in competitive races heading into 2022. 

“You are no longer safe,” he said. 

To win back the House, Republicans would only need to pick up a net of five seats, while they need a net pick up of one seat to win back the Senate. 

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But a handful of GOP senators including Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiClyburn predicts Supreme Court contender J. Michelle Childs would get GOP votes The names to know as Biden mulls Breyer's replacement Romney participating in fundraiser for Liz Cheney MORE (Alaska), Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonWisconsin Democratic Senate candidate Sarah Godlewski rolls out rural policy plan Democrats say change to filibuster just a matter of time Conservative pundit says YouTube blocked interview with Rand Paul MORE (Wis.) and John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneThere is a bipartisan path forward on election and voter protections Juan Williams: It's Trump vs. McConnell for the GOP's future Biden's year two won't be about bipartisanship  MORE (S.D.) haven’t said yet if they will seek another term. Johnson and Thune, McConnell’s No. 2, both characterized Youngkin’s victory as a positive sign for Republicans. 

“I think it’s a really good environment and I think the Democrats have just overreached,” Thune said. 

“I think that what it demonstrated was that a positive message that’s focused on issues that people care about in their daily lives is more powerful than making it about any one person,” he added. 

Yet, Republicans are also facing bloody primary fights where support for former President TrumpDonald TrumpNorth Korea conducts potential 6th missile test in a month Kemp leading Perdue in Georgia gubernatorial primary: poll US ranked 27th least corrupt country in the world MORE has been a key factor. That’s a shift from Youngkin, who effectively kept Trump at a distance.

It’s a strategy that is in line with McConnell, who has signaled that he wants the upcoming election to be a referendum on Biden and not a rehash of the 2020 election. McConnell called Youngkin’s strategy a “good model.” 

“He thanked President Trump for his support, but moved on to make the election about Glenn Youngkin and his plans for Virginia and the issues that divided the two parties,” he said. 

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“Republicans are happy to have President Trump’s support, but in the end we’re gonna be running our own people and our own positions and focusing on the 2022 election,” he added.

Cornyn speculated that Trump would be a “factor,” but “not the dominant factor” in 2022. 

“Obviously he’s already endorsed people like Herschel Walker,” Cornyn said, referring to the top GOP candidate in Georgia. “[But] we certainly have a whole lot of issues to run on.”