THE BACKGROUND: The US midterm elections broke the historical pattern of the president’s party taking a beating.
It was a particularly unpredictable campaign season with major issues pulling voters in different directions. Inflation was high. The Supreme Court struck down the constitutional right to abortion. And the democratic process itself was called into question by several Republican candidates who ran to spread Donald Trump’s lies about the 2020 election.
In the end, the election deniers lost almost every major race in the swing states.
AP journalists covered the candidates, voters and issues throughout the process.
STEVEN SLOAN, AP political editor
What was so interesting and strange about this election, and especially for a semester, is that for much of the year it was not very clear what the problem was, and that felt very different than previous cycles. If you look back to 2010, that cycle was really fueled by the response to Obama and Obamacare. 2006 was really a backlash to the war in Iraq. 2018 was a reaction to Trump. And for much of 2022, it was kind of like, what is this election about? And that really changed, I would say, in the summer, when the (abortion) decision was made. That was a moment of clarification that really helped crystallize, I think, for the voters, and perhaps for people who weren’t tuned into the political process.
JONATHAN J. COOPER, AP political reporter in Phoenix
You saw a lot, I think anger is probably the right word, among younger voters, among Democrats for sure, about the (Supreme Court) decision, and I think motivated a lot of people vote and vote democrats. A lot of concern about inflation and the price of everyday goods. Gas on everything, but everything. Border security certainly encouraged many voters. I talked to a fair number of voters who were kind of pressured and they were frustrated with the prices, they were frustrated with the situation at the border, but they also didn’t like the Republicans who deny elections and were concerned about abortion. Rights.
Arizona is kind of Centerpiece of the Election Denier Movement New Testament. This was the state where, in 2020, Joe Biden had his smallest margin of victory. Donald Trump and his allies, Rudy Giuliani and others, tried very aggressively in the weeks after that election, and through January 6, 2021, to overturn that result. When they were unsuccessful, he had the Republican state senate issue a subpoena and get access to this wealth of information, every ballot in Maricopa County, every voting machine. And then they hired a group of Trump supporters to look at all of that and do some kind of unprecedented partisan audit of the conduct of the election. So this is the state more than any other where the 2020 election has never ended. So for me to tell that story, and kind of chronicle the very real tension in the GOP between the Trump-aligned MAGA movement and the old guard who are loyal to John McCain, the more business-oriented factions of the GOP. it is fascinating. I think it’s important. I think it’s instructive about the conflicts that are going on across the country, in the Republican Party, and what direction it will go in the future.
All year, we’ve been talking about democracy and threats to democracy, and the challenges of voting. And I do think that people were really aware of this debate that we’re having this conversation, and in a lot of cases, especially in the more competitive races, candidates that were considered extreme, were turned down. I mean, there were still victories in some places from people denying the 2022 election results, but overall, particularly in those swing states that we go back to every couple of years, I think there was real movement. by voters to send a message that there are some limits to the type of acceptable political speech.
On whether political polarization will decrease:
Voters are very engaged, I think much more engaged than some might believe. I don’t know if we are suddenly going to return to an era of good feelings. But I do think it seems to some degree that people are looking to turn the temperature down a bit. The candidates who embraced that and represented that did well, the people who were the most incendiary…certainly in statewide races, those candidates often struggled.
Polarization is absolutely getting worse over time. Arizona is the state that elected John McCain, who branded himself a maverick, willing to defy his party. And I’m not sure John McCain can win a Republican nomination in the current GOP. There’s also Kyrsten Sinema, who recently announced that he’s leaving the Democratic Party. It’s basically a self-preservation movement, because it would have faced an extremely difficult, perhaps even impossible, road to winning a Democratic primary in 2024. I think we’re at a tipping point where general election voters reject extremes. , and it remains to be seen if primary voters respond accordingly.
On where the political coverage is going:
I think democracy is going to continue to be a central focus for us. Just, you know, how do elections work? How does ballot access work and change and who does it affect? And I think that will continue, just the election process in this country right now. I think abortion will continue to be a thing as well. That was such a seismic moment in American culture, in American history, to have a repeal of a constitutional right, that had been on the books for decades. I think we want to continue to see where the energy is going around that move. Both supporters of abortion rights and opponents continue to pour money into the issue. It’s really going to be kind of a state-by-state debate. And I think that will continue to influence the course of politics.
I want to think more this cycle about how we cover the presidency, Congress, and the governorships and state secretaries. What we’re seeing is, all of them together really shape everyone’s lives in this country. And so it’s important to not focus so much on maybe the flashiest part of the races at the expense of these other races that I think, as we see, have a really massive impact on people. And there are actually some interesting races in 2023. There’s the Chicago mayor’s race, there’s the Kentucky governor’s race. These are races that will again have a real impact on people and also tell us more about where the voters are right now. And we will pay attention to them.
This is a story that is going to be with us for a while. You’re going to have a Republican primary, where they really have to decide whether to stay with Donald Trump. Or are they going to go in a different direction, Ron DeSantis or someone else? And we’re really going to see, especially on the right, I think that that tug of war. And on the left, if Joe Biden runs again, it will postpone some of those tensions that are very present on the left, the old Bernie vs. Hillary battles, for a while longer, but that tension will be very much will come up in the future, either in the near future or a little further down the line.
2022 Notebooks: https://apnews.com/hub/reporters-notebook
Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.