(CNN)Politicians are, at root, opportunists. They are forever analyzing the political landscape in search of a favorable environment in which to run — or to run for higher office.
It’s that trait that makes what happened on Tuesday so incredibly important to Republican strategists trying to win back the House and Senate majorities next fall.
And what happened on Tuesday was this: In key states and races — from Virginia to New Jersey to Long Island — voters leaned toward Republicans, rejecting — or at least admonishing — Democrats up to and including President Joe Biden.
The results matter in practical terms; Glenn Youngkin is now the governor-elect of Virginia for example. But there’s also a less acknowledged but none-the-less critical impact of Tuesday’s result: It will convince would-be GOP candidates who may have been wavering on whether to run to get into races all over the country.
“If you’re a Democrat and President Biden won your seat by 16 points, you’re in a competitive race next year,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said Wednesday. “You are no longer safe. … It’ll be more than 70 Democrats that will be competitive.”
In the Senate, people like New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, both of whom are being courted by national Republicans to run, have to be encouraged by what they saw on Tuesday. Ditto candidates in states like Colorado, where the GOP field has been very slow in forming.
“I bet there’s more people that are going to want to get in because they can see there’s a path,” National Republican Senatorial Committee chair Rick Scott of Florida said on Wednesday.
And, it’s not just partisan who see good recruitment news for Republicans in the results from Tuesday night. Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia made a series of race ratings changes in the wake of the 2021 results.
“If [President Joe] Biden’s approval rating is in the low-to-mid 40s next year, as it is now, everything we know about political trends and history suggests that the Democrats’ tiny majorities in the House and Senate are at major risk of becoming minorities,” wrote Kyle Kondik and J. Miles Coleman.
They changed four races — all in Republicans’ favor: Arizona, Georgia and Nevada all went from “Lean Democratic” to “Toss Up” while Colorado moved from “Safe Democratic” to “Likely Democratic”
Now, it’s no guarantee that what happened on Tuesday will be determinative in making up the minds of candidates on the fence about running. In Arizona, for example, Ducey has come under considerable attack from former President Donald Trump for his refusal to overturn the 2020 election results in the state. Given that, it’s not clear that Ducey could win a competitive Republican primary — even if he would likely benefit from a general election landscape that clearly tilts toward Republicans at the moment.
For Republicans generally, however, what Tuesday demonstrated is momentum. They can now go to every candidate they want to run in the country and make a credible argument that the 2022 election is shaping up to be a very good one for their side.
Which is why what happens in November 2021 absolutely has an impact on what happens in November 2022. Good candidates win races. And good political environments help recruit good candidates.