In every election, there are the winners and losers, but there are also winners and losers away from the ballot box, which oftentimes are more important and have a longer tail than the vote-getters. In the 2022 midterms, here are the winners and losers as I see them.
Loser: Donald Trump
Well, this one is obvious. The former president weighed in with all his political energy behind multiple candidates in this cycle, particularly in divisive primaries and statewide races where he often chose outsiders over more experienced candidates. The Trump fatigue factor was clearly a problem this...

In every election, there are the winners and losers, but there are also winners and losers away from the ballot box, which oftentimes are more important and have a longer tail than the vote-getters. In the 2022 midterms, here are the winners and losers as I see them.

Loser: Donald Trump

Well, this one is obvious. The former president weighed in with all his political energy behind multiple candidates in this cycle, particularly in divisive primaries and statewide races where he often chose outsiders over more experienced candidates. The Trump fatigue factor was clearly a problem this time around, with his choices in some races utterly rejected by voters. Whether you worked for it like Tudor Dixon in Michigan or didn’t work at all like Doug Mastriano in Pennsylvania, Trump vaulted inexperienced candidates higher up the list than they deserved only to get gobsmacked. Last night was a huge blow to the cult of personality around him, especially since he’s now been reduced to attacking candidates he backed. He was a useful president for the GOP while in office, but people seem to be waking up to the fact that as long as it’s about him, the road is uphill, and the vindictive cult that surrounds him is a detriment, not a help.

Winner: Ron DeSantis

Trump will now have to face a reality apparent to everyone with a brain: Ron DeSantis is more of what America wants than a return of the Donnie. DeSantis represents the best frame of culture war aggressiveness and competency in governance. He is the lawful good in this scenario, and that tendency toward the organizational imperative on the alignment chart will only strengthen his ability to take on a candidate old enough to be his dad. DeSantis is capable of culture war stunts, as he proved with Disney and Martha’s Vineyard, but he also doesn’t neglect the actual tasks of leadership, as he proved by building a bridge in three days. He and his golden-gowned wife look like the future that is just out of reach for the GOP — until they decide to reach out and grasp it.

Winner: Democrats’ Operation Chaos

The MAGA candidates promoted by the Democratic coalition — including Mastriano, Don Bolduc in New Hampshire, John Gibbs in Michigan and a number of other “let’s force the GOP to nominate crazy” efforts — paid off for the Democrats. They might have lied through their teeth about the danger to democracy represented by these folks, but in paying to help nominate extremists, they got their money’s worth.

Loser: fake Republican unity

Republicans have proven pretty good at pretending to get along for the cameras. Kevin McCarthy’s big tent attitude coupled with a rejection of public animosity by most candidates who have beef with Trump combined for an imaginary frame of today’s GOP as a get-along party. Mitch McConnell’s “vote for a ham sandwich” Republicanism also failed to excite — and there’s clearly more needed to win voters in a fractious environment than just being not the Democrat. Instead, the hard divisions here made themselves more apparent on election night, when the blame game started as soon as MAGA candidates started to lose.

Winner: the Latino project

Despite the GOP’s disappointing performance in a number of House races, it looks like this cycle was the best ever for Republicans with Latino voters. Speed seems like the issue: you can’t turn away from suburbanites and just replace them with Latinos overnight. The issues that motivated these voters seem clear, and none of them have to do with immigration.

Loser: the way we vote

Isn’t this embarrassing? It’s 2022 and we are the god-danged United States of America. Yet somehow we are supposed to be counting for a week to figure out winners in key states? There is no reason to think this is going to get better anytime soon, but so long as it goes on, Americans will distrust the voting process. We need to be looking to Florida as our model for voting with pre-canvassing and the like.

Winner: Lee Zeldin

Talk about a guy who kept it surprisingly close. Lee Zeldin didn’t win, but his performance was absolutely key in the impressive performance of down-ballot Republicans. You get the feeling that the votes he missed the most ended up in Florida for DeSantis after Covid. A ballsy effort that focused on crime and made Democrats look pathetic provided the foundation for House Republican victories and proved Zeldin had the right understanding of the election, even without the majority.

Loser: polling averages

The less said about this the better, except that more than one GOP member of Congress was complaining about it last night. Past performance versus current performance is difficult to compare when you’re using different models. Republicans duped themselves into feeling bullish about races that were called very quickly for the other side — by fixating on the RealClearPolitics average of all polls, rather than viewing each specific survey in isolation.

Winner: Greg Abbott

The Texas governor has perhaps received too little attention for what he’s been able to achieve in a state where Democrats have spent hundreds of millions trying to turn things blue. Abbott is a centrist conservative who sounds like a populist and has no fear of weighing in on divisive issues — which may be exactly what Republicans need nationally in this moment. In the wake of his dominant performance against another well-funded effort from Beto O’Rourke, Abbott may well consider the possibility of a presidential run. He may raise conservative hackles for not being right-wing enough in some capacities, but his approach to politics has been utterly vindicated.

Loser: Kamala Harris

Oh well, I guess she won’t have a shot at the presidency after all. If last night had been a bloodbath, the defenestration of Biden would have been immediate, leaving Harris as an heir apparent with careerist administration staffers beating a path to her door. Now it seems the Democratic side of the race in 2024 is much more fluid and likely, in the absence of health problems, to retain Biden.

Winner: the biased corrupt media

Those who lied repeatedly that “democracy is on the ballot,” which it wasn’t, had a great night. They successfully undermined perfectly normal Republican candidates and lumped them in with others who think Joe Biden is an illegitimate president. That view was shared by only about a third of the Republican Party depending on how you ask the question. This extremist gaslighting worked because there were plenty of people dedicated to reinforcing it.

Losers: the would-be brain trust of the second Trump term

The New Right intellectuals of what might be called a “comprehensivist” mindset, who think that every pre-Trump conservative idea is gone and discredited, aren’t really a comprehensive movement themselves. But it’s fair to say that while Ron DeSantis isn’t Jeb Bush, he’s much closer to a reformist traditional conservative than the edgy NatCons content to give themselves awards named after each other until the tide comes in. The GOP isn’t a Mitt Romney party, but it’s not looking for a total overhaul either, let alone one led by post-liberal rad-trad Catholics who literally want to put the statue of the Holy Mother atop the Capitol.

TBD: the rabble-rousers in the Senate

While there had been hopes to increase dramatically the number of outsider rabble-rousers in the Senate, including Don Bolduc, Mehmet Oz, Tiffany Smiley and others, the Senate now looks to have only one dedicated miscreant on offer in J.D. Vance — and he could just morph into a more aggressive Ben Sasse once in office. The Rick Scott effort in this cycle was designed to hold the party together and avoid open conflict with Trump by backing his hand-picked candidates to the hilt. That’s fine, but the underperformance based on high expectations will bring out the knives. And Mitch McConnell is as aggressive as ever in defending his turf.