In October 2022, PRA published a map tracking the Electoral Far Right in the 2022 U.S. midterm elections. Of the 276 candidates tracked by PRA, 155 appeared on the general election ballot. 107 of these candidates won their races. This Electoral Far Right is a dangerous vector for the entrance of Christian nationalism, anti-LGBTQ bigotry, far-right conspiracism, election denial, Patriot movement/anti-government ideology, and racial and ethnic nationalism into public discourse and the arena of governance. Many of these candidates openly collaborate with or otherwise endorse far-right organizations, movements, or leaders. In addition to updating the map with election results, this new analysis breaks down the implications of the Electoral Far Right’s victories and losses for the future of American democracy. For more on the Electoral Far Right, see PRA’s October 2022 analysis.
Dec 13, 2022: This map and accompanying text has been updated to include recount results from U.S. House, CO District 3.
Apr 10, 2023: This map and accompanying text has been updated to include results from Arizona Attorney General.
The results of the 2022 midterms signaled both the emergence of an anti-MAGA majority (of uncertain staying power), and the continued deep appeal of the Electoral Far Right’s bigoted and exclusionary rhetoric and policy for millions of voters. In spite of the anticipated “red wave” fading into more of a ripple, far-right candidates won in over 65 percent of races tracked by PRA where candidates were on the general election ballot. Additionally, even those who failed to win—several of them in high-profile races—dragged the political culture even further to the Right.
Of the 155 far-right candidates tracked by PRA who appeared on the ballot in the November 8, 2022 general election, 107 won their race (including 20 nonincumbents), and 48 lost their election. The Electoral Far Right in this general election was overwhelmingly White and disproportionately male, though around 10 percent of the candidates PRA tracked who were on the general election ballot were candidates of color. All told, this was a strong showing for the Electoral Far Right, which PRA defines as those candidates who are either at the rightward edge of the MAGA movement or, in one way or another, more explicitly bigoted, conspiracist, or authoritarian than even the MAGA core.
However, there is room for encouragement in the aftermath of these elections. There are hopeful indications that independent and swing voters rejected MAGA far-right candidates and policy. This trend suggests the beginnings of an anti-MAGA majority coalition, united in opposition to Trump and the style and substance of politics he has helped usher in.
According to exit polling, independent voters narrowly favored Democrats—a notable anomaly for the dominant party during a midterm election, which many credited to widespread pro-choice and pro-democracy sentiment. The failed candidacy of far-right Arizona governor candidate and rising GOP star Kari Lake offers a telling case study: Lake continued to embrace far-right positions like drastic abortion bans and hardline election denial throughout the general election, while exit polls on election day showed majorities of the electorate backing away from such positions.
Despite these losses, the Far Right carried several victories on election day. Of the 107 far-right candidates tracked by PRA who won their elections, all but 5 won by wide margins1 (including 31 candidates who faced no challenger)—often due to aggressive gerrymandering. Additionally, of the 48 candidates who lost their election, 10 candidates lost by tight or moderately-contested margins. Even many losing far-right candidates secured an extraordinary number of votes, showing the deep appeal of their bigoted and exclusionary rhetoric and policy among the MAGA base. Ammon Bundy, who led an armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in 2016, received 17.2 percent of the vote running as an independent in Idaho’s gubernatorial election. This compares to the 20.3 percent Democrat Stephen Heidt received and the 1.1 percent for the Libertarian Party candidate Paul Sand. Failed Pennsylvania governor candidate Doug Mastriano, a hardline Christian nationalist, secured over 2 million votes; while a hard defeat, it was a strong showing for a far-right candidate, especially given the swing away from Trump allies in Pennsylvania. And in the closely-watched battleground state of Arizona, losing far-right candidates Kari Lake, Blake Masters, and Mark Finchem secured over 1 million votes each. Lake in particular came less than a percentage point away from victory, illustrating the deep support for her far-right positions within the MAGA base.
The broader MAGA movement, too, carried plenty of victories in the 2022 midterms. Trump-aligned Secretary of State candidates won elections in Alabama, Indiana, South Dakota, and Wyoming, where they will now run election infrastructure in 2024. (The Alabama candidate did not make it on our list of far-right candidates). The “red wave” did materialize in Florida and New York, turning the former, once a swing state, solidly red. Staunch anti-trans incumbent governors, like Greg Abbott in Texas and Ron DeSantis in Florida, among others, won re-election, leading many to anticipate a new wave of state-level anti-trans legislation in 2023.
The MAGA base, as well, shows no sign of backing down. On Election Day, MAGA supporters engaged in harassment of voters at polling places in Florida, Texas, and Michigan. In the days since, MAGA mobs in Arizona, spurred on by far-right elected officials like Wendy Rogers and pundits like Steve Bannon, have held protests and conducted Christian nationalist “Jericho Marches” outside of ballot tabulation centers. Scholars have noted that the leaders and base of the Christian nationalist movement, which enthusiastically backed candidates like Mastriano, will remain a strong force on the U.S. Right, and may be further emboldened by their newly-reinforced identity as aggrieved underdogs.
With the much-anticipated red wave failing to materialize nationally, the Right is eager to cast blame. Capturing the prevailing despair, Senator Josh Hawley, another far-right avatar, lamented in a tweet that “The old party is dead. Time to bury it. Build something new.” While many castigate weak GOP candidates or supposed Democratic “ballot harvesting” and fundraising advantages, there are signs that a deeper ideological “civil war” is brewing on the Right.
Far-right voices are attacking the conservative establishment and leaders like Mitch McConnell for failing to sufficiently back America First candidates. At stake, for the Far Right, is whether the GOP moving forward will double down on a militant anti-LGBTQ, hypernationalist culture war agenda, or attempt instead to pursue what the Far Right calls a more “moderate” (but still deeply exclusionary) course. Establishment figures, in turn, are pointing blame at the Far Right for leading the party off a cliff. One popular target here is “national conservatism” or “NatCon,”a growing movement of Christian nationalist politicians, operatives, journalists, and academics that seeks to pull the Right in an even more illiberal, paleoconservative direction, and that publications like the Federalist are calling a “dead end” in the wake of midterm losses.
Many establishment voices are also pointing the finger at Trump for dragging the party down. In response to Trump’s 2024 presidential run announcement on November 15, for example, the editors of National Review published a rebuttal with a one-word headline—“No.”—while another article claimed that “Trump’s moment was six years ago. The nation’s voters have moved on.” Some far-right MAGA voices are joining in as well, such as anti-immigrant pundit Ann Coulter, who called Trump a “leech” and “parasitic worm” in a November 16 blog post.
Indeed, many prominent far-right candidates endorsed by Trump, like Ohio House candidate and QAnon supporter J.R. Majewski and national-populist Washington House candidate Joe Kent, lost their elections. One Washington Post analysis showed that in competitive House races, most Trump-endorsed candidates performed well below expectations even when they ultimately emerged victorious, suggesting that Trump’s endorsement helped turn “what would have been a modest-but-solid Republican majority into (at best) a razor-thin one.” A New York Times analysis similarly found that Trump-endorsed ‘MAGA Republicans’ underperformed other G.O.P. candidates by about five percentage points. Some on the Right hope that far-right Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a rumored 2024 presidential contender, can inherit the mantle of Trumpism without the baggage of Trump, pointing to the red wave in Florida as evidence.
Many far-right leaders, however, are reluctant to dismiss Trump. Newly-minted Ohio Senator J.D. Vance, a Peter Thiel-backed standard-bearer of the Far Right, insisted in an op-ed titled “Don’t Blame Trump” that “blaming Trump isn’t just wrong on the facts, it is counterproductive.” Leading Gen-Z far-rightists like the New York Young Republican Club, e-celeb John Doyle, and new organizations like Bull Moose Project have eagerly thrown their weight behind Trump’s 2024 presidential campaign.
While the Right licks its wounds, some pundits have doubled down on militancy, with one American Greatness op-ed urging “young men” of the Right to “lift weights, buy guns, and find comrades” and embrace tactics like the “mass rally, general strike, and paralyzing protest” in order to “cultivate extra-legal sources of power.” Prominent commentator Michael Knowles doubled down on the GOP’s anti-democratic project, lamenting on election night that Masters and Mehmet Oz, failed Senate candidate in Pennsylvania (who was not included on our list of far-right candidates), “are going to have a difficult time winning” because “they’ve both done a great job persuading the voters. But in PA and AZ, it’s more important to persuade the people who count the votes.”
The results of the 2022 midterms suggest that the agenda of the MAGA Far Right remains deeply popular for millions of Americans, but it can be defeated by a majority coalition that rejects its bleak vision for the country. While it remains unclear how these trends will play out, the Far Right remains a sizable force in the electoral realm and beyond; it remains a threat to the safety and thriving of marginalized communities, and the possibility of just and inclusive democracy in the U.S. While the worst outcome of the 2022 midterms was avoided, the fight ahead remains.
- To calculate win/loss margin for first (winning) and second place (losing) candidates, PRA used Ballotpedia’s Margin of Victory method (https://ballotpedia.org/Margin-of-victory_(MOV)). For candidates who lost but did not come in second, we subtracted their percentage total votes from the percentage total votes of the winning candidate. If multiple seats were available in a given race and the election was contested, we used the candidates’ highest losing/lowest winning percentage to calculate win/loss margin. We categorized margins (deviating from Ballotpedia’s categorization) as follows: 4 percent or less, Tightly Contested; 4-6 percent, Moderate Margin; 6 percent or higher, Wide Margin.