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He wasn’t even on the ballot, but former President Donald Trump was the big loser on Election Day 2022.
A plethora of pre-Election Day polls showed Republicans with a healthy lead, and pollsters went so far as to predict a ‘red tsunami.’ Instead, it was more like a pink trickle.
“Definitely not a Republican wave, that’s for darn sure,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said as the results came in Tuesday.
With ballots nationwide still being counted, the GOP held a small lead in the House — although polls had shown a much heftier pickup, as high as 40 seats. The Senate was even tighter, a toss-up, with Democrats holding 48 seats and the GOP 47 seats and five still up for grabs.
But the losses were coming fast and furious for Republicans — Herschel Walker, Mehmet Oz, Donald Bolduc, and Blake Masters all appearing headed for defeat.
Trump had tried to play kingmaker throughout the midterm campaigns, endorsing a slew of candidates across the nation as he preps a return run for president in 2024. So while he wasn’t on the ballot, his virality was clearly on the line — and he came up impotent.
But Trump being Trump, he says he deserves none of the blame.
“Well, I think if they win, I should get all the credit,” Trump said Tuesday as Americans cast their ballots. “If they lose, I should not be blamed at all, but it’ll probably be just the opposite.”
It is perhaps the most Trumpian statement ever. But in the coming aftermath, Trump will get much of the blame, and his power is greatly diminished. Gov. Ron DeSantis, who won re-election as governor of Florida in a landslide, is now the de facto king of the GOP.
DeSantis crushed his opponent Charlie Crist by nearly 20 points, some 1.5 million votes. His coattails were huge: He pulled embattled Sen. Marco Rubio to victory (58% to 41% over Democrat Val Deming), along with four first-time Republican candidates for the House.
Trump pictures himself as The Don — sometimes in the vein of Don Corleone, the mob leader of “The Godfather” — squelching dissent with threats and intimidation. But his power was so diminished on Election Day that Republicans openly blamed him for the dismal showing, caring little about retribution.
“This is the time that the Republican Party needs to ask themselves, are they going to continue to nominate poor-quality candidates to appease Donald Trump?” former Trump White House Communications Director Alyssa Farah Griffin said on CNN.
“If you want the Republican Party to thrive, we’ve got to just finally speak out and say, ‘This man is a loser, he lost 2020, he’s about to–you know, he’s losing a seat that is winnable this time, in time towards looking what the future might look like,'” she said.
Trump was so weak that his hand-picked candidate, Dr. Oz, got drubbed by a guy who suffered a stroke over the summer and could barely utter a coherent sentence.
Conservative commentator Scott Jennings fingered Trump as the chief culprit of the disaster.
“There’s a potential narrative out of this night that if you’re a discerning Republican voter trying to figure out the future, direction of this party, we once again learn that Trump is not a national winner for the Republicans,” Jennings said on Fox News. “But DeSantis may be the next evolution of someone who can marry what you like about Trump but also recover some people that went away from the party during Trump.”
“Boy, if I were Ron DeSantis, or someone who wanted to help her understand this, that is the message I would be on tomorrow, which is ‘My way is the way to a national majority. His way is the way to a national minority,'” Jennings said.
Predictably, Democrats were quick to target Trump.
“I think you have to say Donald Trump has now presided over two disastrous midterm elections,” former Obama campaign strategist David Plouffe said on MSNBC.
“In his only one as president in 2018, Trump’s party lost control of the House, although it gained U.S. Senate seats thanks in part to a favorable map. In 2022, Republicans appeared poised to make huge gains and seize control of both chambers of Congress, but in the early hours of Wednesday morning, it still remained unclear if they would even take control of the House, a seemingly unthinkable proposition last week,” he said.
“A bunch of reasons for that. But at the top of them is Donald Trump. He’s deeply unpopular, he supported a bunch of horrible Senate candidates who may end up coughing up the football here,” Plouffe said.
For his part, Trump knows that DeSantis is a major force. And like the mafioso don, he’s already trying to intimidate the Florida governor.
On Election Day, Trump said in an interview with Fox News that if DeSantis does run, “I would tell you things about him that won’t be very flattering — I know more about him than anybody — other than, perhaps, his wife.”
And that was before his devastating showing in the midterms.
The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.
Joseph Curl has covered politics for 35 years, including 12 years as White House correspondent for a national newspaper. He was also the a.m. editor of the Drudge Report for four years. Send tips to [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @josephcurl.