Opinion: A really bad night for some high-profile Trump-backed candidates

Updated: Wed, 09 Nov 2022 13:32:58 GMTSource: CNNCNN Opinion contributors share their thoughts on the outcome of the 2022 midterm elections. The views expressed in this commentary are their own.Scott

Updated: Wed, 09 Nov 2022 13:32:58 GMT

Source: CNN

CNN Opinion contributors share their thoughts on the outcome of the 2022 midterm elections. The views expressed in this commentary are their own.

Scott Jennings: DeSantis shows he can do what Trump can't

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis sent a clear message to every Republican voter Tuesday night: My way is the path to a national majority, and former President Donald Trump's way is the path to future disappointments and continued suffering.

Four years ago, DeSantis won his first gubernatorial race by less than a percentage point. His nearly 20-point win against Democratic candidate Charlie Crist on Tuesday sent the message that DeSantis, not Trump, can win over the independent voters who decide elections.

DeSantis' decisive victory offers a future where the Republican Party might actually win the popular vote in a presidential contest -- something that hasn't been done since George W. Bush in 2004.

Meanwhile, many of the candidates Trump endorsed in 2022 struggled, and it was clear from CNN exit polls that the former President -- with his 37% favorability rating -- would be a serious underdog in the 2024 general election should he win the Republican presidential nomination for a third time.

My friend Patrick Ruffini of Echelon Insights tweeted a key observation: DeSantis commanded huge support among Latinos in 2022 compared to Trump in 2020.

In 2020, Biden won the heavily Latino Miami-Dade County by seven points. DeSantis flipped the county on Tuesday and ran away with an 11-point win.

In 2020, Biden won Osceola County by nearly 14 points. This time, DeSantis secured the county by nearly seven points, marking a whopping 21-point swing.

DeSantis combined his strength among Latinos with his support among working class Whites, suburban white-collar voters and rural Floridians. That's a coalition that could win nationally, unlike Trump's limited appeal among several traditional Republican voting segments.

Last year, it was Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin of Virginia who scored an earthquake in a Biden state by keeping Trump at arm's length and focusing on the issues. Tonight, it was DeSantis who ran as his own man (Trump rallied for Marco Rubio but not DeSantis at the end of the campaign) and showed what you can do when you combine the political instincts required to be a successful Republican these days with actual governing competence.

DeSantis made a convincing case that he, rather than Trump, gives Republicans the best chance to defeat Biden (or some other Democrat) in 2024. With Trump plotting a reelection campaign announcement soon, DeSantis has a lot to think about and a solid springboard from which to launch a challenge to the former President.

Scott Jennings, a CNN contributor and Republican campaign adviser, is a former special assistant to President George W. Bush and a former campaign adviser to Sen. Mitch McConnell. He is a partner at RunSwitch Public Relations in Louisville, Kentucky. Follow him on Twitter @ScottJenningsKY.

Jill Filipovic: New Yorkers weren't cowed by overblown claims. Gov. Hochul now has to deliver

Democrat Kathy Hochul won the New York State gubernatorial race, and thank goodness. Her opponent, Lee Zeldin, is not your typical moderate Republican who usually stands a chance in a blue state. Instead, he's an abortion opponent who wanted voters to simply trust he wouldn't mess with New York's abortion laws.

Zeldin was endorsed by the National Rifle Association when he was in Congress. He is a Trump acolyte who voted against certifying the 2020 election in Congress, after texting with former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and reportedly planning to contest the outcome of the 2020 election before the results were even in.

New Yorkers sent a definitive message: Our values matter, even in moments of profound uncertainty.

Plus, Hochul made history as the first woman elected to the governor's office in New York.

This race was, in its final days, predicted to be closer than it actually was. Part of that was simply the usual electoral math: The minority party typically has an advantage in the midterms, and Republicans are a minority in Washington, DC, with a Democrat in the White House and a Democratic majority in Congress. And polling in New York state didn't look as good for Hochul as it should have in a solidly blue state: Voters who talked to pollsters emphasized crime fears and the economy; abortion rights were galvanizing, but didn't seem as definitive in an election for a governor vastly unlikely to have an abortion criminalization bill delivered to her desk.

The polls were imperfect. It turns out that New Yorkers are, in fact, New Yorkers: Not cowed by overblown claims of crime (while I think crime is indeed a problem Democrats should address, New York City remains one of the safest places in the country); determined to defend the racial, ethnic and sexual diversity that makes our state great; and committed to standing up against the tyranny of an anti-democratic party that would force women into pregnancy and childbirth.

However, Democrats shouldn't take this win for granted. The issues voters raised -- inflation, crime -- are real concerns. And the reasons many voters turned out -- abortion rights, democratic norms -- remain under threat.

Hochul's job now is to address voter concerns, while standing up for New York values: Openness, decency, freedom for all. Because that's what New Yorkers did today: The majority of us didn't cast our ballots from a place of fear and reaction, but from the last dregs of hope and optimism. We voted for what we want. And we now want our governor to deliver.

Jill Filipovic is a journalist based in New York and author of the book "OK Boomer, Let's Talk: How My Generation Got Left Behind." Follow her on Twitter.

Douglas Heye: In North Carolina, the issue of crime loomed large

North Carolina's Senate race received less attention than contests in some other states -- possibly a result of the campaign having lesser-known candidates than states like Georgia, Pennsylvania and Ohio.

In the waning weeks of the race, multiple polls had the candidates -- Democratic former state Supreme Court chief justice Cheri Beasley and Republican US House Rep. Ted Budd -- separated by a percentage point or less.

Perhaps more than in any other Senate campaign, the issue of crime loomed large in North Carolina, with Budd claiming in his speeches that it had become much more dangerous to walk the streets in the state. That talking point, along with his focus on inflation, appeared to help propel him to victory in Tuesday's vote.

Beasley, by contrast, focused much of her attention on abortion, making it a central plank of her campaign that she would stand up not just for women's reproductive rights, but workplace protections and equal pay.

The two candidates were vying for the seat being vacated by retiring Republican Sen. Richard Burr. Despite being seen as a red state -- albeit that is less solidly Republican than neighboring southern states -- North Carolina has elected Democrats as five of the last six governors and two of the last six senators.

Former President Barack Obama won the state in 2008 but lost it in 2012 by one of the closest margins in the nation. And while Donald Trump won the state in 2016 and 2020, he never received 50% of the vote.

Douglas Heye is the ex-deputy chief of staff to former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, a GOP strategist and a CNN political commentator. Follow him on Twitter @dougheye.

Sophia A. Nelson: What Stacey Abrams' loss signifies

Many of us suspected that Democratic Florida Congresswoman and former House impeachment manager Val Demings would have an uphill battle unseating incumbent Sen. Marco Rubio, and weren't entirely surprised when she lost the race. With 98% of the vote counted, Rubio won easily, garnering 57.8% of the vote to Demings' 41.1%.

As it turns out, Tuesday was a tough night all around for Black women running statewide. Beyond Demings' loss, Judge Cheri Beasley narrowly lost her Senate bid in North Carolina.

And in the big heartbreak of the night, Stacey Abrams lost the Georgia governor's race to Gov. Brian Kemp -- a repeat of her defeat to him four years ago, when the two tangled for what at the time was an open seat.

Abrams shook up the 2018 race by expanding the electoral map, enlisting more women and people of color who turned out in record numbers -- but she fell short of punching her ticket to Georgia's governor's mansion. And on Tuesday she lost to Kemp by a much wider margin than in 2018.

Had Abrams succeeded, she would have been the first Black woman to become the governor of a US state. After her second straight electoral loss, America is still waiting for that breakthrough.

Meanwhile, an ever bigger winner of the night was Florida's Gov. Ron DeSantis, who handily defeated Democrat Charlie Crist.

DeSantis' big night solidifies what some feel is a compelling claim to front-runner status for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination, on what turned out to be a strong election night for Republicans in the state.

It's hard for a Democrat to win statewide in the deep South. And as Demings, Beasley and Abrams have shown, it's particularly tough for a Black woman to win statewide in the region: In fact, it's never been done.

All three women were well-qualified and well-funded stars in their party. But, when we look at the final vote tallies, it tells a familiar story. Take Demings, for example, a former law enforcement officer -- she was Orlando's police chief -- and yet, she did not get the big law enforcement endorsements. Rubio did, although he never wore the blue.

That was a big red flag for me, and it showed how much gender and race still play in the minds of male voters and power brokers of my generation and older. For Black women, a double burden of both race and gender at play. It is the nagging story of our lives.

As for Abrams, I think Kemp was helped by backing away from Trump and modulating his campaign message to appeal to suburban women and independents.

Abrams, meanwhile, just didn't have the same support and enthusiasm this time around for her candidacy. And that is unfortunate, but for her to lose by such a big margin says much more.

At the end of the day however, these three women have nothing to regret. They ran great campaigns, and they created great future platforms for themselves. And they each put one more crack in the glass ceiling facing candidates for the US Senate and governors' mansions.

Sophia A. Nelson is a journalist and author of the new book "Be the One You Need: 21 Life Lessons I Learned Taking Care of Everyone but Me."