Election Night 2022: Republicans Sweep Ohio While Democrats Defy History Nationally


Nick Watts, Co-Editor-in-Chief '23

On November 8th, 2022, voters across the country visited their polling places to elect senators, governors, representatives, and a litany of other down-ballot positions in the long-anticipated 2022 midterm elections. Nationally, 46.9% of eligible voters turned out to cast ballots. The figure is about two points below turnout in the 2018 midterms, however it is a very good percentage compared to previous years. Ohio voter turnout currently sits at 51.1%, above the national number. Way to go, Ohio! Below, I have broken down some key midterm takeaways both locally and nationally.

Republicans Sweep Ohio With Double-Digit Wins by Statewide Candidates

After Republicans smashed their way to reelection in Ohio this year, many are beginning to question whether the state is as purple as it once was. Governor Mike DeWine led the Republican ticket with a dominating 25-point win over former Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley. The race was largely quiet after a dramatic primary put DeWine’s renomination in doubt. No major shifts in the race occurred at any point and many expected DeWine to easily cruise to reelection.

All Republican candidates running for reelection to the rest of the statewide offices also performed strongly on election night. Each nominee beat their democratic rivals by 12 points or more. With a Democratic President at 41% approval, soaring inflation, and the red tide that has swept across Ohio in recent elections, this should come as a surprise to no one that statewide Republican candidates had such a strong showing on Tuesday night.

There was only one race on Election Day in Ohio where that logic did not apply: the open race to succeed retiring U.S. Senator Rob Portman, CCDS ’74. Republican JD Vance emerged bruised and battered from a vicious Republican primary that saw five major candidates run and sling mud at each other. Democratic U.S. Representative Tim Ryan, however, skated through his primary and was off to the races with ads hitting JD Vance as out-of-touch, elitist, and phony. In a memorable debate moment, Tim Ryan claimed that Ohio needed an “ass-kicker, not an ass-kisser” like Vance. This attack line against Vance came after former President Donald Trump claimed that he was “kissing [his] ass” at a rally on September 15th in Youngstown, Ohio.

Despite the witty attack line and the millions of grassroots donations raised by Ryan, he still came up short by about six points. The most interesting aspect of the entire race, however, has nothing to do with Ohio. Here’s why: Big-money Republican PACs (political action committees), frightened by Ryan’s aggressive campaigning and favorable poll numbers, spent over 30 million dollars in Ohio to ensure that JD Vance won. The issue with that strategy is that the 30 million spent in Ohio, a state that shouldn’t be in contention for Democrats considering how red the state has shifted since 2016, was being spent here and not in Arizona, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Nevada, New Hampshire, and other competitive states around the country.

Despite Ryan’s loss, the fact that he was able to pull all that money away from other places throughout the country gave Democrats the boost they needed to have the history-defying night that they had. Speaking of which, let’s break that down.

Democrats Overperform Across the Country as Election-Deniers Crash and Burn

Throughout the entire midterm cycle, there were never many definitive indicators of which party was going to dominate. Despite the rhetoric from both sides about red and blue ‘waves,’ generic Republicans and generic Democrats were constantly gaining and losing points on generic ballot polls throughout the year.

What happened on Election Night, however, was anything but expected. Democrats did nothing short of defy history. Currently, Democrats are on track to lose a net of 12 House seats and possibly expand their Senate control by one more. The last time that a first-term incumbent Democratic President did that well in their first midterm year was Jimmy Carter in 1978, who lost only 15 seats in the House.

In the U.S. Senate, the last time a Democratic President’s party expanded or kept their Senate majority in their first midterm year was Franklin Roosevelt in 1934, 88 years ago. Historically, a first-term President’s party is expected to lose around 28 House seats. That number balloons to 43 when the President’s approval rating drops below 50%. Biden’s is currently at 41.7%. The point here is that Democrats, despite having to defend the many problems that have plagued the nation under their watch, were able to eke out wins in important races to keep and possibly expand control of the Senate, while significantly blunting the Republican momentum in their takeback of the House.

How did they accomplish this, you may ask? Two words – candidate quality. Throughout the nation, Republicans nominated candidates for offices that would normally be competitive who managed to make them not competitive through their controversial stances on issues such as abortion, gun rights, and the 2020 Election.

Pennsylvania Republican Senate nominee, celebrity heart surgeon Dr. Mehmet Oz, who moved to the state last year, controversially said in a debate earlier this year that “women, doctors, [and] local political leaders” should be the ones making decisions about women’s bodies. The Republican nominee for Senate in New Hampshire, retired General Don Bolduc, said in a primary debate, “I signed a letter with 120 other generals and admirals saying that Donald Trump won the election and damn it, I stand by [it].” After winning the primary, he later flip-flopped to say, “I’ve done a lot of research on this… and I have come to the conclusion… the election was not stolen.” Oz lost by 6 points and Bolduc by 9.

In Georgia, Republican Senate nominee Herschel Walker, who has taken a zero-tolerance stance against abortion, has had two women accuse him of offering to pay for their abortions after they became pregnant with his children. Finally, Republican nominee for Governor of Arizona, news anchor Kari Lake, arguably the biggest MAGA star of the cycle, remarked at a rally, “We don’t have any McCain Republicans in here, do we? Alright, get the hell out,” referring to the late Arizona Senator and 2008 Republican presidential nominee John McCain. The percentage of McCain Republicans that she successfully alienated was able to keep her out of the Governor’s office by just .6 percentage points. The list of flawed Republican candidates goes on.

Many have blamed former President Donald Trump for these controversial candidates performing poorly in races that could have been more competitive. He often inserted himself in Republican primaries by only endorsing those who pledged absolute fealty to him and repeated his false claims of a stolen election. Democrats were then able to successfully make many races a referendum on Donald Trump and whether or not moderate Republicans and independent voters wanted to elect someone who did not believe in the legitimacy of our election system.

In my article last year analyzing the 2021 election results, with the shocking win of Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin and the close call in the New Jersey Governor Election, I wondered “whether a ‘red wave’ will come crashing down on the country this time next year.” It is clear that it has not. No red wave ever materialized. I ask now whether Republicans will be able to search within themselves to find new leadership in their party that can be focused on the future rather than the past. I also ask whether Democrats will be able to put more focus on working class voters and their issues, as Tim Ryan stressed in Ohio this year. With the 2024 Election now on the horizon, it is anyone’s guess as to what the outcome of that will be and what the country will look like by the time we get there.