What Happened to the Red Wave?

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

The results from the midterm elections are not all in yet, but it is clear Republicans did not see the highly-anticipated red wave for which they were hoping. GOP candidates did not perform quite as well as expected.

Nevertheless, Republicans are expected to retake control of the House. The Senate is still up for grabs, but there is a chance Democrats could retain the upper chamber.

It didn’t have to be this way. The GOP could have had a much smoother path to victory if it had done things differently. Even if Republicans end up controlling both chambers, this is not what conservatives were hoping for. Some reflection is warranted if they want to remain in power and take on the White House in 2024.

For starters, messaging was a massive issue in this campaign. Republicans actually did a much better job on this front than they have in prior election seasons. I was pleasantly surprised to see them go on the offensive in ways they hadn’t before. It was almost like they took to heart some of the lessons that former President Donald Trump taught them when he crashed onto the scene in 2015.

But even with the improvement, Republicans continued falling back into old habits. The issue with conservative messaging is that it is wholly focused on how horrible the Democrats are and not on what they bring to the table as an alternative.

It goes like this:

Americans complain about a problem. Democrats offer more government expansion or some other silly policies as the solutions. Republicans rightly point out how ridiculous or dangerous their proposals are.

And that’s it.

It is rare that the GOP will offer a better way to address these problems after ripping apart the Democrats’ flawed ideas. This means Americans have to choose between a faulty solution or no solution at all.

It isn’t that conservatives do not have ideas that could improve the quality of life for the public. The issue is that they are horribly deficient at selling them. They seem to lack the ability to offer a viable alternative for voters in a persuasive way. In short, we need better salespeople.

This is a lesson that conservatives have not yet learned from Trump, who, despite his flaws, is a master persuader. In the 2016 campaign, he articulated what he would do to address the problems average Americans were facing. That, more than anything, is why he won.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) put together a “Commitment to America” as a way of giving the public another choice, even though Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell wished to continue the “bash Democrats” strategy. But after the plan was rolled out, there was very little chatter about it coming from the GOP and even conservative media. Collectively, Republicans were not on point in hammering home the benefits of the agenda McCarthy’s team created.

If conservatives wish to win more victories – and sustain them – they must improve in this area. It is no longer optional.

Next, Republicans had a serious quality problem when it came to the candidates they put forward. Much of the blame lies on the former president, who gave his endorsement to deeply flawed candidates like Dr. Oz in Pennsylvania and Herschel Walker in Georgia.

His choices were so questionable that even the base balked when he made them. If Republicans had gone with candidates with less baggage, we wouldn’t have lost Pennsylvania’s Senate seat to a man who is clearly not mentally prepared for the job. We wouldn’t be worrying about the outcome of a runoff election in Georgia.

In the next election, the quality of candidates will be of the utmost importance. We cannot afford to put forth people who give the left even more ammo to use against them. Folks like Walker and Oz make it easier for Democrats to perform better in these races. Primary season is just as important as the general – and the sooner the base sees this, the better off we will be.

The way forward isn’t quite so clear just yet. It is expected that Trump will announce his candidacy in less than a week. Although, the outcomes of the midterm elections might alter the timeframe somewhat. But what we don’t know yet is whether anyone will mount a serious primary challenge against him.

Of course, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is seen as the most likely challenger, especially after his performance in the recent gubernatorial election. Many on the right believe him to be the best person to take up the mantle. But it is not yet clear if he desires to run in 2024, and it is also not certain that he could even defeat Trump.

But either way this goes, the conservative movement and Republican Party will need to make some serious changes in their battle strategy if they want to prevent Democrats from holding on to the White House.


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