Let’s Talk Politics – 2022 Midterm Recap and Takeaways by EJB Talks: Rutgers Bloustein School Experts

On this episode of EJB Talks it’s time to talk politics! Stuart Shapiro welcomes Amy Cobb back to recap the 2022 Midterms. The two talk about who won, who lost, competitive key races and what the future may hold. Tune in to find out more!! 

Stuart Shapiro
Welcome to EJBTalks. I’m Stuart Shapiro, the Interim Dean of the Bloustein School, and the purpose of this podcast is to highlight the work my colleagues, and our alumni in the fields of policy planning and health are doing. This week, we’re taking a break from our 30th anniversary theme of featuring alumni. I know it seems like we take a number of breaks, but the midterms were yesterday so Amy and I are going to talk about them.

Stuart Shapiro
We’re recording this at about noon, the morning after the midterms, so there’s still a lot to be determined, but we wanted to get something out quickly. And there’s certainly a lot to talk about. So Amy, I’ll let you take it away from there.

Amy Cobb
Yeah, because, you know, after 20 hours of you doing that yesterday, let’s do some more today.

Stuart Shapiro
Yeah that’s right.

Amy Cobb
We’re gonna roll right into it. I am curious to know, what surprised you yesterday?

Stuart Shapiro
So I guess there were very few individual results that surprised me. The polls did a really, really good job.

Amy Cobb
Surprising. This has not been the case.

Stuart Shapiro
Yeah, although people undersell that. I mean, in 2018, the polls pretty much got it right on as well. And I actually do have a theory about that. I think it’s Trump running that makes it harder for the polls to get it right. So in most races, the past six, eight years, the polls have been right, except for the two biggies, 2016 and 2020 presidential races.

So, so yeah, individual races did not surprise me. I guess the biggest surprise is the overall performance of Democrats in the House. Certainly it was within the bounds of prediction in terms of where we might be, but it was towards the upper end that bound for the Democrats. Looks like the Republicans will control the house with a majority possibly of fewer than 10 votes. And that is, I think, better for the Democrats than most people suspected.

Amy Cobb
Yeah, I saw Lindsey Graham was kind of laughing about it this morning, saying that a lot of the Trump candidates didn’t do well and a lot of people are saying red trickle instead of red wave. So I mean, the fact that Lindsey, Lindsey Graham is Lindsey Graham, but the fact that he was kind of guffawing on air this morning. I think that took a few a few people by surprise.

Stuart Shapiro
Well, Lindsey Graham blows with the wind. ((laughing)) More so than almost any politician I can remember from a excoriating Trump to groveling to Trump to now turning on Trump. There is no doubt though, that you know, it’s gonna take a while to digest everything that happened last night. We have to be careful of succumbing to narratives and and trying to fit everything into one little explanatory box. But the big loser last night was Donald Trump. And I don’t think that we need too much more analysis to get around that.

With the exception of JD Vance, nearly every candidate that Trump vocally supported lost. When all was said and done, if the Democrats control the Senate, they likely have Trump to thank for that by pushing Don Bolduc in New Hampshire by pushing Herschel Walker in Georgia. It was really a… And there are a number of House candidates and governors that fall in that category as well, and even Vance got a major influx of cash and support from Mitch McConnell near the end of the race. And so even that one Trump will take credit for but does not deserve full credit for.

So it was it was a bad night for the former president and reports have him throwing temper tantrums this morning.

Amy Cobb
What a surprise.

Stuart Shapiro
Yeah, no reports on whether he threw any spaghetti. ((laughing)) But he’s clearly not happy. But I’m sure he’s blaming other people and not himself.

Amy Cobb
So I’m gonna get back to Congress in a minute, but there were a lot of governor’s races that for many reasons are incredibly critical. Dobbs being one of the many reasons it’s it was critical to see those races. There’s one in particular, it’s Arizona. It’s a little tight. Is it Arizona? Yes. It’s a little tight, much like

Stuart Shapiro
And Neveda as well.

Amy Cobb
…and much like the senate race… and Nevada as well. But um, were there any governor’s races that didn’t surprise you, but you’re happier you feel the results are a little bit, you know, different than what some people suspected?

Stuart Shapiro
Well, you’re absolutely right in that, you know, the race, the governor’s races were and the secretary of state races were critically important. Because the 2024 election will depend on governors and secretaries of state willing to certify victories that their party does not have. And so Gretchen Whitmer and Josh Shapiro in Michigan and Pennsylvania, as the polls predicted, but still still very happy to see given that they were both running against election deniers and conspiracy theorists. Both won handy victories. Tony Evers in Wisconsin also won a much closer victory against his opponent. And that was also gratifying to see. And Wisconsin avoided a supermajority of Republicans in the state legislature.

We’re not out of the woods yet, though, because the Nevada and Arizona races are still yet to be determined. And in both of those cases, you do have Republican election deniers including the increasingly prominent Kari Lake like in Arizona…

Amy Cobb
She’s an interesting person.

Stuart Shapiro
Yeah, that’s a nice way of putting it.

Amy Cobb
Trying to be positive Stuart.

Stuart Shapiro
So yeah, that is a those races are also very important for 2024. I don’t know the abortion status in either of those states. I will refrain from commenting on them. I do know that Whitmer, Shapiro and Evers victories will protect the right to choose in in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin…

Amy Cobb
Kentucky also, even though voted Republican. They voted to protect abortion..

Stuart Shapiro
Yes.

Amy Cobb
…in that state, which it’s such a dichotomy. But I think that’s really important to note that there are people who do separate those those and that’s a huge win in Kentucky.

Stuart Shapiro
And North Carolina, the Republicans were also denied a veto proof majority in the legislature, which means the Democratic governor there can protect abortion rights for the next two years at least.

Amy Cobb
And he made a statement about that yesterday.

Stuart Shapiro
Yep. And one one thing to note, though, I think what’s happening here, and it’ll be interesting to see if the anti abortion movement adjusts by going very extreme in their policies in terms of trying to ban abortion altogether. They seem to, and this is probably what almost certainly what happened in Kentucky, they have alienated the voters who are generally opposed to abortion, but want some exceptions, whether it’s for rape or incest or health of the mother. They do want exceptions in there, and may very well support significant restrictions on abortion, but will not support total bans. And we will see what happens with that in the next two years. Especially since abortion will very much be on the ballot again in 2024.

Amy Cobb
Right, and so that brings me back to Congress again. So you know, the house flipping to Republican not a surprise, although great that it wasn’t a humongous red wave. But now we’re talking about the Senate. There’s I mean, it’s been a very tight balance anyway. Georgia will more than likely be a runoff, I’m assuming because I don’t see either candidate getting the 50% mark. So what does that say about the Georgia race? Does that bode better or or worse for a candidate if they do a runoff or do you feel it will be just as tight as before?

Stuart Shapiro
Well, all jokes about people having to explain to Herschel Walker what a runoff is right now aside, the the runoff will be interesting. And depending on what happens in Nevada, you and I just talked beforehand, and it looks like Ron Johnson, won in Wisconsin, I expect that Mark Kelly will win in Arizona and hold that seat for the Democrats. So that means the Democrats need to win either Nevada or Georgia. Those will be the two outstanding seats. As of the time, you know, within a couple of days, we’ll have those two seats left.

Stuart Shapiro
If the Democrats win Nevada, they will have clinched a majority. And I suspect the Republicans will not fight hard for Herschel Walker in Georgia, and that Warnock will likely have an easier time there. If the Democrats lose Nevada, then the majority in the Senate is at stake in the runoff in Georgia. And I think you will see a situation quite comparable to what we saw two years ago in Georgia where the entire country is focused on the runoff there. Certainly something Raphael Warnock is already familiar with since he lived through it two years ago.

Stuart Shapiro
I tend to think Warnock still has the advantage for two reasons. One is that Walker will not have Brian Kemp on the ballot like he did yesterday. So people that went out to the ballot box to vote for Brian Kemp and checked Walker’s name off as well, maybe less likely to come out now. And second, it’s fairly likely that Donald Trump is going to declare for the presidency within the next week.

Amy Cobb
Yeah.

Stuart Shapiro
So fairly likely.

Amy Cobb
Great.

Stuart Shapiro
And that’s going to make the Georgia runoff much more about as much about Trump as it is about Walker. And I think that helps Warnock as well. That said, you know, Mitch McConnell would love to be the majority leader, again, he will do a great deal to help Herschel Walker in that campaign, and it will be a tight race, it won’t be a blowout, regardless of all these external factors. I think unless Nevada has already been decided.

Amy Cobb
Okay. So anything left on the table about the election that we haven’t talked about yet? You know, there’s always something but… ((laughing))

Stuart Shapiro
((laughing)) There’s there’s plenty more and like I said, we want to resist narratives. Other than I do think Trump lost last night. I think, you know, President Biden comes off fairly well, after last night. Midterm losses, and you know, it may not be due to anything he did, but his midterm losses are less than those of Trump of Obama and of Clinton. And he definitely is going to tout that and and Democrats I think will realize it as well. So to the degree that Biden needed a help in his political fortunes, he got it last night. The other big winner last night is Ron DeSantis.

Amy Cobb
I was just about to say, because that’s Trump announcing next week, and they’re already starting to kind of publicly go back and forth with each other. DeSantis had a huge win.

Stuart Shapiro
Yep. Yeah. In a night when very few Republicans had huge wins, Ron DeSantis had a huge win. Marco Rubio won in Florida. The Republicans picked up I believe three House seats in Florida, and Ron DeSantis can justifiably claim credit for all of that. Now, the rumors were last week that DeSantis would not challenged Trump if Trump ran. But given the backlash against Trump that’s already occurring, Fox News this morning posted on social media that Trump was to blame for the Republican underperformance last night. You’re certainly hearing insiders talk about how this was Trump’s fault.

Amy Cobb
And Lindsey Graham. ((laughing))

Stuart Shapiro
((laughing)) Yes. And you are hearing Lindsey Graham, talk about it. May all indicate that Ron DeSantis may reconsider that and may indeed, come into the race. If I’m DeSantis, I don’t feel like there’s a rush to do so. There’s a reasonable chance that Trump gets indicted within the next few weeks as well, or and or a special counsel appointed to investigate one or both of the DOJ investigations into him. Why not wait and see how that starts to play out before making your decision?

Amy Cobb
Plus he just won the governor’s race.

Stuart Shapiro
Yeah, that never slowed any one down. ((laughing))

Amy Cobb
But he can float on a happy cloud. ((laughing))

Stuart Shapiro
But certainly, I think one of DeSantis’ campaign planks will be, look, you may love this guy. I love this guy. But he can’t win, and I can. And these lawsuits are part of the evidence as to why he can’t win. And so there is some argument for DeSantis to wait a little bit. That’s certainly one of the plot lines that comes out of last night’s last night’s elections.

The other thing to talk about is and I have mixed feelings about this, but let’s say the Republicans have a eight seat majority in the House. That is an utterly ungovernable caucus for whoever the Speaker of the House is. You have got on the one side, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Matt Gaetz, Paul Gosar, Andy Biggs who will all be pushing you to shut down government to ban abortions to to pull out of Ukraine, all these things that not only will the Democrats oppose, but a good portion of the Republican caucus will oppose. And if you only have an eight seat majority, you can’t afford to lose those votes on that side. Meanwhile where Republicans did well last night, it’s looking like are in house races in New York and New Jersey. Tom Kean Jr. Beat Tom Malinowski here in New Jersey, They’ve picked up at least two seats in NY

Amy Cobb
Lawler is one. And I can’t remember the other…on Long Island.

Stuart Shapiro
Yeah. And there’s a couple others they may pick up that are still undecided in New York and in California, which means you’ll have some moderates in the caucus as well who are running from districts that Biden carried in 2020, who will be not so happy about catering to Marjorie Taylor Greene and Matt Gaetz and Paul Gosar and Andy Biggs. It is a very hard caucus to manage. There’s going to be I mean, from a, you know, stand back and watch the craziness perspective, it will be it will be entertaining. But for the need to successfully govern the United States…

Amy Cobb
Yeah.

Stuart Shapiro
It will not be a good thing. Because, you know, you could have a debt limit crisis, you could have multiple government shutdowns. You could have a very much a who’s in charge here scenario for the Republicans to deal with. And that’s true whether or not they take the Senate or not. And so so that will be something that’s another plotline that comes out of last night’s races.

At the end of the day, though, you know, the Democrats did reasonably well. Not, not fantastic, not spectacular, but reasonably well, particularly given that it was a midterm, with an unpopular president with inflation at 8.8%. And they have to be happy with that. And the question is, what lessons will each side learn from it? Will, the Republicans learn that insurrections are bad and extreme pro life policies are bad, or will they double down on that in for the 2024 elections? And will the Democrats learn that they won by running reasonable candidates in in races where such candidates are needed in order to secure victory?

Amy Cobb
Well, that’s, that’s Wow. I feel like we haven’t really gone anywhere. And and here’s the thing…

Stuart Shapiro
It could have gone bad.

Amy Cobb
We could have gone worse. Yes, yes, it’s true.

Stuart Shapiro
It’s very was very viable that that would happen.

Amy Cobb
I did say to my husband this morning… well we wake up just kind of nowhere, but better than how awful it could have been. And even if the Republicans win the majority in the Senate, it’s not nothing’s really going to happen. They’re not ever going to be able to do anything without without

Stuart Shapiro
Without the Presidency.

Amy Cobb
… compromise and without the presidency. So my my fear for all of us is it’s nothing’s going to happen.

Stuart Shapiro
I think that’s likely. Yeah, no, I don’t think I think the major policy portion making of Biden’s first term of the presidency is over, or will be over on January 3, there’s going to be a lot that happens in the lame duck session. But there is that. But I the one thing to keep in mind with the Senate is that the Senate confirms judges. And that’s where the Democrats securing a majority is of the utmost importance to President Biden. Because if Mitch McConnell is the majority leader, there will be very few judges confirmed over the next two years. So that’s where the Warnock run off and the results in Nevada make a big difference.

Amy Cobb
Well, hopefully, we won’t have to do another catch up, because it will just kind of meld into what we’ve talked about, and we wouldn’t have to worry about it. It was exciting to see a lot of the governor’s races and it does make you feel that people were paying attention to some things even even not in the same way we all think about it so…

Stuart Shapiro
Yup. And it looks like and this cannot be underestimated… Dr. Oz conceded. Tutor Dixon conceded in Michigan, Michaels conceded in Wisconsin. It looks like unless, unless Kari Lake…. there’s a problem there in Arizona… It looks like we avoided what a lot of people thought, including to some degree me but I wasn’t maybe as as worried but always a little bit worried. The election denialism and the violence it might spur. We’re not out of the woods yet. It’s not over yet. But pretty much it seems like the only one who cannot concede defeat Trump and that’s that’s a good thing. To the degree that that has not spread across across the Republican Party despite…

Amy Cobb
Even Bobert.. even Bobert

Stuart Shapiro
Has she conceded?

Amy Cobb
I don’t know if she conceded but there was before an after picture of her that was very sad.

Stuart Shapiro
The times says that race is still at least a toss up. Yeah. Given the uncounted votes so …

Amy Cobb
How? ((laughing))

Stuart Shapiro
Yeah. ((laughing)) Yeah, but that that was a good thing the lack of the lack of worry about violence and, and the lack of harassment of poll workers yesterday and all those things also very good.

Amy Cobb
So there were more neutral to positive.

Stuart Shapiro
That’s right.

Amy Cobb
That’s a big step for us.

Stuart Shapiro
We take it.

Amy Cobb
We’ll take it. Well, thanks, Stuart.

Stuart Shapiro
Thank you, Amy. Thank you for for stepping onto this side of the glass and hosting and for producing thanks to Karyn Olsen for publicizing and we will be back with our regular theme next week. We have an exciting guest lined up until then stay safe.