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US Mid-Term Polls: Donald Trump Led Republicans To Setback, Will Results Affect His 2024 Ambitions?

Former US President Donald Trump, who handpicked several Republican candidates in US mid-term elections, appears to have emerged as a liability for the Republican Party as he is blamed for setbacks.

Former US President Donald Trump
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Defying expectations and odds stacked against them, the Democrats have secured majority in the US Senate by winning 50 of the 100 seats. 

In Senate, the upper chamber of the the US Congress, Vice President Kamala Harris will become the 51st tie-breaking vote for the Democrats as the Vice President presides over the Senate and has voting rights. 

In the lower chamber, the House of Representatives, the Republicans are on their way to win majority, but it will be a very slim majority. 

This performance of the Republican Party is in stark contrast to the expectations of the party. It was expected that the Republicans will win 54-55 seats in the Senate and will achieve a comfortable majority in the House. However, the results are far from that. 

One reason for such poor performance is being conveyed as former President Donald Trump. He was not on the ballot but he ended up undermining those who were and, in doing so, he is said to have ended up weakening Republicans' prospects. 

Here we explain why Trump is being blamed for Republicans' loss and whether that could affect his ambitions of another presidential run in 2024.

How Donald Trump led Republicans to losses?

Trump emerged as a key factor in the selection and campaigning of Republican candidates throughout the US mid-term elections. This affected their prospects negatively as Trump made the elections more about himself than the candidates. 

Moreover, Trump ended up selected weak candidates who could not stand against better-vetted Democratic Party candidates.

In recent months, the United States has faced decades-high inflation and there is great anxiety over the general state of the economy. President Joe Biden has also suffered from low approval ratings, with his current rating just 41.7 per cent, according to polling and data news website FiveThirtyEight. Conventional wisdom would therefore say he would do badly in the elections, but that did not turn out to be case. 

It now appears that while many disapproved Biden, they disapproved Trump more, and his endorsements of Republican candidates affected their prospects.

Of the disliked Republican candidates, CNN's Harry Enten noted, "Pre-election polling showed that Republicans in all the key races had negative net favorability ratings. Democrats in pretty much all the key races were better liked than their opponents."

Abortion was also a major issue in the wake of the Supreme Court striking down the earlier Roe Vs Wade verdict that gave federal constitutional protection to abortion. The Associated Press cited VoteCast survey to report that seven in ten voters said the overturning of Roe Vs Wade was an important electoral issue and that six in ten voters favoured legal abortions.

The Washington Examiner noted, "Republicans thought the midterm elections would be run on their preferred topic: criticising Biden and Congressional Democrats over a limping economy. Yet the Nov. 8 results show there was more potency than had been widely predicted for Democratic-favored issues, including abortion rights...From his Mar-a-Lago estate in South Florida, the former president [Trump] has tried to play captain and kingmaker for Congressional Republicans...That’s not how the midterm elections turned out for Trump, though. Many of his hand-picked candidates were defeated or struggled in otherwise winnable races."

One key agenda of Trump since 2020 has been to deny the 2020 presidential election results and claim that Biden "stole" the elections. This did not work for Republicans. The majority of election-denying Republicans still one but they were already well-placed to win. The newer candidates who relied on Trump's endorsement and peddling his election denying largely lost, reports FiveThirtyEight.

It reports, "Many of the most vocal election-denying candidates who made claims of voter fraud central to their campaigns failed to break through, as did most newcomers who aligned themselves with Trump’s stolen election narrative. While many factors have influenced these results, the overall trend suggests that playing to voters who don’t trust the results of the 2020 election wasn’t a winning strategy by itself." 

A personal loss for Donald Trump 

The mid-term setbacks have emerged as a personal setback for Trump in two ways.

One, the election results so far have given a breather to Biden who was dealing with low approval rating and pressure over economy. After election results, he is in a better position than any other president in decades, including Democratic Party's icons like Barack Obama.

"Since 1922, there have been three previous instances of the president’s party gaining (or losing no) Senate seats and losing fewer than 10 House seats in the president’s first midterm...Since 1922, there have been three previous instances of the president’s party gaining (or losing no) Senate seats and losing fewer than 10 House seats in the president’s first midterm," reports CNN on the historic nature of mid-term results.

The Examiner notes that the mid-term results would propel Biden into 2024 re-election cycle in a position better than Obama and Bill Clinton.

"The midterm election results strengthened President Joe Biden’s hand and weakened former President Donald Trump’s. That is the starting point for the road to the White House," notes Examiner, adding that Biden appears to have performed better in mid-term polls than Obama and Clinton, both of whom went on to serve second terms.

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The Examiner further notes, "Biden was the big Democratic winner. He was able to hold together the anti-Trump coalition enough to stave off defeat in a number of competitive races. His campaign travel schedule, anti-MAGA [Make America Great Again] messaging, and predictions that the race would swing back toward the Democrats in the end appear to be vindicated. He looks stronger than Clinton or Obama did the day after their first midterm elections, and they both won a second term."

This leads to the second reason why this is a personal loss for Trump — Trump's presidential bid in 2024 might be under threat. 

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Trump's position as the undisputed Republican leader is no longer certain as he has delivered the third electoral loss — the 2018 mid-term polls, the 2020 presidential election, and now the 2022 mid-term. Moreover, his personal involvement in the polls suggest he is not as good a strategist as was initially believed to be. 

Moreover, there appears to be a challenger on the horizon who could emerge as an alternative to Trump — Florida Governor Ron DeSentis. 

Is Donald Trump's presidential bid uncertain?

It's too early to say definitely but there are certain signs that suggest it might be the case. 

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The foremost sign is that Trump now appears to be a liability than an asset. Plus, his strategy of fuelling populist narratives and denying election results failed in front of Democratic Party's strategies.

Guardian columnist Jonathan Freedland noted, "The Democrats were much more focused, exhibiting 'an incredible amount of message discipline', as the party strategist David Shor put it to me, sticking to those issues where the American public agree with them and avoiding those where they are out of step...Even Left-wing candidates distanced themselves from the 'defund the police' slogan – digging in instead on turf where Democrats enjoy public support, whether that be jobs, healthcare, or abortion rights."

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CNN reported that though Trump has expanded his support base to Black and Hispanic voters, Florida Governor Ron DeSentis has expanded it further. Turmp has mocked DeSentis in the past and did not endorse him. Yet he won by a record margin and swept Democrats' turfs.

CNN reported, "DeSantis’ strength was reflected in CNN exit polls on Tuesday, which showed the Republican governor exceeding President Joe Biden’s 2020 margin of victory among Latino voters in Florida and maintaining a small edge among independents, which Biden carried in the state by 11 points two years ago. Both data points could prove compelling GOP primary between DeSantis and Trump, who made inroads with Black and Hispanic voters in some 2020 states but not to the degree of the Florida Republican."

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The lack of a viable alternative to Trump has long been cited as a reason for lack of critical voices for him in the Republican fold. But that could now change. 

"This is the first time since the 2016 primary, where Trump went head-to-head with Sen. Ted Cruz, that there is a viable alternative leader for the GOP, in DeSantis — not to mention a host of other potential 2024 candidates waiting in the wings, like Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, Sen. Tim Scott, and former Vice President Mike Pence," notes Vox.

The Examiner compared the victories of Trump and DeSantis in Florida and said it's a mandate against Trump.

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"Florida voters loved this message, and whereas then-President Donald Trump barely beat Joe Biden by 3 points in the state only two years ago, DeSantis crushed his opponent by 20 points on Election Day," noted an editorial by Examiner, which further highlighted the Republicans would have performed much better if Biden did not have opposition from Trump.

The editorial concluded, "These midterm elections have made it crystal clear that voters want to move past the chaos and dishonor of the 45th president [Trump]. They want the security and sanity that a competent and effective leader can provide. The Republican Party needs to recognize that, too, and act accordingly."

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