Republican Rep. Mayra Flores of Texas, going down to defeat capsulized what ended up being a less than stellar performance by Republicans in the midterm elections.
"The RED WAVE did not happen," tweeted Flores, whose June special congressional victory to flip a long-held Democratic House seat energized Republicans ahead of the midterms.
Back east, GOP congressional nominee Karoline Leavitt, whom Republicans hoped would flip New Hampshire’s very swingy First District, lamented in her concession speech that "this is not the outcome we wanted. Certainly not at all."
With Democrats facing historical headwinds — the party that wins the White House traditionally suffers major setbacks in the ensuing midterm elections — and a very rough political climate fueled by record inflation, soaring crime and a crisis at the nation’s southern border, all accentuated by President Biden’s rebounding but still underwater approval ratings and a GOP jump in the public opinion polls heading into the midterms, Republicans were riding a wave of optimism.
Conservative firebrand Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, heading into the midterms, predicted in a Fox News interview that "I think this is going to be, not just a red wave, but a red tsunami."
House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy emphasized that "it is clear that we are going to take the House back… we will be in the majority and [House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi will be in the minority.
As of Wednesday morning, the balance of power in the House and Senate is still in play.
"For two years, Republicans bragged about a GOP ‘red wave,’ but already the media and Republican members of Congress have conceded this election is far from it," Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee executive director Tim Perisco argued. " We’ve got a long way to go, but win or lose, our candidates, our members, and our teams all have a lot to be proud of – they fought hard, even when everyone counted them out."
While spotlighting the GOP victory in the battle for the House, veteran Republican pollster and consultant Kellyanne Conway, who served as top political adviser to former President Trump, acknowledged that "it’s disappointing in terms of the margins."
In the Senate, Democrats may maintain their razor-thin majority, as they held their own in the battle for governorships.
Veteran Republican strategist Colin Reed noted that "it felt like we were heading towards a fairly sizable Republican wave and it didn’t materialize."
"Republicans will have to figure out what went wrong in these races that didn’t get over the finish line," Reed emphasized.
Democratic communicator Chris Moyer highlighted that "this night has gone far better than anyone could have anticipated after such doom and gloom for several weeks… It defies history in many ways."
Republicans enjoyed strong political tailwinds during the second half of last year and the first half of this year, as surging gas prices fueled record inflation, and rising crime and an unrelenting crisis along the U.S.-Mexico border grabbed outsized attention.
However, the blockbuster move in late June by the Supreme Court’s conservative majority to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling and send the combustible issue of legalized abortion back to the states energized Democrats, boosting them with female and suburban voters who helped power Democrats to a blue wave in the 2018 midterms.
The Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization abortion ruling, along with declining gas prices and a slew of legislative victories by Biden and congressional Democrats, gave the party a shot in the arm over the summer as their poll numbers rebounded.
However, public opinion polls in the final weeks leading to the midterms suggested that the Democrats’ summer surge did not last into autumn, as gas prices once again spiked, inflation concerns did not dissipate and Republicans inundated the airwaves with ads bashing the Democrats over crime.
According to a Fox News voter analysis of more than 92,000 respondents, the economy and jobs at 47% was the overwhelming most important issue facing voters. However, abortion at 10% and climate change at 9% came in just ahead of crime, which was at 8%.
"Abortion certainly played a major role in some of these races in a way that was kind of discounted over the last several weeks," Moyer argued. "And also candidate quality matters. You had some very strong candidates on the Democratic side who prevailed, and often their opponents were extreme candidates."
One extremely bright spot for Republicans was Florida, a one-time premiere battleground states that Republicans turned from purple to red on Tuesday.
"Thanks to the overwhelming support of the people of Florida, we not only won election, we have re-written the political map," Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis proclaimed at his Election Night victory celebration. "Thank you for honoring us with a win for the ages."
DeSantis, who narrowly won the governor’s office in 2018, crushed his 2022 Democratic challenger, former GOP governor turned former Democratic Rep. Charlie Crist, by close to 20 points, according to the latest results, topping then-Republican Gov. Jeb Bush’s resounding 13-point re-election victory in 2002.
It was a similar story in the state’s Senate race, with Republican Sen. Marco Rubio making history as the first Republican in the Sunshine State to win a third six-year term. Even though Democratic challenger Rep. Val Demings dramatically outraised and outspent him, Rubio won re-election by over 16-points, according to the latest vote count.
Fueling the GOP wave in Florida, the party’s increasing support from Hispanic voters, who are one of the fastest-growing demographic groups in the state.
"It’s great to be here, gathered in the red county of Miami-Dade," Rubio touted in his victory speech.
Miami-Dade County — with over two million residents, is Florida’s most populous — has long been a Democratic stronghold. But Rubio and DeSantis both carried the county on Tuesday.