After the GOP’s underperformance in the midterm elections, the question remains whether Republicans will learn their lesson or be content as year-in, year-out losers.
Former President Donald Trump showed in 2020 and 2018 — and probably also in 2016 — that he is a drag on GOP candidates down the ballot. He oversaw a loss of 40 House seats in the 2018 midterm elections, and he went on to lose to bumbling old “Sleepy Joe” Biden in 2020 even as Republicans outperformed him. In both his 2020 loss and his 2016 win, Trump was a drag on GOP candidates in tight races, who consistently finished with higher vote totals. He probably only won the presidency because Hillary Clinton managed to be more unlikable and incompetent than he was.
Trump showed that he was a loser once again on Tuesday, costing Republicans several races thanks to the terrible candidates he backed in party primaries or candidates who crafted their campaigns in his image. Trump’s terrible candidates in Pennsylvania and New Hampshire cost Republicans down-ballot House races as well as definitive control of the Senate. In fact, Republicans may lose the Senate outright thanks to Trump’s picks in Arizona and Georgia.
But some Republicans are content to just keep losing. Indiana Rep. Jim Banks, who wants to become the House GOP whip, declared he supported Trump. Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz unsurprisingly wants Trump to be the nominee in 2024.
New York Rep. Elise Stefanik, the Republican conference chairwoman who oversaw the disappointing midterm results, outright endorsed Trump for 2024 to the New York Times. “I am proud to endorse Donald Trump for president in 2024,” Stefanik said in a statement. “It is time for Republicans to unite around the most popular Republican in America who has a proven track record of conservative governance.”
Trump left office with an approval rating of 34%. He is nowhere near being “the most popular Republican in America.” He isn’t even the most popular Republican in the state of Florida.
It is an utterly embarrassing commentary on the Republican Party that Stefanik is “proud” to endorse this level of mediocrity. Republicans such as Stefanik seem content with losing the House, Senate, and White House in a span of three years while falling on their face time and time again trying to win them back. Trump gave away the Senate in 2021, gleefully, and was cheerleading the demise of some Republican candidates who were trying to win it back.
Trump enjoys losing. Stefanik, Banks, and Gaetz apparently do, too.
Republicans can learn the lesson from the midterm elections and move on to candidates who aren’t electorally toxic. They can run popular conservatives for president in 2024 who aren’t 76 years old and lost to Joe Biden. Or they can learn nothing and continue to be the party of losers, and continue to give Democrats everything they want in election after election.