Few Republicans are willing to say that out loud, of course. But in a Monday interview on Fox Business Network, Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel essentially made the point — while trying to avoid presenting it as such.
Host Stuart Varney was keen for McDaniel to step in on his party’s Trump issue in 2022. She – understandably, given her desire to continue running the RNC – wasn’t keen on being so blunt.
“Would you say publicly that Donald Trump is responsible for some of the losses in the midterm elections? asks Varney.
McDaniel replied, “You know, I don’t like it. I don’t like these morsels [of responsibility]because he supported [North Carolina Senate candidate] Ted Budd, who won, and he supported [Ohio Senate candidate] JD Vance, who won.
It’s true that some Trump-backed candidates have won, especially in states like North Carolina and Ohio (which Trump has also won twice).
The image elsewhere was decidedly less friendly to Trump mentions, however. And you just have to look at the next two states that McDaniel herself brought up trying to sidestep the issue.
“But here’s the one thing I think people should be talking about is the ticket split amount — the number of Republicans who came out and voted for a Republican at the top of the ticket,” McDaniel said.
“Look at Arizona; the best voter is a Republican,” she added. “Look at Georgia. We have had eight of nine statewide races won by Republicans.
As it happens, these are perhaps the two states in which the Trump effect has been most pronounced, because of the contrasts they provide.
That Republican who got more votes than anyone in Arizona? It was state treasurer Kimberly Yee, who dropped out of the gubernatorial race after Trump endorsed Kari Lake. Yee won re-election in double digits. The GOP candidate for superintendent of public schools also narrowly won.
Neither was endorsed by Trump, but the other four statewide GOP candidates were. And it looks like all four, including Lake, lost. (There’s a recount in the state attorney general’s race, where the Trump-backed nominee is hotly trailing.)
Georgia was perhaps an even more telling case. As McDaniel alluded to, Herschel Walker’s defeat in the Senate race came as the other eight statewide GOP candidates all won by at least five percentage points, and in average of more than seven points. Half of them did so after easily defeating major Trump-backed challengers. Only one Trump-backed candidate has won the primary and the general election: his choice for lieutenant governor. Georgia provided Trump’s biggest reprimand in the primary season, and it turned out to be very good for the party in the general election.
So in total, in those two states, there were 15 statewide races. Five of the six Trump-backed candidates have lost; the nine candidates that Trump had not endorsed won.
Heck, even in one of the alleged Trump success stories cited by McDaniel, Ohio, the picture was pretty similar. Vance won by just six points even as other statewide GOP candidates won an average of more than 20 points. The biggest winner? Gov. Mike DeWine (R), whom Trump declined to back in a contested primary (but later backed in the general election, where DeWine was a heavy frontrunner).
So, yes, in a sense, 2022 was about ticket sharing. It’s just that nearly all of the most pronounced ticket-splitting cases involved seriously underperforming Trump candidates — not just in Arizona, Georgia, and Ohio, but also in New Hampshire, Michigan, and a series of House races.
Voters may not have looked at Trump-backed candidates and thought, “I don’t like Trump-backed candidates. But at the very least, Trump’s endorsements have overwhelmed the GOP with flawed candidates. In Georgia, GOP voters mostly sent these candidates to the primary (with the notable exception of the state Senate race); in Arizona, however, the person who ended up being the party’s most successful candidate — by far — was effectively left out.
“But why are Republicans going to vote for one Republican and not another?” McDaniel asked.
The question was rhetorical, but Varney immediately offered an answer: “Trump. You asked the question. The answer is Trump. is not it ?
McDaniel hesitated again, responding that the GOP needed time to do “analysis” to figure it out. But judging by the states she highlighted, it probably shouldn’t take long.