Feehery: Republican disunity in several states proves costly
There is a pretty simple reason that Republicans did well in some places and disappointed in other places in this year’s midterms.
In Florida, Ohio and New York, the GOP was united in purpose and in approach, and victory was easy.
In Arizona, Colorado, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Michigan and plenty of other places, the party was not united — and didn’t win as a result.
In Georgia, the result was a split decision. Republican Gov. Brian Kemp won reelection with 53 percent of the vote. But Republican Senate candidate Hershel Walker was unable to secure more than 50 percent of the vote, putting him in a December runoff with Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) was clearly the big winner of the night. And his victory was a not solitary triumph; with him came Sen. Marco Rubio and four additional House Republicans. The party was united. The establishment (whatever is left of it) supported the GOP candidates, Donald Trump wasn’t causing any problems, the redistricting process was eventually worked out, and Republicans won in an epic landslide.
In Ohio, Gov. Mike DeWine (R) coasted to reelection, and with him came a first-time Senate candidate, Republican J.D. Vance. With the exception of Rep. Steve Chabot, Republicans won all the seats they should have won. Although they could have beaten a Democrat who represented a white working-class district. In that one district, Republicans were not on the same page.
Even in New York, the bluest of blue states, Republican unity carried the party to over-performing expectations. They didn’t win governor’s mansion, but they had a strong enough candidate to keep things competitive. They didn’t win the race against Sen. Chuck Schumer, but again, the Republican candidate gave the majority leader more of a run than anybody expected. Because Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin ran a good gubernatorial race, it gave other Republicans in the delegation a chance to win in multiple competitive districts, especially on Long Island. Without the Empire State, it is highly unlikely that Republicans would have taken back the House.
But unfortunately for the GOP, when Republicans didn’t unify after tough primaries, or when Donald Trump decided to take pot shots at our candidates because they weren’t sufficiently loyal to him, the result was disappointment.
Trump pulled his support for Colorado Senate candidate Joe O’Dea, and he got trounced in the race there so badly that Republicans lost one House seat they should have won and almost lost another one.
In Maryland, outgoing Republican Gov. Larry Hogan refused to support the Republican candidate for governor, and the party ran a nobody (and by nobody, I mean somebody who spent less than $5,000 on his campaign) against Democratic Sen. Chris Van Hollen. That collapse of the party at the top of the ticket meant that Republicans blew a chance at a winnable seat against Democratic Rep. David Trone.
In Pennsylvania, Republican Senate candidate Mehmet Oz tried his darnedest to unify the state’s conservatives and moderates, doing a rally with Trump one day and a roundtable with Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) the next day. But the Republican Party refused to support the GOP candidate for governor, Doug Mastriano (in all fairness, Mastriano didn’t do much to help himself. Oz lost because the party was not unified and several House Republicans who should have won close races lost as a result.
In Arizona, Kari Lake decided that it was a smart idea to start attacking the family of the late Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and their supporters right before the election, even campaigning with Steve Bannon, the very controversial alt-right leader. Despite leading in the polls, Lake lost, and her loss certainly didn’t help Republican Senate nominee Blake Masters, who had his own difficulties unifying the party after a difficult primary.
There are plenty of other examples. In Iowa, there was unity. In Michigan, deep divisions. In Alaska, division will most likely cost Republicans a House seat. In Arkansas, a united party kept the state beet red.
The lesson is pretty simple: A party divided among itself cannot win. Especially in a closely divided country.
Feehery is a partner at EFB Advocacy and blogs at thefeeherytheory.com. He served as spokesman to former House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), as communications director to former House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Texas) and as a speechwriter to former House Minority Leader Bob Michel (R-Ill.).