How Did Industrial Policy Do in the 2022 Midterm Elections?

By Matthew McMullan
Nov 10 2022 |
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It did pretty alright!

The dust is still settling on the 2022 midterm elections. What have we learned so far? Maryland voters made Wes Moore only the third black governor in the nation’s history; Colorado voters decriminalized psychadelics; and the use of forced prison labor was banned by voters in four states but upheld in Louisiana. Washington, D.C. voters elected to get rid of the tipped minimum wage again. And I got a sticker at my local polling place.  

We also know that voters across the country and the political divide tended to reward candidates who leaned in on manufacturing and industrial policy.

For example, Rep. Frank Mrvan (D-Ind.) got the kitchen sink thrown at him during what the Region’s paper of record said was “likely was the most expensive campaign in the history of Indiana’s 1st Congressional District.” But he ran hard on the economic development brought on by last year’s massive infrastructure bill and this summer’s clean energy bill, the Inflation Reduction Act. And Mrvan won by six points.

Or consider Rep. Marcy Kaptur, whose opponents tried to redistrict out office. But Kaptur (D-Ohio) ran on a long record of support for local manufacturing jobs – and even cut a campaign ad criticizing the Biden administration for decision she was at odds with on a solar panel trade case – and beat her opponent by 13 points. Kaptur will become the longest serving woman in congressional history when she’s worn in this January.

Democrat John Fetterman won a tight race to represent Pennsylvania in the Senate by talking often about the importance of manufacturing jobs to the commonwealth. Here he was in July writing that localized manufacturing will help fight inflation. And Republican JD Vance won a Senate race in Ohio by talking up those same kinds of jobs and critiquing past trade deals – positions quite similar, in fact, to those held by Tim Ryan, the guy that he beat, which underscores how these issues resonate across the divide in the industrial Midwest. It’ll be interesting to see how well Vance sticks by them. He’s come a long way on these issues since his relatively recent venture capital days, but he’s replacing the retiring Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), a longtime ally of domestic manufacturing in the Senate. We consider these big shoes to fill.

But while there are plenty of other examples where winning candidates touted this stuff – like Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.), incoming Chris Deluzio in Pennsylvania and a long list of others – I’m not seeing a lot of examples where these positions dragged candidates down.

Did anyone get sunk because they voted for better infrastructure, or to reshore a crucial tech industry like semiconductors, or because they supported an energy bill that incentivizes domestic production of everything from electric vehicles to solar panels?

As of this writing we still don’t know how many seats the Republicans picked up in the House or which party will control the Senate. And the election analyses and party post-mortems will ultimately identify any number of other issues that were for voters more top-of-mind than industrial policy in November 2022.

But this is true too: This Congress and this president passed a substantial infrastructure bill, another bill to subsidize a crucial manufacturing industry, and an energy bill loaded with domestic production incentives, and plenty of candidates in tight races ran on those accomplishments. And they won.