What do surprising midterms mean for 2024?

Big boost for Biden and Democrats while Republicans turn on Trump after ‘red wave’ fails to materialise

Donald Trump at ‘Save America’ rally
Some Republicans are deserting Trump after weak showing by his candidates
(Image credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Donald Trump is expected to announce his decision to run for the presidency in 2024 tomorrow, despite disappointing midterm results that have left many Republicans wondering if he is too divisive to win the White House again.

Faced with an unpopular Democratic president and high inflation, Republican politicians and pundits forecast the party would win big last week. Former president Trump predicted a “Bloodbath!” and Democrats feared a wipe-out.

However, far from the “red wave” of Republican victories many had predicted, the party is still not sure of winning a majority in the House of Representatives, while the Democrats are now certain to keep control of the Senate. The president’s party also did well in the governor races in 36 states that will shape how the 2024 presidential elections are administered.

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What did the papers say?

The weak showing among Republicans hand-picked and supported by Trump has “spurred some conservatives to lash out” at him said CNBC.

“The surest way to lose in these midterms was to be a politician endorsed by Trump,” John Podhoretz wrote in the New York Post. The paper’s cover also lampooned the former president as “Trumpty Dumpty” who has had a “great fall”.

“Trump is the Republican Party’s biggest loser” read the headline of a post-election opinion piece by the Wall Street Journal’s editorial board.

This criticism from usually supportive media outlets could mark a turning point for Trump, and also for his brand of divisive politics. Results are still coming in “but they already suggest a pattern”, said Benjamin Wallace-Wells in The New Yorker. “The Republicans had no trouble turning out their base. Their struggle was in winning over the independent voters who customarily reject the party in power,” he said.

The i news site’s chief foreign commentator Michael Day said: “Perhaps it’s wishful thinking, but the tide could be turning against extremism and stupidity.

“Perhaps the death of reasoned political argument and intelligent debate has been greatly exaggerated. Kneejerk invective could be on the way out. And that would suit Sleepy Joe [Biden] just fine.”

What next?

Attention has already shifted to 2024 and who will be on the presidential ticket for both main parties in two years’ time.

“If Democrats had suffered a major reverse, the pressure on President Biden to stand down in favor of a fresh face would have been intense,” said William A. Galston, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution think tank. “Instead, the choice is now the president’s to make, and the midterm election results will probably resolve any doubts he may have had about running for reelection.”

For the Republicans, the results set the stage for a showdown between Trump and Florida governor Ron DeSantis, who was the biggest winner of the 2022 election cycle for the GOP, gaining 57% of the Hispanic vote and even sweeping historically Democratic Miami-Dade county.

Following the “lacklustre performance by candidates he had backed”, The Telegraph reported that Trump has “faced calls from senior Republicans, and some of his own aides, to delay” announcing another run for the presidency.

Trump has promised to make a “very big announcement” on Tuesday at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, and “declaring so early, two years before the 2024 election, is seen as an effort by Trump to deter potential Republican rivals”, said the paper.

In a sign of his position as challenger-in-chief to Trump, “Europeans are also paying close attention to the presidential aspirations” of DeSantis, reported The Hill. Following his double-digit win in Florida, “Ron DeSantis has arrived as a name in the German press,” said Peter Rough, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute think-tank with a focus on Europe.

“That DeSantis has become a Trump fixation makes sense,” said Wallace-Wells. “One political truism holds that, at any given time, only two people in politics really matter: the President, and whomever the President is arguing with. For more than half a decade, Trump has been one of those two people. Now he has a challenger.”

In summary, concluded Galston, “the midterm elections have set the stage for a titanic struggle between Trump and DeSantis for the Republican nomination and have made it more likely that the winner of this contest will face an incumbent Democratic president who has avoided a damaging challenge to his re-nomination”.

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