Sure, issues are important, but who would you rather grab a beer with?
I only ask this because on most days, it's the only thing I can come up with that helps explain why and how Republicans struggled so much in 2022.
Look, what's crazy about 2022 is that outside of abortion, voters themselves stated they trusted Republicans more than Democrats on most of the major issues in national exit polling.
Trust on Abortion (#2 Issue) (NOT Republicans)
Biden's policies helping or hurting? 47-33 Hurting the Country
Direction of Country? 73-25 Dissatisfied
Trust on Inflation (#1 issue) 54-42 Republicans
Trust on Crime (#3 issue) 52-43 Republicans
Trust on Foreign Immigration (#4 issue) 51-45 Republicans
Sure sounds like Republicans were the party folks voted FOR, doesn't it? I mean, how in the world is it that Voters trust Republicans more on the issue that voters care most about, (not to mention on 3 of the top 4 issues) but voters don't vote for the party they trust most on the issues?
Let me suggest the obvious answer. It's THE CANDIDATE. And maybe more specifically, how much voters like the candidate they voted for.
As an example, let's look at two states with tight races.
Nevada was the only state where a sitting Governor lost. Nevada also saw the parties split the top two seats, with Republicans taking that Governor's seat back but failing to do so in the Senate.
Republicans lost that Senate seat just barely.
The Republican nominee for Governor won with 48.81% while US Senate candidate Adam Laxalt lost despite having a relatively similar number (48.04%) of the vote. Meanwhile, the Democrat Senate candidate, Catherine Cortez Masto's ballot number was +1.51% higher than her counterpart incumbent Governor, Steve Sisolak.
Now, there are a lot of possible explanations here, such as
Nonpartisans. The Senate race had a nonpartisan candidate on the ballot where the Governor's race did not. That candidate took 0.79% of the vote, where Laxalt was .77% off of Lombardo's number. Maybe a few Lombardo voters just went all out nonpartisan because it was an available option?
Change (your favorite buzzword). Joe Lombardo was a first time statewide candidate where as the other three had all run statewide campaigns prior. Perhaps voters wanted a truly fresh face?
Hispanics. Turnout aside, Did Catherine Cortez Masto benefit from her Hispanic heritage? There's certainly a statistical case when we compare the numbers, where by some exits she polled 2-5 points higher than Sisolak with that demographic.
Endorsements. Catherine Cortez Masto was able to nail down some major law enforcement endorsements unlike Sisolak. It's also incredibly notable that despite being a sitting Democrat Governor, Steve Sisolak somehow missed out on the Teacher's Union endorsement.
Trump. While both Lombardo and Laxalt had Trump endorsements, Laxalt had a longer relationship and more direct tie to Trump, being one of many Trump supporters to throw doubt on the 2020 election results.
Look, there are plenty of ways to look at it. But I do think one of the prevailing themes in this election was how voters viewed the quality of the candidates on the ballot. Republicans had an advantage heading into the election given Biden's poor numbers, but that didn't mean voters were going to vote for anyone. They still needed some things from those challengers.
Well, in Nevada, voters for whatever reason, just didn't like Laxalt.
"Another factor helping Cortez Masto is that voters like the way she handles herself personally, more than feel that way about Laxalt."
- CBS News 10/26/22
Now, I will point out that the same poll also showed that more voters liked Sisolak than Lombardo, but Lombardo still did better on the ole beer question than Laxalt. But when we dig further into that poll, it looks pretty obvious that voters weren't exactly feeling Laxalt. Here's how voters felt about the candidate they stated they planned to vote FOR:
"How do You Feel about voting for....."
Name Very Enthusiastic Somewhat Enthusiastic Not Enthusiastic
Laxalt 55% 36% 9%
Masto 60% 34% 6%
Reason for Voting for Laxalt Over Masto
Mainly Because I Like Adam Laxalt 25%
Mainly Because Adam Laxalt is the Republican Nominee 31%
Mainly to Oppose Catherine Cortez Masto 43%
Reason for Voting for Laxalt Over Masto
Mainly Because I Like Catherine Cortez Masto 48%
Mainly Because Catherine Cortez Masto is the Democrat Nominee 22%
Mainly to Oppose Adam Laxalt 30%
So let's summarize
1. Masto was liked more voters.
2. Masto supporters were actually enthusiastic about voting FOR her
3. Almost 10% of Laxalt voters stated they were NOT enthusiastic about voting for him.
Look, Laxalt was not (or did not come across as) a candidate, for whatever reason, that voters wanted to go grab a beer with. Catherine Cortez Masto actually had voters voting FOR her, and not just because she was the nominee.
Sure, voters don't tell us necessarily why they did or did not like a candidate, but I do like using these numbers only because it's the one singular question that's not about an issue directly. Plus, this wasn't just in Nevada, this beer question is one that generally showed itself in most races, some close, and some not so close. Take another state for example...a state like....
If you want, you can just head over to this link where CBS News did a whole segment on the beer question in Pennsylvania months ahead of the actual election.
Spoiler alert: Voters there were not huge fans of the Republican Senate candidate any more than Nevada voters were of Laxalt.
"Pennsylvania voters who most valued “honesty and integrity” in their Senate candidate favored Democrat John Fetterman over Republican Mehmet Oz, according to the early results of the Pennsylvania exit poll conducted for CNN and other news networks by Edison Research.
Fetterman also won among voters who said they wanted a candidate who cared about people like them, while Oz won among the smaller bloc of voters who prioritized a candidate sharing their values."
- CNN 11/9/22
Pay close attention to the phrase "sharing their values." Again we see the Republican seems to be on the right side of the issues. However, that "honesty and integrity," and "cared about people like them crowd?" Well, here is a quick breakdown of some of the exit poll nuggets:
Which ONE Candidate Quality Mattered Most In Deciding How You Voted For U.S. Senate? (CHECK ONLY ONE)
Cares about people like me (20% of respondents) 69% DEM 30% REP
Has honesty and integrity (32% of respondents) 62% DEM 36% REP
Shares my values (35% of respondents) 37% DEM 62% REP
Was Your Vote For U.S. Senator Mainly: For your candidate (67% of respondents) 53% DEM 46% REP
Against their opponent (28% of respondents) 44% DEM 55% REP
In terms of voters overall, 52% prioritized a candidate they said "cares about people like them" and has "honesty and integrity" as opposed to only 35% of voters who prioritized a candidate who "share(d) their values."
Folks, that is a 17% gap.
And the result of that gap is voters who agreed with Republicans on the issues....voting against....the Republican.
Perhaps one of the most important questions from the 22 midterms was by far too simple.....Did voters actually like the candidate and how they handled themselves? You can give me any number of reasons you like, but the only reason that makes sense to me is....THE CANDIDATE, where in the case of Pennsylvania, 64% of Republicans stated they wished they had nominated someone different for Senate.
Conservatives should hope that in 2024 Republicans do a better job at either fielding better candidates, or at the very least promoting their candidates more likeable qualities. In other words, Republicans have America on the issues, just not so much on the popularity contest portion.
You might think the Beer Question is a stupid reason to vote, but like it or not, voters, at least some, care about it when they do vote.
Note: While I'm focusing on the "likeability" candidate question for these purposes, I should note I could walk through and make a similar or even the same case for candidate resume. Either way, because Republicans were better on the issues, well, Republicans should have done better!