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Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Bad news for Trump and the Republican Party

By DAVID BAUDER, Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — Americans woke up Wednesday to Election Day results that remained almost as murky as the night before: “Control of the House and Senate still hangs in the balance,” read one CNN subtitle.

However, if the midterm results had not solidified, the media narrative clearly had. Good night to the Democrats. Bad night for Republicans. Bad night, especially for Donald Trump.

This snap analysis took shape despite the very real possibility that Republicans could end up wresting control of one or both houses of Congress from Democrats. From a coverage perspective, the Republicans fell short of expectations.

“Republicans far underperformed and heads should roll,” conservative commentator Ben Shapiro tweeted.

Political Cartoons

The Washington Post website headlined: “Congress Hanging by a Thread as Democrats Defy Expectations.”

The New York Times headlined: “Control of Congress Depends on Close Races.” However, other headlines on the newspaper’s site said there were no signs of a red wave that Republicans expected, and the main story of the analysis was about why an expected GOP defeat fell short.

The Times’ “Needle,” which barely moved Tuesday night, predicted Wednesday afternoon that Democrats had a 66% chance of controlling the Senate and Republicans an 83% chance of winning the House.

Trump, who opted not to announce a 2024 bid the night before the election, faced a particularly harsh media evaluation.

A Washington Post analysis explained, “why the 2022 election was a disaster for Trump.”

The New York Post, which glossed over the gubernatorial race in his home state, put Trump rival Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on its front page, standing in front of a huge American flag. “DeFuture” was the headline.

The Fox News website ran a steady stream of stories with damaging headlines: “Trump-Backed Vance Fails to Mention Former President in Victory Speech.” “Republican Brad Raffensperger, reviled by Trump, wins again in Georgia.” And, “conservatives point fingers at Trump after disappointing GOP election results.”

“This ended up being a referendum on insanity,” MSNBC commentator Donny Deutsch said Wednesday.

Armed with election night statistics and projections, television networks were wary of drawing conclusions about the political future of the closely divided nation. The first big story of the night, DeSantis’ big win, was favorable to Republicans.

But as Tuesday night turned into Wednesday morning, the story of what wasn’t happening for the GOP became the main talking point.

“Republicans are going to have to do some soul searching here,” said Fox News Channel’s Dana Perino.

Kellyanne Conway, the former Trump aide who was a commentator on Fox, grew impatient at one point with on-set discussions about the performance of Republicans not living up to expectations or hopes.

“That’s enough,” he said. “We’ll take it.”

Fox News Channel averaged the most viewers on election night, 7.2 million, more than double any other network or channel during prime time. According to Nielsen, MSNBC drew 3.1 million; NBC, 3.097 million; ABC, 3.03 million; CBS, 2.5 million; CNN, 2.48 million.

Television networks went the extra mile Tuesday to have staff available to deal with threats to democracy, such as election denials or attempts to prevent voting. Instead, there wasn’t much for them to do.

Through it all, news organizations emphasized transparency and how counting election results had become more difficult due to the rise in early voting and differing state rules for how votes were counted.

“This is more complicated than it was 10 years ago,” said CNN’s John King, “because people vote in different ways.”

David Bauder is the media writer for AP. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/dbauder

Copyright 2022 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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