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The Democrats' Midterm Emergency
Voters are running out of a patience, and even terrible Republican candidates are capitalizing.
A couple months ago, things were looking pretty disappointing for Republicans going into the midterms. What initially appeared to be a red tsunami — similar to what we saw with the Tea Party movement in 2010 — was beginning to feel more like an average off-year pickup.
While a House majority was still a lock, there was real concern in Republican circles that with gas prices dropping, the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, President Biden’s approval-rating ticking up, Donald Trump being back in the headlines (with new January 6 findings and his taking of classified documents), and the glaring ineptness of Trump-backed nominees in key races, the GOP would once again lose the Senate.
But in recent weeks, the tides have shifted again.
Inflation has remained sky-high, despite President Biden and the Democrats passing the extraordinarily expensive “Inflation Reduction Act,” which hasn’t done a thing to address — well, inflation. Never mind that seemingly no one in the Democratic party can explain just how it was ever supposed to.
Gas prices are slated to rise again with the Saudis cutting oil production, and Biden’s resistance to domestic drilling is doing him no political favors.
Pro-choice momentum on the abortion issue seems to have faded. Part of it is because voters are coming to understand that, contrary to a lot of the overblown rhetoric, abortion was not banned as a result of Roe’s repeal, and that the laws in many states haven’t or won’t change much from when it was still in place. I think the bigger factors, however, are that abortion hasn’t been a top-ranking political issue in this country for a long time (certainly nowhere close to the economy), and Democratic candidates are so beholden to pro-abortion activists that whenever they talk about the topic, they often sound more extreme to the average Joe than their Republican opponents.
Add in the ongoing problems at the border, the rising crime rate since the pandemic, and President Biden’s approval numbers dropping again… and that big red wave looks to be taking shape once more. It might even rise so high that not even Trump and his bad candidates can screw things up.
Take a look at this recent poll out of Ohio that would seem to illustrate that point:
Ohio has trended very red in recent years, and with national inflation so high and Biden’s approval so low, it’s no wonder that state-wide Republicans are leading their Democratic opponents by high double-digits. The one exception among them is J.D. Vance.
Vance has gone to great lengths throughout this election cycle to, well… make an ass out of himself for Trump’s affection and endorsement. From 2020-election denial, to proposing “seizing” corporate assets, to famously blowing off Russia’s mass-murder of Ukrainians, he’s been so rhetorically embarrassing that even Trump himself has publicly called him out for his sycophancy.
But… despite under-performing his fellow Republicans in the state by double-digits, and his lead against Democrat Tim Ryan falling within the margin error, he does have a lead. And that lead is pretty consistent with the Real Clear Politics average. So, he’s got a pretty good shot of winning, which — early on — wasn’t so clear.
We’re seeing something similar in Georgia, where even Hershel Walker — who, like Vance, has been falling well short of other Republicans in his state — has pulled even with Warnock. And that’s despite Walker having enough domestic and psychological baggage to fill five airport carousels!
Democrat John Fetterman is still leading Dr. Oz in Pennsylvania, but Oz too is closing the gap. It might be concerns over Fetterman’s fitness for office (as he recovers from a stroke) that ultimately decides that race.
No matter how you look at it, the Republicans are in much better shape today than they were last month, and with the general election just a couple weeks away, it’s now their wave to break.
That might be a strange way of putting it, being that it’s not so much the Republicans who are making an effective political case for themselves. They’re mostly just reaping the benefits of being the party out of power in Washington during a period of prolonged high inflation. Electorally, in the short term, that distinction may not matter. But for the country it’s a huge problem.
We live in a politcal era defined by failed leadership, performative outrage, constant grievance-stoking, and an absence of real solutions to serious problems on both sides.
All that’s left is the pendulum swing.
U.S. Senator Ben Sasse (R-Neb) described the problem well last year:
“The only thing that happens in American elections right now is that someone loses. No one wins. It isn’t hard to understand this unless you’re a politically-addicted weirdo who watches cable news all day, or lives on blue-checkmark political Twitter, or is an officeholder yourself who got warped into thinking that you should stay forever in politics… Most of the American people know that politics right now is not aspirationally persuading anyone. What happens in every single election is: somebody overreaches, and then you have a backlash.”
A backlash indeed. And this time, it appears to be the Democrats’ turn to feel the pain.
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