Why I Don’t Think The Midterms Were An Anomaly

I have a bet with my youngest son. He’s a political pessimist, especially when it comes to the state of Indiana. (The bet involves very expensive dinners…) The bet was triggered by my excitement–and optimism–about Jennifer McCormick’s announcement that she is a candidate for Governor. I think she can win, even in deep Red Indiana; my son has written off the possibility of any Democrat winning statewide office, and has dismissed any predictive value of Obama’s 2008 Hoosier win.

My optimism about McCormick’s campaign is partially due to candidate quality (both hers and that of her likely opponent, the odious Mike Braun) but it is also based on what I see as a national trend: from top to bottom, the GOP is running truly horrible candidates.

At the very top of the Republican ticket, we are almost certain to get either Donald Trump or Ron DeSantis. American voters soundly rejected Trump in 2020, and he gets more certifiable as his legal woes mount. DeSantis appears to be basing his campaign on an “anti-woke” platform. Not only is DeSantis most definitely not a guy you’d like to have a beer with, his evident belief that a majority of Americans want to return to the 1950s, when “men were men” (and in charge), women were in the kitchen barefoot and pregnant, no one had ever heard the word transgender, and schools dutifully imparted White Christian propaganda, is simply delusional.

In a recent issue of his daily newsletter, Robert Hubbell noted that Democratic over-performance hasn’t abated since the midterms, when that predicted Red wave failed to materialize. He pointed to subsequent elections in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where voters selected the first non-Republican mayor since 1979 by a margin of 15 points;
a Pennsylvania special election to the state assembly where the Democrat won by 20 points and maintained Democratic control despite the fact that, going into the 2022 midterms, Republicans had held a 113-90 advantage; and a New Hampshire assembly race where the Democrat won by 43 percentage points, “eclipsing Biden’s 27-point margin in 2020.”

Hubbell quoted one analyst for the observation that

Democrats have overperformed the 2020 presidential results by an average of six points across 18 state legislative races this year. . . . They’ve also beaten their 2016 margins by an average of 10 points.

He quotes another analyst who focused in on the underlying reasons for that over-performance: abortion extremism, ongoing GOP-encouraged gun violence, extremist MAGA candidates, and a (finally!) fired-up Democratic grassroots.

In the run-up to the midterms, Republicans confidently pointed to Joe Biden’s disappointing approval ratings as a sign that they would sweep their gerrymandered House districts and retake control of the Senate. As we now know, despite the extreme gerrymandering and the vote suppression efforts, those victories eluded them.

As Morton Marcus and I argued in our recent book, the loss of Roe v. Wade was a major reason for that outcome. Women’s progress toward civic equality requires autonomy, control over one’s own reproduction, and most women who vote understand that. Republicans running for office in 2024 will have to “thread the needle” between primary voters who are rigidly anti-abortion and a general election electorate that is lopsidedly pro-choice.

Good luck with that…

Add to the abortion wars the daily gun carnage that feckless Republicans keep trying to blame on mental health–despite the fact that large majorities of voters, even majorities of NRA members, attribute the mayhem to the lack of responsible gun regulations.

Voters who aren’t part of the White Nationalist Cult that is today’s GOP look at Congress–at Republicans protecting George Santos, hiring Neo-Nazi staffers, threatening to ruin the economy if they aren’t allowed to deprive poor people of food and mistreat veterans...and a not-insignificant number of them are echoing the immortal words of Howard Beale in the classic movie Network:“I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this any more!”

It’s true that the GOP can count on its cult members coming to the polls. There are more of those sorry creatures than most nice people want to believe, and they absolutely pose a danger to all of us–but they are a distinct minority of Americans. We need to see them for what they are, and recognize the threat they pose to the America the rest of us inhabit, but they can’t win in the absence of majority apathy.

Democratic candidates, on the other hand, appeal to voters who (like Indiana’s McCormick) support public education and academic freedom, who believe in separation of church and state, in women’s equality, in civility and compassion and inclusion–in all those qualities that our parents taught us were admirable, but the GOP disdains as “woke.”

There’s a lot to be concerned about, but like Hubbell, I’m hopeful.


  1. I have been thinking and feeling the same thing. It is certainly time for a political change in the country. Republicans are going to experience what Democrats experienced in 1968.

  2. Good stuff. Some reason to be hopeful. I would feel better about Jennifer McCormick
    if I ever received ANY info about her campaign that was not from Prof K. In Indiana, we sometimes have GOOD candidates who run stealth campaigns. Like they are in the witness protection program or perhaps they are in a CIA black site where no one can find them. I sure hope this person comes out of obscurity in a way others have not.

  3. patmcc; thank you for your comment regarding the obscurity of Jennifer McCormick’s gubernatorial campaign. Will Indiana have another ghost candidate like John Glenn for that vital position? I began questioning his two time campaign attempts when learning he is one of my granddaughter’s father-in-law’s best friends; she was convinced by her very wealthy, staunch Republican in-laws to join them in their political support. When I say “very wealthy” I mean my granddaughter’s FOUR HUNDRED wedding guests and FOUR HUNDRED guests at the post-wedding convention rather than a reception. One questions was, did the Republican party cross the aisle in the Primary elections to put Glenn in as the Democratic gubernatorial candidate? Maybe I should question if Glenn was the same caliber Democrat as Manchin and Senima?

    We are fighting battles such as never before between the two political parties; dirtying the reputations of Democrats by Republican lies and speculations are at an all time high. I receive news reports on my cell phone; this morning a lead report was that Nancy Pelosi had installed her daughter as Senator Fienstien’s caretaker during her lengthy, unreported serious health crisis in order to convince Senator Fienstien to support Adam Schiff? Last weeks news report was that Nancy had installed her daughter as Senator Fienstien’s caretaker in hopes her daughter would replace the Senator if she were forced to resign. Such are the reports distracting us from the main issues at crisis levels we are facing; will President Biden be allowed to follow the Constitutional requirements regarding our debt level or will Trump’s Freedom Caucus’ extended Fascist family shut down our government?

    An anomaly? Or miraculous midterms?

  4. I believe we are seeing a backlash against hate and racism. If you go back to 1933 when the Democrats controlled the legislature. At the time as a party, they had the race and hate card sown up.
    This remained the case until the Dixiecrats started defecting and becoming Republicans. Then we got the Southern strategy that fueled the growth of racism and hate as a feature of the Republican Party. I believed this has reached its pinnacle and we are starting to see a momentum shift away from these twin curses of hate and racism.
    I am of the opinion the Republican Party is going the way of the Whig Party and the Democrats will have their way with a divided and depressed political party.

  5. The USA’s political climate is tense, and President Biden may face some challenges in the upcoming months. His handling of the debt ceiling issue has been criticized, and it could potentially turn away low-income voters. In addition, Biden may need support from more affluent suburban women to help him out. This could have an impact on down-ballot candidates’ victories.

    If Biden decides to run, his debates with Robert Kennedy could be difficult, especially when defending capitalism. It remains to be seen how the Oligarchic media will handle these debates.

    Overall, there is a risk that the Democratic party could lose voters, and it’s unclear if even Trump can win his primary over DeSantis. Therefore, predicting the next election’s outcome is difficult and too close to call.

    Edited by AI

  6. MEA CULPA! MEA CULPA! And an apology to astronaut John Glenn! That former Indiana gubernatorial candidate was John GREGG!

  7. It appears that the MAGATS in the US House of Representatives are prepared to tank the world economy, so they can hang it around Biden’s neck for 2024. How low can they go, you ask? Believe me when I tell you, there is no bottom for them.

  8. Republicans have had success by promoting fear, hatred, racism, etc. so they keep ramping it up, probably thinking that if some is good, the more the better. They are now so extreme that decent people are just disgusted by them. By waging rhetorical war on one group after another they have managed to alienate almost everyone except the folks who dived down some rabbit hole and never came up for air. I guess they have forgotten the most important thing to do when you find yourself in a hole is to stop digging.

  9. Don’t fret, Peggy. It’s all a well-managed show for viewer’s entertainment.

  10. Dr. Jennifer McCormick can win the race for Governor, but she needs to have funding. When criticism comes from the general public about Democrat candidates being obscure, it is not by design. People feel overwhelmed by the blowhards like Braun who can fund himself (or so he claims) and Suzanne Crouch, who can hold her own in the awful category of candidates.

    Dr. McCormick understands how to make government work, and she knows that it has to work for everyone, not just the GOP chosen benefactors. If you want to see change, donate to McCormick’s campaign. Sign up on her website to volunteer to help get her elected. https://www.mccormickforgov.com/

    Southern Indiana has given us some terrible governors, and some really good ones, but the current crop is out of step with what the people of Indiana want and need. My county Democrat Party in Mike Braun’s home county is going all out to help McCormick win. Braun is not well-regarded in his own hometown and even in this conservative area, people express disgust with our state legislature and state leadership.

    Dr. McCormick is one of the best candidates the Democrats have had for Governor, and I believe she will be our next Governor.

  11. I sense backlash, too, but don’t fall into the trap of thinking what happened last year will happen next year. The Republicans did not take over state legislatures across the country by being stupid, even though many of their voters may be. Some Republican leaders realize the Christian White nationalist movement is a long-term loser. Many have turned on Trump. Today’s endorsement of Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina for president by South Dakota Sen. John Thune is an immediate example. Democrats need to be prepared for opponents who are more substantial than recent candidates.

  12. I have been thinking that candidate quality is overlooked in the selective process and that McCormick, at last, beats that hurdle (while Braun does not). That, plus women who want to be in control of their health and the youth who don’t want to be shot for going to school as well as (dare I say it?) disaffected Republicans some of whom would prefer living with the libs over their party’s fascism give credence to Sheila’s optimism today.

    I posed the question of whether McCormick could win to my daughter and she was inclined from bitter experience to think along with Sheila’s son, even though she thought McCormick was an excellent candidate and Braun a total dud.

    I think that if Colorado Springs saddled with the politics of Attila the Hun can elect a Democratic mayor with points to spare that the similarly affected voters of Indiana can elect a Democratic governor. We have the issues hands down but the outcome will be determined by that old bugaboo, i. e., turnout and the tendency of Republican voters to vote for any candidate with an R beside his/her name on the ballot. It can be done, but will it? Time (and Obama-type organization) will tell.

  13. I’m optimistic about Dem chances at the ballot box, also based on recent performance, but not holding my breath. I see Biden as needing to come out to the debt ceiling crisis with momentum, or he will look like the weakling the GQP tries to paint him as being. The 14th amendment move seems like a good play to me, but what do i know?
    McCarthy seems to be in a loosing position, but Biden ought not give up much of anything.

  14. It’s such a strange world, where Fox viewers are brainwashed to believe the USA _is_ the country depicted by the channel. Explicitly, it is a white, Christian, male-dominated country where the vast majority of people believe as the viewers do, and there are just a few democrats out there, eating babies and working to destroy America. I’m convinced this is the key reason that they so easily believe in election fraud/theft. They really believe they are part of a vast majority, so losing seems impossible.

    Frustratingly, when provided with actual evidence–like scientific studies, or similar–they quickly dismiss this as leftwing propaganda, for much the same reason. That _can’t_ be right after all.

    This also explains the underhanded tricks and attacks. It’s understandable if one thinks this way. After all, lying is wrong, unless you are lying for Jesus. It’s just what you have to do to battle the forces of evil (i.e. Democrats and progressives). This is why insane candidates don’t scare them away, for example.

  15. I’m optimistic about Jennifer McCormick’s chances of being elected, but wonder how much she’ll be able to accomplish when likely every policy she presents will be steam-rolled and stymied by the GOP so-called legislature.

  16. I’m trying to get around to doing an article on McCormick. I too think she can win. Indiana is a much closer partisan state when it comes to presidential election years. The baseline numbers have been increasing for Democrats. The Republican advantage in the Indianapolis suburbs has decreased significantly even predating Trump. The right Democrat can actually win Hamilton County. Meanwhile Marion County has become even heavier Democrat. What helped keep Republicans afloat is that the turn out in rural areas has been through the roof during the Trump era. That will eventually bounce back.

    Braun has certain weaknesses as a candidate. He has embraced Donald Trump a little too close. Todd Young and Eric Holcomb did extremely well because they were seen as independent from Trump.

  17. Jennifer McCormick spoke at a gathering in my county last week. She is very energetic and aligns well with Democrat principles. I hope she wins, but I’m more pessimistic about that than Sheila is. In my blood-red county the Rs always vote straight ticket. It doesn’t matter to them if an R candidate is completely unqualified vs a knowledgeable and over-qualified candidate. Fox and Newsmax have convinced them that Dems are out to destroy the country.

    Her only hope of winning is if republicans that liked her as the republican head of education for the state will vote for her as a Democrat. That won’t happen in my rural county.

  18. I hope you are right, but that would require the Democratic Party at the National level giving some attention –any attention to the state of Indiana. We have become the fly over state for the Democratic Party. Plus, the state party needs to come up with some funding, messaging, and getting organized and from what I have witnessed all of this is a tall order. I recall the Democratic representatives from the rural counties complaining how the state has ignored their re-election efforts and was putting all their focus on the Indianapolis area. They got pretty much, no help–they were on their own, up against the Republican machine.

    Unfortunately the Democrats lack of focus and only putting forth efforts in urban areas and in blue states have contributed to some of these super-majority states. My hometown of Terre Haute was a Democratic city for years. I watched the statehouse systematically take out cities/towns that were Democratic strong holds. Now the city is pretty much Republican

  19. I can’t comment on how the Indiana electorate is exceptional compared to the rest of the country. Sometimes it seems that ya’ll are extra planetary or perhaps a distinct species unto yourselves. So I will not back either side in the expensive dinner race.

    However, nationwide it’s clear that Republicans are all in on backing a minority in a democracy.

    Our founders knew this is a perennial risk in government and that’s why they invented liberal democracy and baked it into our/their Constitution.

    Therefore the race is really between the founders vision and the present entertainment media as the advertising agency supporting a new vision of homogeneity over diversity.

    Hanging around for eight decades seems to reveal about as little homogeneity among humans as is conceivable. I have never seen two alike.

    Combining my observation of diversity and the founders vision of liberal democracy, I don’t see it as a losing hand. It seems like a Royal Flush to me. For the nation.

    For Indiana? I’ve been through the flyover country and in Indianapolis and thought I saw typical diversity there. Do you really all think alike?

  20. Todd, ordinarily I would agree, but it’s a brave new world with MTG in charge. I doubt she and her buds in the caucus actually understand what the debt ceiling is, or what would happen if we default. They would default just to piss off the libs.

  21. A turnip with an (R) by its name would be elected to state-wide office,
    Governor is a different animal.

    People didn’t know, or care, who Destiny Wells is, just that she was a (D). When it comes to Governor, people will, or might, learn about an individual candidate.

    It takes three things (because that’s a commonly used number):
    1) Democrats can’t pull their punches and must run on the issues that matter.
    2) McCormick has to ignore the polls and act like she is just one point behind until election day.
    3) Democrats have to realize that margins count, especially in “red” counties and run hard EVERYWHERE.

    Then, I wouldn’t bet on it, but she does have a decent chance.

  22. Sheila – Perhaps you should interview Jennifer McCormick and publish results here so that those unfamiliar with her will become acquainted. Frankly, I’d love to see you interview all the candidates for Governor. You’d do a better job than the interviews on TV or in local newspapers.

  23. I really like Jennifer McCormick and think she’ll be a great candidate. That said, I can’t shake off a bone deep pessimism that came from the 2022 Secretary of State race. Destiny Wells was a very solid candidate and Republican, Diego Morales, was … not. Even so, Wells barely cracked 40% of the vote.

    Also, your book with Morton Marcus was good! I posted a short review at:

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