Tuesday night could have been so much worse for Joe Biden. Forecasters said the US midterm elections would trigger a red wave, even a “tsunami”. In fact, it was average ripple by past midterm standards.
As of this writing, the Democrats had an exceedingly good chance of keeping the Senate and a slightly smaller chance of keeping the House of Representatives. Whatever the final tally, which could take days to verify, Biden has avoided the bombing that has befallen both Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, his Democratic predecessors. In today’s darkly polarized America, that’s a win.
There will be plenty of time to ponder another mediocre performance from the US election industry. It was also a snitch for prominent aggregators like Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight. Their models have been distorted by a spate of partisan opinion polls from the right.
The age of the “geek gods” seems to be fading. Regardless of the final distribution of loot in Congress and for hundreds of statewide positions across America, three conclusions can be drawn.
First, Donald Trump is weaker than polls suggest. Just before the polls closed, he said: “Well, I guess if they [Republicans] win should give me all the credit. If they lose, I shouldn’t be blamed at all.” In reality, the more extreme candidates that Trump endorsed underperformed the average Republican. They include Doug Mastriano, his walk-out favorite for Pennsylvania governor in 2020, Daniel Cox for Maryland governor, and Don Bolduc for a New Hampshire Senate seat.
Among the Trump-backed candidates who have won, including JD Vance for an Ohio Senate seat, most have distanced themselves from Trump’s more extreme positions after winning their party’s nomination. The same goes for Blake Masters, who would appear to lose his race for an Arizona Senate seat.
Most threatening for Trump, however, was the brilliant re-election of Ron DeSantis as governor of Florida. DeSantis, nicknamed “DeSanctimonious” by Trump, is Trump’s most plausible rival for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. Though he hasn’t been tested outside of Florida, DeSantis has been shut down by his attacks on liberal teachers’ unions and his disdain for federal regulations from Covid-19 has become an advocate of conservative “anti-woke” policies.
Perhaps the strongest indicator of DeSantis’ conservative potency is the characteristic threat Trump now makes of him: “I would tell you things about him.” [DeSantis] that’s not going to be very flattering,” Trump said Monday. “I know more about him than anyone – except maybe his wife.”
Biden can expect some side benefit from the political fratricide likely to be unleashed between the author of the Maga movement and his increasingly impatient heir.
The second conclusion is that Biden continues to beat low expectations. The recent consensus is that he is dwindling as president and fading as an activist. The former is difficult to substantiate since his record in two years’ legislature is significantly better than Clinton’s in eight and arguably Obama’s as well.
Biden’s performance at the Hustings — and the relative scarcity with which he’s campaigned since September — has been fiddly. But that was true for most of Biden’s political career. America’s pundits often overestimate the importance of good rhetoric. It’s worth noting, though, that his Gallup approval rating of just over 40 percent didn’t do much harm to his party’s turnout.
None of this mitigates the fact that even a narrow majority in the Republican House of Representatives, which is still the most likely outcome, will massively disrupt Biden’s presidency — Tuesday night’s third conclusion.
Kevin McCarthy, likely the next House Speaker, has made it clear that he plans to bury the White House in subpoenas. He will lead House investigations into alleged cover-ups of the “Lab Leak” theory of Covid’s origins in Wuhan, Biden’s chaotic withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan last year, his son Hunter Biden’s alleged monetization of the family name, and the Department of start The role of the judiciary in the investigation of Trump.
McCarthy will also come under acute pressure from the right to impeach Biden as a tit-for-tat move against the House Democrats’ two impeachments against Trump. It’s unclear what crimes or misdemeanors Biden is being charged with.
Most of it will be pure theatre. Ultimately, if Democrats retain control of the Senate, such measures will get nowhere. If they lose control, Biden can veto any legislation with less than a two-thirds majority, unthinkable in Washington today.
In terms of foreign policy, Biden will have a free hand. For America’s allies, particularly in the coalition supporting Ukraine’s fight against Russia, that will be of some consolation. But that only applies to the next two years. After that, as always in America today, all bets will be off.
https://www.ft.com/content/5e1f3a6a-e261-47f6-ba63-d1f023649a66 Biden defies low expectations as ‘red tsunami’ collapses