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.
People in politics like to use the term “candidate quality” to diplomatically critique poor candidates. Even by Trump GOP standards, candidate quality was sorely lacking this election cycle.
That’s why we’ll never forget the MAGA Class of 2022. Don’t ever change!
Most Likely To Never Again Set Foot In The State Where They Ran
Celebrity surgeon Mehmet Oz had a hard time convincing voters that he was actually from the state he hoped to represent in Washington. The GOP’s Senate nominee in Pennsylvania did not help his case when, the weekend before the election, he urged voters to “contact 10 people before the Steelers game” — although no such game was happening that weekend. At least this blunder didn’t involve a “Wegner’s.”
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.
Oz actually did live in the Keystone State for a time, but it was as a medical student at the University of Pennsylvania. Oz’s in-laws are also from the Philly suburbs, and Oz rented their home to live in during the campaign. Many voters (including noted non-Pennsylvania resident Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi) seemed to understand that Oz’s real home was actually a mansion on the Hudson River in New Jersey. Or any one of his dozen-plus other properties not in Pennsylvania.
In the primary, both Oz and hedge fund executive David McCormick sought Trump’s endorsement. Trump went with the entertainer, reportedly at the urging of his wife Melania, a fan of Oz’s show. In the end, all it may cost Republicans is the Senate majority.
Most Likely To Never Win Another GOP Nomination
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.
A member of a religious extremist movement, Mastriano is not just against abortion rights. In 2019, he introduced an anti-abortion bill that aimed to outlaw the procedure and treat the women who violate it as murderers.
It didn’t take a political expert to predict how Mastriano would fare in a swing state that Joe Biden carried. But that didn’t stop Trump from endorsing the loyal state senator at the last minute, pushing him over the edge in the primary. After Tuesday’s poor outcome, don’t expect Mastriano to win another statewide nomination any time soon.
HONORABLE MENTION: Blake Masters was once hailed as the face of the GOP’s new generation — a young, libertarian-leaning conservative who shared his authoritarian tendencies in a CrossFit chat room, as one does. Even on his best days, Masters was a boring and strange Senate nominee who didn’t live up to his promise as a rising star. He’s on track to lose to Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly in Arizona, which would make that seat another squandered pickup for the GOP.
Most Off-The-Wall Claim
It’s hard to pick just one outlandish claim that defined the 2022 midterms. But it’s not hard to choose the weirdest. Late last month, New Hampshire Senate candidate Don Bolduc told a group of supporters that children are identifying as cats — “furries and fuzzies” — and using litter boxes in classrooms.
“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 litter box hoax, which Bolduc wasn’t alone in spreading, has been thoroughly debunked.
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.
Finchem campaigned on the idea that the 2020 election was compromised by cheating, especially in Arizona’s largest county, where there’s no evidence to back up his wild claims. As of Friday, his race against Democrat Adrian Fontes is still too close to call.
Most Likely To Have One Or 20 Skeletons In Their Closet
Things always seemed to be getting worse for Herschel Walker. The Senate hopeful and former star running back would routinely make head-scratching comments about evolution, pollution and pretty much anything else under the sun. It was nothing, however, compared to the jaw-dropping revelations from Walker’s personal life, which included domestic violence allegations and two previously undisclosed children.
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.
In any case, the Republican voters that Walker needs on his side haven’t turned their backs on him. In fact, the whole episode might have actually humanized him. “We’re all sinners,” a GOP voter told HuffPost last month.
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.
Most Likely To Parlay This Election Into A Newsmax Show
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.
After she earned Trump’s endorsement in the GOP primary, Lake has been described as the second coming of the former president. It’s true on several levels: Lake shares Trump’s gift for entertaining, as well as his penchant for lying and boasting. Like Trump, she’s ready to cry “fraud” if this race doesn’t go her way.
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.
HONORABLE MENTION: Michigan had its own version of Kari Lake in its GOP nominee for governor, Tudor Dixon. She didn’t unseat Democrat Gretchen Whitmer, but Dixon has a career as a hard-right talking head to fall back on. Prior to running for office, Dixon hosted a show for the conservative media company Real America’s Voice, and acted in a straight-to-the-discount-bin horror film.