If you were a foreigner who knew nothing about American politics and you looked at the electoral map after Tuesday’s midterm elections, you might not think it was a disaster for Republicans.
The map of U.S. House races, in particular, looks mostly red, except for the typical blue strongholds along the coasts. As of this writing, there are several races waiting to be called and the GOP is expected to have a majority, albeit a small one.
Even New York, one of the country’s most populous and most politically progressive states, now looks mostly red — a wave that didn’t reach the governor’s mansion, but came as close as anyone has in decades.
Of course, we know that the anticipated red wave never materialized. Despite the nationwide discontentment with the state of the economy and the rise in crime, most voters seemed oddly satisfied with the status quo — which, in many places, isn’t good.
Pundits will be unpacking that one for quite some time.
But there were bright spots for conservatives; the Lone Star State being one of them.
Indeed, if there was a gradient electoral map, Texas would be a deeper shade of red than it was last election cycle.
It could be a function of the massive influx of disgruntled Californians, frustrated by their former state’s restrictive COVID policies and frightening spike in crime. Texas is attractive to people looking for economic opportunity and personal freedom.
I’ve yet to meet a California transplant (and I’ve met A LOT) who didn’t come here to start a business or seek a better environment for their children; they all voted Republican this cycle. Maybe all the California progressives are shoring up Austin? Clearly, some of them are helping to keep Tarrant County red.
But to give credit where it’s due, Beto O’Rourke, the Democrats’ three-time great hope, failed to generate anywhere near the kind of enthusiasm he did in his campaign for Senate in 2018. I’d wager that’s because his opponent this time around was a serious, able and generally well-liked governor.
Gov. Greg Abbott beat him handily by double-digits. As my colleague wrote, three times is not the charm for O’Rourke. If he doesn’t realize that it’s time for him to stand down, some benevolent member of his party needs to tell him so.
With O’Rourke at the top of the ticket, there seemed a substantial enthusiasm gap among Texas voters whose desire to turn the state blue — and whose promise of a pro-abortion wave — seemed to fizzle.
The congressional delegation looks much the same, except for the flip of the 34th District, which Republican Rep. Myra Flores won in a special election less than a year ago but lost Tuesday.
So does the leadership in Austin, which is as red as it ever was. Even embattled Attorney General Ken Paxton won handily.
As for the Dobbs decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, only in states with ballot initiatives on abortion — Michigan, Vermont and Kentucky, which either enshrined “abortion rights” or attempted to restrict them — did the issue seem to make a difference in turnout.
But “abortion rights” notably wasn’t a big motivator in Texas, the state often assailed as having the most restrictive abortion laws in the nation.
Not even O’Rourke’s creepy TikTok shimmy for “women’s rights” seemed to move the needle in his direction. Shocking, I know.
Then there was Florida, the one state in which a red tsunami actually broke the shore.
While Gov. Ron DeSantis’ massive victory (20 points!) is in part due to his charisma and political skill, he ultimately won for many of the same reasons as Abbott and Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp: competence.
Notably, all three also kept varying amounts of distance from President Donald Trump.
Analysts will spend the next several months unpacking the reasons why so many Americans chose the status quo instead of change.
In Texas, the status quo is a good thing for conservatives.
Most of this election’s lessons — as countless conservatives have already noted — will have to do with candidate quality and the need for the GOP to cut ties with Trump once and for all.
But Republicans should look not just at where they failed but also where they succeeded.
Texas is one of those places. And after Tuesday’s election, it’s a good place to be.
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