Midterm Post-Mortem - Look at the Outlier Races and Learn the Lesson

Zach Nunn gives his acceptance speech after winning IA-3, Nov. 8, 2022 (Credit: Des Moines Register)

I fail to understand why conservatives and Republicans are so distressed over Tuesday night’s results. The reality (a sad one, albeit) is that we are STILL counting ballots in certain states and counties. California’s counting is going to take 35 more days, so let that sink in. At this point in time, we are more ahead than we are behind. By this weekend, we may well know who won the governor and senate races in Arizona and Nevada, how much of a majority Republicans will have in the House of Representatives, and whether Republicans will have regained the Senate or have a credible chance of doing so.


Yes, there are still serious problems that need to be addressed and resolved about our elections, and the wins thus far are by no means a Red Wave. However, we need to acknowledge and celebrate these factors:

  • Republicans still dominate in the executive houses of the nation and this is where national policy has been successfully challenged. If you need proof of that, look at the career of Missouri Attorney General—and now Senator-elect Eric Schmitt. The states of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Idaho, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, and Wyoming all have sitting Republican governors.
  • Outlier candidates are making a difference in control of the House, and may win Republicans the Senate (see, Laxalt, Adam).

Who are these outlier candidates? The ones that people have paid little attention to, or they’ve given them attention for all the wrong reasons. As usual, the legacy media, GOP-e, and the garden-variety strategists are missing the real point.

But then, what else is new?

Consider Monica De La Cruz, who just became the Congresswoman-elect for Texas District 15. De La Cruz campaigned on border security, support of small businesses, and fiscal responsibility. All CNN and Fox News could focus on is that she was a “Latina” candidate while breathlessly reporting how Hispanics were moving away from Democrats toward Republicans.

As with Hispanics (and other values voters), it is less about party, and more about deliverables. De La Cruz’s South Texas district has many multi-generational small business owners who have been adversely affected not only by the Biden administration’s ignoring the border crisis, but federal regulations that have hamstrung them and prevented their businesses from growing and thriving.


Certain Republicans may be hating on Trump right now because they blame him for the losses, but the former president was (and still is) inspirational, and was the impetus behind De La Cruz’s aspirations:

From CNN:

For De La Cruz, attending her first Trump rally inspired her to start a career in politics.

“I was busy raising a family, raising my business,” De La Cruz said. “(Trump) caught my attention to look at national politics and what was happening in DC and say, ‘Those policies don’t reflect me or my values.’”

The entrepreneur insurance agent and mother of two says she’s a former Democrat whose family voted against Republicans for generations, including her “abuelita.”

“This area had been under Democrat rule for over 100 years and what we’re seeing here is that Democrats haven’t done anything for us. … (They) just abandoned Latinos and Latinos are seeing that their values of faith, family and freedom just align better with the Republican Party.”

Her opponent, Michelle Vallejo, is an outspoken progressive. Democrats wrongly assume that because this type of representation plays well in Los Angeles and New York City, it will translate to the Texas border.


Running as a progressive in an area that more often elects moderate Democrats, Vallejo defeated her primary opponent by only 35 votes and is campaigning on guaranteed abortion rights, expanding Medicaid and Medicare, and raising the minimum wage to $15.

“There are a lot of issues being ignored,” Vallejo said. “It’s time we see a change for South Texas, and we need progressive, bold policies … so that we finally get a voice at the table.”

These were non-starters for a community of small business owners who want to keep running their businesses as they see fit, and leave a legacy for their children.

However, Cassy Garcia, who challenged incumbent Democrat Henry Cuellar for Texas 28 (another border district), did not succeed as my colleague Jeff Charles reported:

Democrat Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX) has won re-election in Texas District 28, defeating his Republican challenger Cassy Garcia. His victory was not surprising given he has represented this district since 2005, and still enjoys a significant level of popularity. Garcia is one of three Latina Republican candidates whose race was being closely watched. But it appears Cuellar is simply too entrenched at this point.

Not just entrenched, but Cuellar is an outlier from his own party, who barely lifted a finger to back his reelection because he dared to call out Joe Biden on his border malfeasance.

Cuellar is also a pro-life Democrat. With the current stance of his party, that’s an oxymoron.


The point is, Garcia was not offering the constituents of Texas 28 anything new or different than the leadership Cuellar was already exhibiting. They stuck with the devil they knew who is also fighting for what mattered to them.

Then there is the sleeper in Sleepy Iowa. Republican Zach Nunn just flipped Iowa’s District 3 congressional seat from Democrat incumbent Cindy Axne, who was all abortion, all the time.

As this embarrassing video attests:

Nunn wins the prize for an engaging acceptance speech that was upstaged by his sweet, little foster daughter:


From The DesMoines Register:

Nunn, a state senator and Air Force officer, hammered Axne and President Joe Biden on the campaign trail over the economy and inflation. He often asked voters in the district to compare the federal government to Iowa’s leadership — a Republican refrain ahead of this election.

And obviously, a refrain that worked well with the people of Iowa’s District 3. So, apparently, this strategy fit well with the constituency for which Nunn was running as a candidate.


Axne, who was first elected to the House in 2018, focused her campaign on abortion rights and touting Democratic accomplishments from Biden’s first two years in office. At a Des Moines event just days before the election, Axne promoted the 2021 infrastructure bill and the so-called Inflation Reduction Act.

This is not what Iowans were interested in hearing. The median income of District 3 households is $68,789 a year; so, imagine how much inflation and the energy crisis have been cutting into those family budgets. Like Rep. Sean Patrick “Chef Boyardee” Maloney, Axne only had tone-deaf and disconnected responses to her constituents’ woes. It didn’t play well in New York, so why would anyone expect it would play in the heartland of Iowa?

Before Axne was elected to the U.S. House, she worked for the state government.

Despite currently owning a business with her husband, Axne showed she was simply a statist and a supporter of the status quo. Iowans rightly chose their own interests.

As they should have.

So any Republican gains, particularly among these outlier races, weren’t decided by the candidate just talking about inflation and the economy. They were decided by the candidate who actually listened to their constituents and addressed their stated needs.

What a concept.

It’s not a one-size fits all proposition, no matter who the party or the packager happens to be. Now, take that focused and constituency-specific messaging, deliver it from the mouth of an engaging and credible candidate who actually cares about the people he or she plans to serve, and couple it with a free and fair election, and you have the winning combination.


Here endeth the lesson.


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