As 2022 midterm election results poured in last week, University of Richmond students closely followed the races all over the country.
In response to historically low approval ratings for President Joe Biden and concerns about the US economy, many early election forecasts predicted Republicans easily taking control of both chambers of the legislature. However, on Election Day, many key races tilted toward Democrats, with other key races still too close to call. By Sunday, Democrats had maintained their majority in the Senate, with Republicans flipping the house a few days later.
“Historically, the party that has the presidency at the midterms tends to lose some control in the House and Senate,” junior Calvin Flett said, a Republican. “The GOP did gain some seats in the House, but it’s still definitely disappointing.”
Senior Danny Anderson, who is the UR College Democrats treasurer, said he was glad to see Democrats exceed expectations, but still had some reservations.
“Democrats are definitely happy with the results,” Anderson said. “Although there is a looming sense that, if it was hard to get things done in the past two years, the next two years are gonna see even more gridlock, especially with the House seeming likely to flip.”
Anderson said he expects to see less legislation passing, but remains optimistic about accomplishing certain aspects of the Democratic agenda.
“Having control of the Senate would still make things possible, in terms of judicial confirmations,” Anderson said.
In Virginia, voters turned out in record numbers, with 49% of registered voters casting a ballot, according to the Virginia Public Access Project. Of the 11 House seats on the ballot in the state, Democrats won six while Republicans won five.
Junior Brady Lang, chairman of the UR College Republicans, was disappointed by the results, he said.
“In Virginia, we originally thought the Republicans might take more seats in the House, but it’s not looking terrific there,” Lang said.
On the other hand, Anderson said he was originally worried that more Democrats would lose seats from redistricting, but is satisfied that not many seats flipped in the house.
“Although, it was disappointing to see that Elaine Luria was not able to retain her seat,” Anderson said.
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Young people are being credited as making a key difference in this election cycle, with 27% of people between the ages of 18 and 29 casting ballots, according to the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning & Engagement. Gen-Z voters heavily favor Democrats, with 63% of them identifying with the party in 2022.
Anderson credits Biden’s Student Loan Forgiveness Program with drawing many college-aged voters to the Democratic party.
“One of the issues that got Democrats traction has been that they canceled billions of dollars of student debt, and for a lot of people right here on campus that’s a big deal,” Anderson said.
He also attributes outreach to younger voters by Democratic candidates with bringing many to the polls.
“Earlier this semester, College Democrats had a meeting with Herb Jones, and he talked about his campaign, as well as internship and volunteer opportunities,” Anderson said.
On the other side of the aisle, Flett said he feels that discussions surrounding abortion led younger voters to lean toward Democratic candidates.
“I think ideologies shift as people get older, but I think the reason it was so pronounced was because of the Dobbs v. Jackson decision, which overruled Roe v. Wade,” Flett said.
Flett also blames lackluster candidates for Republican losses.
“Even though Republicans outspent Democrats by a wide margin, there was not enough energy around the candidates,” Flett said. “They were poor candidates.”
Junior Jordan Jones, who identifies as a leftist, blames extremism and Trumpism among Republican candidates as a reason for the election outcomes.
Jones, who comes from Poquoson, a small, predominantly conservative city in southeast Virginia, also feels that pushing a pro-life agenda is not a winning strategy for Republicans.
“A lot of Virginians are in support of abortion,” Jones said. “So the agenda they are taking with abortion is really dividing people.”
Lang believes the primary way that the GOP can get in touch with younger voters is by talking about the economy and recession. He wants the GOP to emphasize the danger of a recession on the nation’s youth.
“We can get more in touch with Gen-Z by talking about the future and about jobs,” Lang said. “We have a vested interest in having the economy do well, so that’s something we need to talk more about.
Contact contributor Tyler Rosenstein at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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