Post-election pundits: Inflation befuddles Republicans, Democrats in 2022 midterm

Trump brand suffers as GOP fails to meet high expectations

By: - November 10, 2022 1:11 pm
Journalist Gerald Seib and Jackie Calmes appear seated onstage at the Dole Institute

Journalist Gerald Seib and Jackie Calmes explored outcomes of the 2022 general election during a forum at the Dole Institute of Politics that examined the impact on former President Donald Trump. (Kansas Reflector screen capture from Dole Institute’s YouTube channel)

LAWRENCE — Los Angeles Times political columnist Jackie Calmes said wicked inflation exposed cracks in campaign strategies of Republicans and Democrats competing for seats in Congress.

Calmes, a reporter for nearly 30 years at the Wall Street Journal and New York Times, said GOP candidates in the Tuesday elections blamed President Joe Biden and other Democrats for surging prices of gasoline, groceries and just about everything else. Despite labeling a federal law the “inflation reduction act,” Democrats didn’t identify an answer to the crisis.

Ironically, Calmes said, Republicans engaged in finger pointing never articulated a digestible prescription for inflation either.

“It is the worst political problem to have probably other than, you know, a sex scandal. Maybe worse,” Calmes said Wednesday at the Dole Institute of Politics at the University of Kansas.

She was joined by Gerald Seib, a Wall Street Journal editor, for a gut-reaction assessment of elections determining control of the U.S. House and U.S. Senate as well influencing presidential politics in 2024. They assumed the GOP would take control of the House, but the Senate’s future was less clear.

Seib and Calmes said Republicans failed to deliver the red wave they had promised. Both journalists held former President Donald Trump partially responsible.

“Usually, a midterm election is a referendum on the president,” Calmes said. “Yet, Donald Trump in his inimitable style insisted it also be about him.”

Calmes also said blame for the GOP’s deficient showing ought to be assigned to Republican Party extremists who sought strict restraints or bans on abortion after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Roe v Wade. Those political debates repeatedly affirmed to advocates of abortion rights what the November election was about, she said.

Seib said polling by the Associated Press examined the motivation of voters taking part in the election. Half said they were worried about inflation. A surprising portion, 44%, said they were driven by apprehension about the health of American democracy. In the survey, one-fourth said the driving force was abortion rights.

In Kansas, voters in August rejected an amendment to the state Constitution declaring women didn’t have a right to abortion.

“They didn’t go away between August and November,” Seib said.

He said Kansans demonstrated they weren’t interested in robotically hunkering down in blue or red silos. The state’s voters followed their instincts to elect vulnerable Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly, conservative Republican Kris Kobach as attorney general and gerrymandered Democratic U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids. Davids won by double digits, while margins for Kelly and Kobach were thin.

Seib said national impatience with election deniers didn’t fit Trump’s plan to glide to the GOP’s 2024 nomination for president. He said Trump’s endorsements in 2022 didn’t prove golden — look no further than the loss by Kansas GOP governor candidate Derek Schmidt.

Calmes said a growing number of Republicans, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, were processing post-election signals Trump could be defeated in the next presidential primary.

“Trump is a loser. It’s a fact. I’m not trying to be disrespectful,” she said. “He won in 2016, even though he lost the popular vote. Every cycle since then, he has lost.”

She referred to Republicans losing the U.S. Senate and U.S. House in the 2018 midterm, Trump falling to defeat against Biden in 2020 and Republicans not rising to expectations in 2022. She said the 2024 primary for president could be a “bloodbath among the Republicans,” because Trump would never defer to alternatives to himself.

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Tim Carpenter
Tim Carpenter

Tim Carpenter has reported on Kansas for 35 years. He covered the Capitol for 16 years at the Topeka Capital-Journal and previously worked for the Lawrence Journal-World and United Press International. He has been recognized for investigative reporting on Kansas government and politics. He won the Kansas Press Association's Victor Murdock Award six times. The William Allen White Foundation honored him four times with its Burton Marvin News Enterprise Award. The Kansas City Press Club twice presented him its Journalist of the Year Award and more recently its Lifetime Achievement Award. He earned an agriculture degree at Kansas State University and grew up on a small dairy and beef cattle farm in Missouri. He is an amateur woodworker and drives Studebaker cars.

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