The Florida and New York primaries this week marked the last major nomination contests of 2022, and the country’s attention is now poised to shift to the general election that will determine control of Congress for the next two years.
Bi-party primaries stretching from March through this week offered some important hints about the two major parties and their constituents, as well as what the upcoming fall campaign season might look like.
Here are five takeaways from the 2022 primaries:
The GOP is still Trump’s party – and 2020 is still top of mind
Former President Trump may have left the White House more than a year and a half ago, but this year’s GOP primaries proved that he remains the most influential Republican in the country.
The impact of Trump’s approvals was clear: He shaped Republican coverage, distorted primary contests and elevated to victory candidates that even some top GOP officials worried about.
Perhaps no issue was more important in getting Trump’s approval than the 2020 presidential election and his false claim that it was rigged against him. Republican candidates often repeated that talking point on the campaign trail — with some centering their races around it — in hopes of winning the former president’s favor.
The end result: In most of the high-profile Republican primaries, voters sided with Trump.
All GOP nominees in the most competitive Senate races were backed by the former president prior to their primaries. Of the six House Republicans who ran for re-election after voting last year to impeach Trump for his role in the January 6 attack on the Capitol, only two won a renomination.
And candidates who questioned or outright denied the results of the 2020 election will be voted nationwide in November, after securing nominations for governor, senate, house and secretary of state.
Of course there are a few exceptions. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, for example, won in a landslide from his Trump-backed primary opponent, former Senator David Perdue (R-Ga.). And in South Carolina, Rep. Nancy Mace (RS.C.) in her primary against Trump-approved Katie Arrington.
Still, if the 2022 Republican primaries made one thing clear, it’s that GOP voters are still overwhelmingly aligned with Trump.
Democrats played it safe for the most part, but progressives scored some important wins
Despite ongoing debates about the direction of the Democratic Party, voters across the country largely sided with more moderate or establishment-backed candidates in their primaries, apparently seeing them as their best bet to win in an otherwise punitive political party. environment for Democrats.
In Ohio, for example, former state senator Nina Turner, a progressive former co-chair of Senator Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vt.) presidential campaign, lost to Rep. Shontel Brown (D-Ohio), who had the support of the party establishment.
Likewise, Rep. Henry Cuellar (Texas), a conservative Democrat in South Texas, nips progressive Jessica Cisneros in a race that drew intense national attention.
Still, it wasn’t all bad for the left wing of the party.
Progressives won Senate nominations in two major swing states. In Pennsylvania, Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman defeated Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Pa.), a moderate who identified himself as the candidate better suited to courting suburban and rural voters, while Wisconsin Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes won the chance to win Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wis.). And just this week, Central Florida Democrats tapped Maxwell Alejandro Frost, a Sanders-backed gun control activist, to succeed Rep. Val Demings (D-Fla.) in the House.
Still, this year’s primaries were far from the ideological turning point that progressives hoped for.
It was a difficult season for many House incumbents
There are still a few primaries left, but 2022 is already on track to see most US House incumbents lose re-election in more than two decades.
So far this year, 15 members of the House — nine Republicans and six Democrats — have lost their bid to return to Capitol Hill, according to Ballotpedia, which has been tracking losses.
In some cases, circumstances were simply out of the members’ control, mainly because of the decade-long reclassification process.
This week, for example, Rep. Carolyn Maloney (DN.Y.), a 30-year veteran of the House, presented her primary to fellow longtime incumbent Rep. Jerry Nadler (DN.Y.) after they merged their Manhattan congressional districts. . From the start, one of them would surely lose.
But in other races, the incumbents suffered from their political choices, especially their votes to impeach Trump. That decision marked the end for Representatives Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), Tom Rice (RS.C.), Peter Meijer (R-Mich.) and Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.), all of whom were defeated by Trump. backed primary challengers who hammered them for their impeachment votes.
Others, such as Rep. Madison Cawthorn (RN.C.), found themselves on the losing end of their primaries after becoming the subject of several controversies.
Democrats have found their way
For the first half of the year, Democrats stared at some daunting issues. Their legislative agenda in Congress had largely stalled, inflation hit its highest level in decades, and their main political background was no longer in the Oval Office.
To make matters worse for Democrats, they also struggled with the reality that the party in power almost always loses ground in Congress in midterm elections.
That fact may still hold true. But things have changed significantly for Democrats in the months since the Supreme Court overthrown Roe v. Wade. That decision sent a strong message to the party to rally voters fearing an erosion of reproductive rights protections and helped revitalize Democrats amid concerns over complacency.
Perhaps the biggest turning point for Democrats came in Kansas, when voters by a wide margin rejected a proposed amendment that would have removed abortion rights from the state constitution.
Since then, Democrats have developed a clearer messaging strategy: They warned what the majorities of GOP Congress would mean for reproductive rights, praised the passage of a massive tax and climate bill, and tried to cast themselves as a steady hand in government.
While the Democrats’ medium-term prospects appear to have improved somewhat, of course they still face an unforgiving political landscape and strong historic headwinds that could give Republicans an edge.
But Republican Voters Are Still Energetic
The outlook may be favorable for Democrats. But this year’s primaries still gave credence to what Republican leaders have been saying for more than a year: GOP voters are motivated.
In top battlefield races in key states, Republican primary turnout has repeatedly outpaced Democratic turnout, a sign that GOP voters are eager to vote this year.
In Georgia, nearly half a million more Republicans voted in the Senate than Democrats. In Arizona, more than 200,000 voters cast their ballots in the top Republican primaries. The attendance benefit also applies in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Nevada and Florida.
Certainly, the higher Republican turnout may not have been solely due to voter enthusiasm. In Georgia, for example, Republicans saw a hotly contested gubernatorial primary, while Democratic nominee Stacey Abrams went unchallenged for the nomination.
The same goes for North Carolina, where Republicans had to choose between Rep. Ted Budd (RN.C.) and former Governor Pat McCrory to succeed outgoing Senator Richard Burr (RN.C.). Democrats, meanwhile, had already largely united behind Cheri Beasley as their candidate.
But Florida’s most competitive race was on the Democratic side, and Pennsylvania and Wisconsin had fought hard on both sides of the aisle.
And for much of the year, public opinion polls have shown that Republicans are more eager to vote in November than Democrats. But as Democrats’ prospects have improved, they’ve also begun to close that enthusiasm gap.
A Morning Consult poll released last week showed that 65 percent of Republican voters are either “extremely” or “very” eager to vote in the midterm elections. Meanwhile, 62 percent of Democrats said the same.