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Conservative politicians, commentators bemoan lack of a GOP ‘red wave’ and blame Trump

Fox News even ran a story with a headline about how members of the media were blasting the former president over Republicans’ performance.

Former president Donald Trump greeted guests at Mar-a-lago on Election Day on Nov. 8, 2022, in Palm Beach, Fla.Andrew Harnik/Associated Press

An electoral bloodbath. A “red wave.” Even a tsunami.

The prospect of Republicans dominating the midterm elections was widely discussed for months. But the projected surge was more of a ripple as of Wednesday morning, and the finger-pointing began almost immediately.

Conservative politicians and commentators are dejectedly questioning why a Republican sweep failed to materialize and even placing blame on former president Donald Trump, who backed hundreds of candidates in races across the country.

“That is a searing indictment of the Republican Party,” Fox News pundit Marc Thiessen said after listing pivotal issues to voters such as inflation and crime. “That is a searing indictment of the message that we have been sending to the voters. They looked at all of that, and looked at the Republican alternative, and said ‘no thanks.’”

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With tight races unfolding across the country, control of Congress still remained in the balance. It appears likely that Republicans will flip the House and may take control of the Senate by a narrow margin, although many races still haven’t been called and it may take days before the full results are official.

But it was clear that Democrats — and by extension President Biden — performed far better than some had expected, prompting instant soul-searching on the right.

The “Republican Party needs to do a really deep introspection look in the mirror right now, because this is an absolute disaster for the Republican Party,” Thiessen said.

“We need to look at who won today. Ron DeSantis [in Florida]. DeWine [in Ohio]. These governors. Kemp [in Georgia], Abbott [in Texas],” continued Thiessen, who also writes a column for the Washington Post. “This is the path to the future. And electing these radical candidates who ran far behind them has put the Republican Party in a terrible position, and voters have left, have indicted the Republican Party.”

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Thiessen was hardly the only conservative commentator to sound off about the performance of Republicans in the midterms. In a move that quickly garnered attention, Fox ran a story focusing on the ire being directed at Trump over the absence of a resounding victory for Republicans. MSNBC host Chris Hayes retweeted the article early Wednesday, remarking “Well this is interesting.”

Many Fox News hosts and pundits appeared baffled as the results continued to roll in and openly stated their confusion over the mindset of voters.

“This should have been the red wave that even Democratic pundits on other networks were saying was absolutely going to happen,” said Joe Concha, a Fox News contributor. “So is the Republican brand now broken in some level ... where they’re still not trusted that they can govern as effectively either?”

And across the media spectrum, there was consensus that Trump was among the biggest losers of the night. He endorsed roughly 300 candidates ahead of the midterms, and those in battleground races delivered decidedly mixed results.

“What I can tell you is the biggest loser tonight is Donald Trump. His candidates, his handpicked candidates, lost in states Republicans thought they could win,” said Jonathan Karl, chief Washington correspondent for ABC News. He pointed to New Hampshire Republican Senate nominee Don Bolduc, who lost decisively to Democratic Senator Maggie Hassan.

Now Trump, who has hinted at announcing a third White House bid in Florida as early as next week, faces increasing questions from his base and beyond about whether Florida Governor Ron DeSantis may be better suited to lead the party. A public rift between the two, both considered leading presidential contenders should they enter the race, has been exposed in recent days.

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“Florida Governor Ron DeSantis sent a clear message to every Republican voter Tuesday night: My way is the path to a national majority, and former President Donald Trump’s way is the path to future disappointments and continued suffering,” Scott Jennings, a conservative commentator, wrote in a column for CNN.

Republicans in Congress also acknowledged that the midterms delivered underwhelming results for the party, with South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham telling NBC News the elections were “definitely not a Republican wave, that is for darn sure.”

Representative Mayra Flores, a Texas Republican who won her seat in a special election in June, lost her race Tuesday and also concluded that the “RED WAVE did not happen.”

“Republicans and Independents stayed home. DO NOT COMPLAIN ABOUT THE RESULTS IF YOU DID NOT DO YOUR PART!” tweeted Flores, who closely aligned herself with Trump.

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Shannon Larson can be reached at shannon.larson@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @shannonlarson98.