In 2022 midterms, ‘candidate quality matters,’ experts say

Elections 2022

(NewsNation) — Control of the House and Senate is still up in the air, but NewsNation political experts say midterm election results so far have reflected that American voters support specific candidate qualities.

Democrats have fared relatively better than expected during the midterm elections, and ticket-splitting in several states was apparent. There is even a chance Democrats may hold on to both the House and Senate. One theory NewsNation experts explored is that the quality of candidates mattered.

Election integrity has been a central focus of races across the country this year, and if Republicans don’t retake control of the Senate, it might be because of “flimflam” some candidates espoused about election fraud, NewsNation political editor Chris Stirewalt said Tuesday night.

“The message from voters so far tonight is the same message that it was in 2020, which is split decision and ‘no kooks, please. Let’s tamp down the “kookism” a little bit in these parties and let’s pick normal people,'” Stirewalt said.

Scott Tranter with Decision Desk HQ explained that the races are much closer than originally thought, suggesting that the candidates do matter.

“Well, it appears that in a lot of these races, these candidates do matter. They have interesting angles to them. Sometimes it’s suburban mothers voting on certain issues. Sometimes it’s ‘tax and spend’ property owners out in Nebraska, Montana, and Idaho — those types of areas. It’s different for each race. That’s why we saw some splits even in the Virginia ones,” Tranter explained.

“The candidates are looking to matter. And that’s kind of why we’re looking at Pennsylvania and Georgia. I know we called Pennsylvania for Fetterman. That’s one where the candidate mattered,” he said. Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman flipped a previously Republican-controlled Senate seat that is key to the party’s hopes of maintaining control of the chamber.

Both Tranter and NewsNation’s Leland Vittert speculated that it could be the difference between “MAGA with the crazy and MAGA without the crazy.”

The big question is whether this ideology could carry over to states like Arizona and Nevada, two states that could have the power to flip Congress.

Stirewalt emphasized, “Americans do not like it when you deny the results of the election.”

Election integrity has been a major issue in Arizona with Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake echoing former President Donald Trump’s false and baseless narrative that the 2020 elections were fraught with voter fraud. “CUOMO” host Chris Cuomo said he believes that Lake is not preparing to call foul on this election if she loses.

Morgan Ortagus, a former Trump administration official, agreed, saying she thinks Lake isn’t doing anything different from anyone else in her position.

“There’s no need for her to come out. She still could win. She was down in the primary. So I think there’s a long way to go in Arizona. The Republican operators I’m speaking to are not feeling great about the Senate seat. But they feel that if there is a chance in Arizona, it’s with her,” Ortagus said.

However, Johanna Maska, a Democratic strategist and staffer in former President Barack Obama’s White House, disagreed, saying she believed that Lake and her party are laying the groundwork to call foul.

“Look, you know, they knew that her opponent was the current secretary of state (Democrat Katie Hobbs), and so in that position, you are supposed to oversee this election. I think that she (Lake) knows the vulnerabilities,” Maska said.

Mark McKinnon, the former advisor to George W. Bush and John McCain, suggested that voters have been thoughtful in this election and didn’t necessarily stick to party lines.

“I think this is good for the country, it suggests that we don’t have this highly partisan reaction in this election — that we have kind of a divided country. People seem to be very thoughtful in this election and they weren’t necessarily voting party lines as they might have in 2018, 2020, or even 2016. The Republicans seem to be excited, but the Democrats seem to be determined,” McKinnon said.

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