The story of the 2022 election isn’t complicated. Ballasted by a favorable issue set and the tailwinds that traditionally push the party out of power to victory in midterm years, Republicans with a claim to conventionality did quite well. Republicans with no such claim—indeed, those who flamboyantly rejected the orthodoxies of conventional American politics—didn’t.
It’s a quantifiable proposition. With the data from this year’s races almost fully in, New York Times analyst Nate Cohen found that so-called “MAGA Candidates” underperformed their “traditional” Republican colleagues by roughly five points. “Non-MAGA Republicans in 2022 ran six points better than Mr. Trump did in 2020,” Cohen wrote. “The MAGA Republicans barely fared better than him at all.” What he calls the “MAGA penalty” is consistent and observable at the district and statewide levels. Even the MAGA-friendly candidates who won their races dramatically underperformed candidates with more distance from Trump’s movement on the same ballot.