Why Candidate Quality Matters and How it Impacts the 2022 Midterms

Edward Scott ’26

Guest Writer

An argument commonly made on both sides of the political aisle is that candidate quality no longer matters. To quote Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi talking about Alexandra Ocasio Cortez’s district, “A glass of water with a (D) on it could win in that district.” According to this perception, anyone can run and voters will instinctively side with a candidate if they have an (R) or (D) next to their name; however, this is simply false, as the current polling for the 2022 midterms proves.

In both Georgia and Arizona, races where a blowout was expected came down to the wire, despite an environment for strong governor candidates. In Georgia, Democrat Raphael Warnock is currently up in the Real Clear Politics polling average by about 3 points over Republican Herschel Walker. But the last two polls have this race well within the margin of error, with Warnock plus two and Warnock plus one.  In spite of Warnock’s lead in the senatorial election, in the election for governor incumbent Brian  Kemp, a Republican, is leading by 5.5 points on average over Democrat Stacey Abrams. Warnock’s lead is additionally of note due to the fact  that Georgia is a red state. 

In Arizona, straight-party voting is similarly not apparent. Republican Kari Lake, the candidate for governor, leads her opponent Katie Hobbs by about 3 points, because Lake is a good candidate who is terrific on television. Additionally, Democrat Mark Kelly and Republican Blake Masters are about tied with each other in, again, a year which should be a blowout victory for Republicans. Blake Masters is a weaker candidate, and even in a very good environment for Republicans in Arizona, he is having trouble in his race because candidate quality matters.

In Pennsylvania, you are seeing the opposite effect of states like Georgia and Arizona, where a better Senate candidate is creating a better environment for a weaker governor. Dr. Oz is not the perfect Senate candidate obviously, but he is doing much better than a Doug Mastreano-like figure. A new poll released on Saturday finds that Oz has taken a 4.5 point lead over Democrat John Fetterman. The poll of 1,013 likely voters, conducted by market research firm Wick between Oct.9-13, found that Oz leads by 4.5 points over Fetterman with just two weeks left before the 2022 midterms. The poll signifies that Oz may be breaking through a polling wall, as he has been behind Fetterman in polling for most of the cycle. According to the poll, Oz leads Fetterman 49.1%-44.6%. Another 3.4% are voting for someone else, and 2.9% are undecided. Among those undecided voters, Oz has a sizable lead, 59%-41%. The poll also showed that Republican Doug Mastriano is within the margin of error against Democrat Josh Shapiro in the Pennsylvania governor’s race. Shapiro leads Mastriano 48.5%-46.4%; that number is well within the poll’s 3.1% margin of error. Mastriano also holds a slight lead among undecided voters; 50.9% of undecided voters break for Mastriano, while 49.1% break for Shapiro. Oz is running a strong campaign, creating a better environment for a weaker governor to run; once again candidate quality is of importance.

In Nevada, which leans Democrat, in the Senate race Republican Adam Laxalt has a slight lead over Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto. In that particular race, out of the last six polls, Laxalt leads five of them. He has about a 1.7% advantage on Cortez Masto. Cortez Masto is trailing to the point that she is still running an introduction to herself in ads this late in the campaign; equally startling is the fact that Cortez Masto is the incumbent.You shouldn’t have to run “Hey, remember me” campaign ads if you are the incumbent, especially this late in the campaign, yet this is exactly what she has had to do because Laxalt has done a good job pinning her down. Laxalt has made Cortez Masto the issue in that particular race; again, another example of one of these rules here that candidate quality matters. Republicans are most likely going to pick up this Senate seat, for they have picked and run a good campaign for a solid candidate in this election.

Voters are paying very close attention to candidate quality. In the end, Republicans are going to take control of both houses of Congress in these midterms despite some poor candidate choices. They could have had a larger majority if they simply picked better candidates. To be fair, the Democrats would be in a much better position if they too chose better candidates in their elections. Both parties are inept at picking politicians to elect. Now, what that does for 2024 is anyone’s guess. In the 2024 primaries, on both sides, the general election is going to be even crazier and more interesting than 2020, which is really saying something.

Categories: Opinions

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