Saddled with a historically unpopular president and American anger over crime and inflation, Democrats still managed somehow to win the marquee races of the 2023 election season on the strength of abortion messaging, early turnout and ad spending blitzes.
The Republicans’ latest disappointing election performance –- from Glenn Youngkin’s failed bid to capture control of the Virginia legislature to Daniel Cameron’s loss of the gubernatorial mansion in deep-red Kentucky -- left many on social media Tuesday night calling for GOP Party Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel to be ousted for a losing streak that stretches back to 2018 and has exposed the Republican National Committee’s weaknesses on messaging and get-out-the-vote operations.
“What, exactly, does Ronna McDaniel do, besides lose?” longtime conservative TV host, columnist and former Trump administration official Monica Crowley asked on X, the social platform previously known as Twitter. “The only thing she SHOULD do is RESIGN. Effective immediately.”
Lawyer Rogan O’Handley, one of the more influential young conservatives on social media who uses the handle “DC Draino,” offered a similar sentiment. “Tonight is yet another reason Ronna Romney McDaniel should resign in disgrace She does nothing except help the GOP lose,” he wrote on his social media.
Even some candidates who might need McDaniel’s support to win in 2024 were on the war path.
“FIRE RINO RONNA MCDANIEL NOW!” tweeted Army veteran and Florida congressional candidate Anthony Sabatini. He added for emphasis: “Ronna McDaniel will go down as the worst RNC Chair in history.”
Whether McDaniel survives her full term will depend in large part on whether Donald Trump, leading the 2024 GOP presidential race handily in the polls, turns on her.
Trump in January supported McDaniel over conservative lawyer Harmeet Dhillon for a third term as RNC chair even after a disappointing 2022 election in which the GOP underperformed and failed to capture the U.S. Senate and barely won the U.S. House despite polls showing Republicans with a huge before-election advantage.
Since taking charge in 2017, McDaniel has been a master fundraiser, but her team lost control of the U.S. House in 2018, the White House and Senate in 2020 and underperformed in the 2022 and 2023 races, with a few exceptions.
Last month, Republican Jeff Landry won the Louisiana governorship by winning a majority in the open primary to reclaim the state mansion after eight years of Democrat rule. A Republican won a key race Tuesday in Long Island for the first time in two decades while Gov. Tate Reeves in Mississippi survived a tougher than expected challenge from a distant cousin of Elvis Presley.
But the marquee races that could have given Republicans momentum heading into the 2024 presidential election nearly all tipped Democrats’ way on Tuesday.
The most common denominator: voters preferred Democrat support for abortion rights, whether at 55% on a constitutional amendment in deep-red Ohio or from the key candidates in the state Senate races that kept Youngkin, a rising GOP star, from capturing full control of the Virginia Legislature.
Early Wednesday, Republicans were also in danger of losing control of the Virginia House of Delegates too as Democrats led in most of the undecided races. The performance was a major setback for Youngkin, who raised millions of extra dollars for his party to launch an early-voting operation that cut into Democrats’ historical advantage but still fell short.
Abortion also played a role in Pennsylvania, where a Democrat judge won a seat on the coveted state Supreme Court ahead of the 2024 election. Social conservatives and moderates both lamented that the GOP has a messaging problem on abortion since Roe v. Wade was overturned.
“We can’t win until we solve the political problem of abortion,” conservative activist Terry Schilling wrote. “That means 15 week limits, with exceptions. And candidates have to run ads to counter Dem attacks. There’s no other way.”
“We can’t save lives, if we can’t win elections,” Rep. Nancy Mace, R-S.C., tweeted. “If pro-life Republicans want to actually save lives, they have to learn to LISTEN TO WOMEN and talk about abortion AND contraception. Roe repeal changed the playing field and the conversation, and too many are stuck in the policies and arguments of the past.
“We need to talk about common sense abortion restrictions, while also promoting expanded access to contraception including over the counter. We need to make sure exceptions for rape and incest are included in EVERY law we pass. And we need to constantly remind voters they don’t agree with the Left’s actual position of abortion until birth,” Mace added.
The GOP’s problems in turnout in races when Trump isn’t on the ballot were also apparent in heavily red Kentucky, where Attorney General Daniel Cameron, a young black conservative endorsed by Trump and Senate leader Mitch McDonnell, was handily defeated by incumbent Democrat Gov. Andy Beshear and his 60% approval rating with state voters.
Cameron was a victim of ticket-splitting, losing to Beshear even as the Republicans in other statewide races for attorney general and secretary of state won handily.
“A common thread tonight across KY, MS and VA: more confirmation that political engagement & turnout are down vs. the Trump era,” Cook Political Report analyst Dave Wasserman wrote.