High inflation and bad consumer sentiment were supposed to result in Republican victory overall in Tuesday’s midterm elections, but Democrats ran way ahead of expectations and will hold the Senate and maybe even the House.

Part of the reason for Democrats’ success is that they did not cede economic issues to Republicans, and exit polls suggest they were able to convince Americans they understood voters’ economic pain in a way the GOP could not.

“The American people caught on that Republican economics is a disaster for working families, and will simply benefit the very richest people in society,” The Sunday Review interviewed Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. Sanders warned that the party wasn’t doing enough to challenge the GOP’s plans for the economy in the lead-up to the election.

“I’m glad that a number of Democrats, including the president, in the final weeks of the campaign, got to speak out on those issues, and expose the fact that Republicans want to give tax breaks to billionaires and then cut Social Security and Medicare,” Sanders said.

On net, it’s clear economic sentiment helped the GOP, but the advantage may not have been as dominant as preelection polls forecast. Voters worried about inflation more than any other single issue, but it wasn’t the top concern for the majority of people, with just 31% of voters rating it most important for their vote, followed by 27% of voters most motivated by abortion, according to exit polls. (Exit polls can be flawed tools, and results may shift once they are matched with final results.

The possibility that abortion rights have inspired more voters than inflation may be a factor. 76% of voters who were most concerned about abortion supported Democrats, while 71% of those worried about inflation supported Democrats.

Yet, Democrats actually aired more TV ads about Democrats. “pocketbook issues” According to the Winning Jobs Narrative Project’s analysis of months worth of campaign ads trends, Republicans performed better than Republicans, according to a group of progressive messaging organisations.

The analysis showed that Republicans ran more ads about taxes and the economy than Democrats, but much less on Social Security and prescription drugs, which is a topic Democrats have been highlighting increasingly towards the end of the election cycle.

“It’s not easy being on a fixed income,” Rep. Ann Kuster, D-N.H., stated in one her ads. “So it’s disturbing that Bob Burns pledged to join the most extreme members of Congress who want to cut the Social Security and Medicare we’ve earned.”

Democrats also did a better job identifying themselves as regular working people, according to the Winning Jobs Narrative Project’s analysis.

“I know how important work is. I was raised by a hardworking single mom,” Rep. Steven Horsford, D-Nev., stated this in an ad. “And I’ll never forget where I came from.”

Empathy was a key factor in the victory of Democrats. According to exit polls, Democrats won on empathy in all Senate races. Out of the 17% Nevada voters who felt it was most important that a candidate is elected, only 17% said so. “cares about people like me,” Nearly two-thirds of respondents said they voted Democratic Senator Catherine Cortez Masto. Only 32% preferred Adam Laxalt, her Republican challenger.

“That metric of whether someone believes that the candidate cares about people like them — which is however that person chooses to define that — is I think the better indicator for how people are going to vote and whether people are going to vote,” Melissa Morales is the president of Somos Votantes and the lead researcher for WJNP.

For many Senate Democrats, inflation was even more difficult. Three of the party’s incumbents represent metro areas in the top 10 nationally for inflation: Sen. Mark Kelly (Ariz.) represents Phoenix, which had the country’s highest rate; Sen. Patty Murray (Wash.) represents Seattle, with the nation’s 4th highest rate; and Sen. Raphael Warnock (Ga.) represents Atlanta, which ranks 7th.

Democratic governors also had a stronger-than-expected election, with only a single Democratic incumbent losing: Steve Sisolak of Nevada. The coronavirus pandemic hit Nevada’s tourism-centric economy particularly hard.

The Democratic Governors Association encouraged the party’s incumbents and candidates to air ads last spring highlighting the work they had done on economic issues to fend off the near-certain attacks from the GOP in the fall.

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer (D), in particular, aired ads Her work in funding semiconductor production in the state is highlighted: “Bringing the supply chain home, creating Michigan jobs. The future is happening right here.” Maine Gov. Janet Mills (D), ran advertisements highlighting her balanced budgets and ability to send $850 checks most residents. “Fighting inflation instead of fighting each other,” Spot narration by a narrator. “One more way Gov. Mills puts Maine first.”

Another mitigating factor for Republicans’ advantage on inflation is that inflation is not the only thing happening in the economy.

The majority of people think that the economy is in dire straits. Three quarters (75%) of voters rated economic conditions as “very bad.” “not so good” Oder “poor.” Two-thirds of voters who said the economy wasn’t so good still voted for Democrats.

If there’s other stuff to worry about, though, it’s not hard to see why inflation would fail to determine an election outcome. People talk about “the economy,” they are often talking about specific things such as prices or jobs — but not necessarily their own economic situation.

This year saw the highest inflation for decades. However, it also witnessed the lowest unemployment in many years. fastest wage growth A tight labor market and unemployment levels near their historical lows in the 1950s has resulted in a minimum of 20 years. Wages haven’t risen faster than prices for consumer goods and services, but the worker bargaining power brought by such low unemployment has nonfinancial benefits, such as more opportunities to switch to a preferred job or a better schedule.

A slim majority of voters told exit pollsters they’re either doing better than last year or about the same. But normal people don’t necessarily attribute their own success to unseen forces of supply and demand. It would be bizarre.

“People are likely to see their increased opportunities in the labor market as a result of their individual achievement, as opposed to the macro state of the labor market,” Dean Baker is an economist at the liberal Center for Economic and Policy Research.

And for the past year and a half, the strong labor market has frequently been described in news stories and by politicians as a bad thing, Baker noted, with employers complaining they can’t find workers.

Republicans have been warning about inflation for years even though there was no imminent threat. This is because they are nostalgic for Ronald Reagan’s rise in the 1970s when high inflation made Democrat Jimmy Carter a one term president. But Republicans might be forgetting that inflation back then accompanied unemployment rates persistently twice as high as today’s.

Republicans also have a problem with their inability to offer a solution for inflation. They made stimulus checks a symbol of Democrats’ wasteful spending, but there are no plans to send another round of checks. The payments were immensely popular when they were sent out, and probably contributed to higher household savings than normal. Republican advertisements claimed that the checks were for criminals.

“Most people say, ‘Wait a second, I’m not a criminal. I lost my job, I’m trying to feed my family. Thank you for getting me $1,400 for each man, woman and child in my family,’” Sanders said.