Are Democrats turning down their dire midterm prospects?

Maybe not the disaster Democrats feared?
Photo-illustration: Intelligencer; Photos: Getty Images

Suddenly, Democrats who are sad or nervous about their chances of surviving the 2022 midterm elections without a major onslaught are having other, happier, thoughts. There are many reasons for the sudden spring in the party’s move. The big psychological boost is the zombie reappearance of the Fiscal Year 2022 budget reconciliation bill (now optimistically dubbed as the Inflation Reduction Act), with base-voter-satisfying climate change provisions as well as swing-voter -Includes soothing Medicare prescription drug negotiation powers. My colleague Jonathan Chait echoed the views of many left-wing observers when he said the deal struck by Chuck Schumer and Joe Manchin could mean “the once moribund Biden presidency will suddenly be very much alive.”

Other encouraging indicators are less subjective. The general congressional ballot, a polling question simply asking voters which party they want to control Congress, and in the past the most predictable data point for actual midterm results, is now showing a slight Republican lead but disappearing. (The GOP lead is at 0.2 percent on Five-Thirty-Eight Average and 0.9 percent on RealClearPolitics). Even Joe Biden’s job approval rating has seen a slight upward spurt recently, which is slowly but completely sinking through 2022.

Meta-trends aside, there are developments in individual midterm contests that together suggest a better trajectory for Democrats than are likely to appear in recent times. US House magician David Wasserman has clearly seen the signs:

And in the race to the Senate, it has become clear for a good that the problematic Republican candidates are giving Democrats a shot at seats that should be out of their reach in a Republican wave election. There is regularly bad news for some of these candidates, especially those candidates who have won primaries to endorse Donald Trump. JD Vance is an incompetent fundraiser. Herschel Walker cannot tie two coherent sentences together. Mehmet Oz has disappeared. Blake Masters (who is favored to win Arizona’s Senate nomination on Aug. 2) is a creepy dude who oozes a fascist vibe and may be dumb enough to attack Social Security in a senior-heavy state. FiveThirtyEight now gives Democrats a 56 percent chance of hanging in control of the Senate. And although there has been less national attention to the gubernatorial race, Republicans also have some questionable candidates for those offices, notably Doug Mastriano of Pennsylvania and (if she wins on August 2, as she is now favored to do). ) Arizona’s Kari Lake.

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The big deal, however, is whether the current moment of sunshine for Democrats can last. Cook Political Report’s Amy Walter looks at some history and concludes that Joe Biden’s popularity needs to improve significantly to give her party’s candidates the expected lift:

Robert Blizzard, a partner at GOP polling firm POS, did some number crunching this week of the 2010, 2014 and 2018 midterms and concluded that “on average, running 5-6 points ahead of Biden is fair game, but more is needed.” Much less likely in comparison.”

However, there has been a feeling this year that the approval numbers for Biden’s job have been downplayed by frustrated Democratic voters (especially younger voters), who are not going to vote Republican in any likely scenario. The problem, however, is getting them to vote, especially given the historical “midterm decline” problem, in which Democratic-leaning portions of voters participate in non-presidential elections regardless of what else is going on. . And that’s why Democratic prospects for November may depend on a changed issue-profile that grounds the party — especially young voters and progressive women — with super-charged motivation to pull out, even if they don’t. Still less than excited about the 46th president. Two game-changers in that scenario are a strong backlash against the Republican drive to kill abortion rights in the wake of overturning the Supreme Court’s decision. Roe vs. WadeAnd the re-emergence of Donald Trump as his party’s symbol and a potential 2024 presidential candidate, which for some voters may do less than a referendum on Biden than the renewal of the option he made in 2020. can do.

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However, it is extremely difficult to calculate how all these factors intersect and weigh into each other, especially without knowing what many news cycles between now and November 8 will be in the consciousness of voters. (Or even later: it is possible that control of the Senate would again depend on a general election runoff in Georgia, although the Republican legislature extended the date of such an event from January to December.) Democrats hope that Both the reconciliation bill and the abortion/Trump factor would boost “Aadhaar” voting significantly. But what they need the most is better news on the economic front. The current drop in gasoline prices is helpful, but we don’t know whether it will last, or whether other prices will come down before a voting decision.

Democrats should be wary of any premature positive conclusions. The general congressional ballot over the past midterm has gone vehemently against the party controlling the White House late in the cycle. And those who have long memories will agree with this assessment:

The 2014 election was, more often than not, a case in point compared to the mid-term election. The final Cook Political Report analysis of the Senate race that year featured nine tossup contests. Republicans won eight of these. Maybe 2022 will be different. But Democrats would be wise to make their own fortunes.

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