The midterm elections in the United States were supposed to deliver a Republican red wave to sweep away Democrats. But the wave never came – and that has big implications for Donald Trump who is facing a new rival in his own party.
He’s based in Florida.
He’s a perma-tanned Republican who likes a red tie and a dark blue suit.
He loves to make angry outbursts about migrants and wokeness.
And he really wants to be president.
But his name is not Donald Trump.
The United States held its midterm elections this week – and there was really only one convincing winner… The Republican governor of Florida Ron DeSantis.
“We have rewritten the political map…Thank you for honouring us with a win for the ages.”Ron DeSantis
He was the bright spot on a pretty disappointing election night all round.
Republicans – beaten in 2020 – were hoping to run up a massive victory over President Joe Biden’s Democratic party, snatching control of Congress in Washington DC and governors’ mansions across the US.
But that’s not what happened.
“You can call it the red wave that wasn’t, that’s how analysts are describing last night’s midterm elections as Democrats defied tradition and did not suffer the defeat poll suggested.”CBS
History shows that halfway through their four-year term, most Presidents are unpopular and their party tends to lose – badly.
But in the end it was like one of those sporting contests where neither side plays particularly well, but someone squeezes a narrow and unsatisfying win.
Capitol Hill – scene of that January 6th assault on democracy by Trump supporters – is changed by this election, but not as clearly or radically as the Republicans hoped.
At the time of recording, there are still some votes to be counted and a few key results to be declared, but Republicans appear to be on the way to taking charge of the House of Representatives, by a very narrow margin.
The other half of Congress, the Senate, may very well stay under Democratic control – although we won’t know for certain until the last undecided race in the state of Georgia goes to a run-off on December the 6th.
So what does it all mean?
Even if they hold the Senate, losing the House means President Biden’s Democrats will be blocked from passing any laws over the next two years.
And the Republicans who are in charge are promising to start investigating his family, claiming that the overseas business links of the president’s son, Hunter, are a threat to national security. They’ll also end the Democrat-led investigation into the events surrounding the January 6th insurrection.
It wasn’t a terrible night for Democrats though – and the Supreme Court decision to sweep away women’s abortion rights was clearly a motivating factor in driving Democratic voters to the polls.
President Biden told Republicans he wanted to work with them, but the next two years will inevitably bring more paralysis in Washington politics.
But what about 2024? President Biden will be 82 by the time of the next election. Does he run? And if not, does anyone else in the party look like a winner? Here’s the president in an interview with the CBS News show 60 Minutes a few weeks ago:
“Look, my intention, as I said to begin with, is that I would run again. But it’s just an intention. But is it a firm decision that I run again? That remains to be seen.”CBS News
Then, there’s Donald Trump.
The former president had a horrible night.
Partly, of his own making, but mostly because of Ron DeSantis.
“Well, I think if they win, I should get all the credit…If they lose, I should not be blamed at all.”NewsNation
Trump hoped to surf that red wave… He had endorsed dozens of candidates and expected to use high-profile wins to launch his 2024 campaign to run again for the White House.
But a lot of his most-watched candidates – like the TV celebrity Doctor Oz, who was running for a Senate seat in Pennsylvania – lost in races that really should have been Republican wins. And Republicans complained that Trump’s name had been a drag on their fortunes.
A glitzy election night party at his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida fell flat.
And a big reason for the sudden gloom in MAGA world was Ron DeSantis.
While the threat of a tropical storm put a damper on Donald Trump’s watch party, across the state in Tampa, Ron DeSantis was making his acceptance speech after winning four more years as governor of Florida.
The Italian-American dresses like Trump, sounds like Trump, and even though he has an expensive education, he seems happiest when he is enraging liberal Americans with his stunts and his streetfighting rhetoric.
Not long ago he caused outrage by paying to fly migrants from Florida to the wealthy playground of Martha’s Vineyard in the Democratic stronghold of Massachusetts.
And on election night, he celebrated his win with an attack on ‘woke’ Americans that stole its style from Winston Churchill’s most famous wartime address.
“We fight the woke…Florida is where woke goes to die…”Ron DeSantis
His supporters gleefully chanted ‘two more years’… a clear signal that they would love him to cut short his term as Florida governor by running for president in 2024.
It was the breadth and scale of his victory – by 20 points – that caught the eye. According to exit polls, Ron DeSantis won with Hispanic voters, women, suburban voters and independent voters.
For a Republican party that has felt for some time like a club for angry, old, white men, this 44-year-old suddenly offers a glimpse of a new, winning coalition.
And for 78-year-old Donald Trump, who has strongly hinted that he will run to be president again, Ron DeSantis looks like a rival capable of beating him to the Republican nomination.
This episode was written by David Taylor and mixed by Rebecca Moore.