By almost any metric, Democrats had a good night Tuesday. But credit should go where credit is due — and in no small part, it’s due to Donald Trump, for elevating a mostly underqualified and deeply strange roster of conspiracy theorists, election deniers and weirdos in some of the nation’s most important electoral contests.
It turns out that Trump-endorsed nominees didn’t need Democrats to cancel out their “red tsunami,” a violent metaphor for a Republican wave that never materialized. They did it (mostly) by themselves. Tuesday’s various election outcomes suggest that moderates, independents and even some partisans just want normal, boring candidates to represent them in office again ― not the extremists and wannabe celebrities who ended up on the GOP ticket in many states.
Oz isn’t the first candidate to move somewhere just to run for office. Yet he could never seem to shake the “carpetbagger” label, or the sense that his commitment to this state was anything more than flimsy. It’s seen as a big reason that Oz lost to Democrat John Fetterman on Tuesday.
Few candidates were as disappointing for Republicans as Pennsylvania gubernatorial nominee Doug Mastriano. With just 42% of the vote against Democrat Josh Shapiro, Mastriano finished several percentage points behind Oz in a state that Trump lost with more votes in 2020.
If you were to lab-engineer the GOP nominee least likely to attract middle-of-the-road voters, you would be left with a carbon copy of Mastriano, a state senator and hard-right Christian nationalist who was subpoenaed by the House committee investigating Jan. 6, 2021, about his actions at the U.S. Capitol that day. Mastriano said he never entered the building or committed a crime — but he did bring busloads of people to Washington to “stop the steal.” He also led an effort to overturn the 2020 election results in his state legislature.
“They lick themselves … When they don’t like something, they hiss,” Bolduc, a retired Army brigadier general, said. “And get this — they’re putting litter boxes, right? Litter boxes for that.”
The negative attention Bolduc received for repeating the theory (when he could have simply stuck to talking about anything else) didn’t help him in his close race against incumbent Maggie Hassan, who was seen as one of the most vulnerable Senate Democrats up for reelection. Hassan easily won another term against Bolduc.
HONORABLE MENTION: It’s hard to know where to even begin with some of the Trump-backed Republicans who ran for various secretary of state positions. Their deep embrace of conspiracy theories can be challenging to untangle. And Arizona’s Mark Finchem especially stands out as not living in the same reality as you and me.
The “October surprise” is an old political cliche, but Walker really did have the mother of all surprises in October, when a woman he’d dated told The Daily Beast that he paid her to have an abortion. The allegation, which Walker clumsily denied despite the woman providing a signed card and check, was seen as evidence of Walker’s hypocrisy on abortion rights. The Daily Beast’s reporting helped unearth more details about Walker’s personal life published in other outlets, none of them flattering.
Still, it might not make a difference. Walker isn’t out of the running for Senate yet. He finished a hair behind Sen. Raphael Warnock in Georgia, and since neither candidate won a majority of votes, the race goes to another round of voting on Dec. 6. The outcome wasn’t the clear repudiation of Warnock that Republicans had hoped for, but they still have a shot at flipping a Democratic seat.
HONORABLE MENTION: In one of the most crash-and-burn House races this cycle, an Ohio Republican who painted his lawn in tribute to Trump lost a winnable seat after it was revealed he’d embellished his Air Force combat record. The nominee, J.R. Majewski, naturally won Trump’s endorsement over two more electable state lawmakers.
Kari Lake’s announcement that she was running for Arizona governor was about as unsubtle as taking a sledgehammer to a television — which is exactly how the ex-newscaster made her political ambitions known in a video. That theme has been consistent throughout her campaign. Lake has taken a sledgehammer to everything in her way: her old job, the media, the GOP establishment. And now she’s smashed her way to a near-win in a race against Democrat Katie Hobbs that’s still too close to call.
Lake doesn’t need to win the election to have a career — and it might even work out better for her in the long run if she doesn’t. The new MAGA celebrity has been floated as a running mate for Trump if he follows through on seeking another term as president. Lake’s days are filled with media hits and events where she’s the center of attention. If she becomes governor, it’s possible she would have to spend most of her time doing the much less glamorous work of… you know, governing.