National Republicans targeted more than half a dozen races in New England as pickup opportunities this year, but they picked up none.
Six congressional races, one Senate race, and one gubernatorial race all stayed Democrat despite Republicans’ financial investments, as well as polling and hype of a “red wave,” suggesting the GOP had a valid chance of winning them.
In Rhode Island’s Second District, Republican Allan Fung, a popular former mayor, was leading state General Treasurer Seth Magaziner (D) by a commanding eight points in a Suffolk University/Boston Globe poll taken one month before the election. That was a two-point gain for Fung from the same poll taken in June.
Between the Congressional Leadership Fund and the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) — the former being affiliated with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) — $4.9 million was invested in Fung taking the open seat that a Democrat had held for three decades.
Fung campaigned in the deeply blue state as a pro-choice centrist focused on the economy and crime. Cook Political Report rated his race a “toss-up.”
Fung ended up losing by nearly four points, according to unofficial results.
Republicans have virtually no presence in New England aside from Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) and three Republican governors, who are all frequently derided as “RINOs.”
Even still, Republicans in the region did not just not see the much-anticipated red wave, but they saw a blue wave up and down the ballot.
Rhode Island political reporter Ted Nesi called the “GOP wipeout,” particularly in southern New England, “historic,” noting Democrats were for the first time in modern history elected to all 26 statewide and federal races in Rhode Island and Massachusetts.
At a state level, Democrats gained, grew, or, at the very least, retained their legislative supermajorities in Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut.
Nesi opined of Fung’s loss, perhaps the most devastating of the losses for dejected New England Republicans, that no matter how perfect of a candidate Fung was for the Second District, i.e., barely Republican, constituents were too turned off by the party label:
In the end Magaziner convinced voters that Fung’s personal beliefs and affability mattered less than his membership in a party which secured the end of Roe vs. Wade and whose leader refused to accept the results of the last election.
In Connecticut’s Fifth District, the least blue of the state’s five, the three public polls taken in October on the race between former state Sen. George Logan and incumbent Rep. Jahana Hayes (D-CT) showed a neck-and-neck race in which Logan led in one poll, Hayes led in another, and the two landed in a tie in the third.
Logan came within inches of unseating Hayes but ultimately lost by less than one percent of the vote, per unofficial results.
The NRCC designated Connecticut’s Second District as another “target,” but the race seemed to fall off the map and the Democrat incumbent won in an 18-point landslide.
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In Maine, two former Republican politicians waged unsuccessful comeback bids.
In the rural Second District, which former President Donald Trump won by eight points in 2020, former Rep. Bruce Poliquin (R-ME) fell a few points shy of moderate Rep. Jared Golden (D-ME) and the pair have since moved on to the state’s second round of ranked-choice voting.
Golden, who is Poliquin’s successor, lost to Poliquin in 2018 in the first round of that election, but in the second round — the country’s first use of federal ranked-choice voting — Golden narrowly prevailed. Poliquin later deemed ranked-choice voting “the biggest voter rip-off in Maine history.”
While not formally called by mainstream outlets, Golden has claimed victory in this year’s election, and analyst Dave Wasserman called the race for Golden on Friday afternoon.
Statewide, former Gov. Paul LePage (R), who was term-limited out of office in 2019, ran for a third gubernatorial term.
LePage, a brash figure who became known for his off-the-cuff remarks, took on a more subdued tone for his third run.
LePage focused heavily on economic issues but faltered when confronted with the hot-button issue of abortion, which LePage has said he personally does not support but would keep accessible in Maine in line with the state’s law that permits aborting the unborn until viability.
The Republican Governors Association spent $6.3 million in Maine boosting LePage this election cycle, according to the most recent state filings, far less than more competitive states’ races but a significant amount nevertheless.
Mainers reelected Gov. Janet Mills (D) by roughly 12 points, according to unofficial results. Predictably, Maine’s vast, red-leaning Second District voted predominantly for LePage, but it was not enough to supersede the Democrat votes from the wealthy and more densely populated First District along Maine’s coast.
LePage attributed his defeat to the nationwide pro-abortion uproar that followed the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade in June, an issue polls had overwhelmingly pointed to as less of a concern than inflation.
“In a defiant speech Tuesday night, LePage said he didn’t fare as well as he’d hoped because Maine voters cared more about abortion than their wallets,” the Portland Press Herald reported.
New Hampshire, a historically swingy state, had three of its four Democrat-held congressional seats up for grabs this year.
On top of Democrats meddling in the GOP primary, dynamics in the races were at play among the Freedom Caucus-affiliated Freedom Fund, McCarthy-affiliated Congressional Leadership Fund, Trump, and others.
Reps. Chris Pappas (D-NH) and Annie Kuster (D-NH) were the NRCC’s declared targets, though Pappas in the toss-up First District was the more vulnerable of the two.
Pappas, who did not once deviate from President Joe Biden in terms of voting record this Congress, faced a challenge from the Freedom Fund-endorsed Gen-Zer Karoline Leavitt, who won her primary against McCarthy-backed candidate Matt Mowers.
Leavitt, who adopted a fiery America First brand, lost to Pappas by eight points, while the relatively unknown and underfunded Republican Robert Burns lost to Kuster by 12.
In the Senate election, Trump endorsed Republican Don Bolduc, a retired Army general, in his bid to unseat Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH). Hassan, who was unpopular in polls and highly vulnerable, was boosted by more than $36 million in donations during the election and wildly outraised Bolduc, according to OpenSecrets.
Hassan kept her seat, defeating Bolduc by a decisive nine points.
Complicating New Hampshire’s races was the funding being infused into the Republican primaries. The Democrat-aligned Senate Majority PAC spent $3.1 million, per OpenSecrets, aiding Bolduc’s primary win, apparently because it deemed Bolduc — whom popular Gov. Chris Sununu (R) once called an “extremist” — less likely to defeat Hassan.
In a similar vein, Defending Main Street PAC, which supports centrist Republicans, spent more than a million dollars during the primary targeting Leavitt as a “woke Gen-Zer” in an apparent attempt to boost Mowers, the GOP primary frontrunner who had adopted a more moderate tone than Leavitt.
Leavitt attributed her loss in part to the youngest generation of voters, who a CNN exit poll found were the only generation to unequivocally vote Democrat.
Tuesday was the first major test on Gen Z’s electoral impact, and Republicans failed miserably#GenZ is growing daily AND moving further Left – this will continue to be a colossal challenge for our party if we don’t change young hearts & minds
Uphill battle. But we must climb https://t.co/PHOAClRT1G
— Karoline Leavitt (@kleavittnh) November 11, 2022
“Tuesday was the first major test on Gen Z’s electoral impact, and Republicans failed miserably,” Leavitt wrote in a statement. “Gen Z is growing daily AND moving further Left – this will continue to be a colossal challenge for our party if we don’t change young hearts & minds.”