Joe Biden is taking a defensive move to avoid losing Tuesday’s midterm elections as Republicans look poised for a two-year political trench war with a sweeping victory in the U.S. Congress.
The president and former President Barack Obama have been crisscrossing the United States, trying to convince voters that a Democratic victory is not only critical to Biden’s legislative agenda, but also to preserving American democracy.
But the momentum appears to be for Republicans to capitalize on frustration with inflation and concerns about crime and illegal immigration. Election forecasters and opinion polls show former President Donald Trump’s party has a strong chance of winning a majority in the House of Representatives and a chance of taking control of the Senate.
“Republicans peaked at the right time,” Say Brendan Bucka former aide to Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan and John Boehner. “Democrats have been doing a good job of fighting political gravity for a long time, but it’s finally catching up with them. It feels like the Republicans have a majority in the House, and if I were a gambler, I’d guess the Republicans would get them One Senate seat required.“
Midterm elections are held every four years, but in 2022, they are far from routine, with a dramatic increase in early voting. Tuesday’s election was the first nationwide test of democracy since Trump’s followers launched a deadly uprising at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 last year.
At risk are all 435 seats in the House of Representatives, 35 in the 100-member Senate, 36 state governors, three U.S. territorial governors, and numerous city mayors and local offices. Some 129 ballot measures in 36 states include abortion laws in California, Kentucky, Michigan, Montana and Vermont.
Surprising Democratic victories in the House and Senate would give Biden the authority to pursue a sweeping legislative agenda on issues including abortion rights, police reform and voting rights with his remaining two years in the Oval Office.
But GOP control of either chamber is enough to undermine that ambition and raise questions about unlimited U.S. support for Ukraine’s war with Russia. Biden could face congressional investigations into everything from the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan to his son Hunter’s foreign business dealings.
Former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele said: “At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter: one chamber, two chambers, and if Republicans take control, the next 18 to 24 months in this country will be a new picture of political hell we’ve never seen.”
As a lengthy campaign enters its final stretch, both major parties are pouring millions of dollars into TV ads, making a splash on social media, knocking on thousands of doors and holding rallies with their big-name stars. Biden’s final blow meant a defensive stance in states already held by Democrats — California, Illinois and New Mexico — as well as battleground Pennsylvania.
Midterm elections usually serve as a referendum on the day’s president. Biden’s public approval rating has been below 50 percent for more than a year, reaching 40 percent in the most recent Reuters/Ipsos poll. The same survey showed that 69% of Americans think the country is on the wrong track, and only 18% say it’s on the right track.
History is also against Democrats. The ruling party typically loses seats in the House of Representatives midway through a president’s four-year term. In 2006, George W Bush said his Republicans had been “taken hard” in the midterm elections. In 2010, Obama called his party’s loss of 63 House seats a “bombshell.” In 2018, two years into Trump’s presidency, Republicans gave up 41 House seats. In all three cases, control of the House flipped.
Republicans need only five seats to secure a majority this year. As if anticipating a Republican takeover, 31 House Democrats announced they would retire or seek other positions, the most for the party since 1992.
The prospects for Republicans have been further strengthened by gerrymandering, in which one party manipulates congressional district boundaries to consolidate its power in the once-in-a-decade process of redistricting.
Meanwhile, Republicans need a seat to take control of the Senate, which is currently in a 50-50 tiebreaker vote by Vice President Kamala Harris. Candidates such as Pennsylvania’s TV doctor Mehmet Oz and Georgia’s former American football star Herschel Walker have proven stronger than expected. Campaigns for Democratic seats in Arizona and Nevada are also fiercely contested.
However, the polls have been wrong before, and there could still be surprises. Among the uncertainties this time around was the Supreme Court’s June ruling overturning the Constitution’s abortion protections in Roe v. Wade, which led to a surge in protest votes in the Kansas state referendum and sparked an increase in female voter registration across the country.
Democrats have spent nearly $320 million on TV ads focused on abortion rights, according to the New York Times, 10 times as much as they spent on inflation, which has pushed up the cost of food and gasoline. But polls show that the economy remains a bigger concern for voters, suggesting anger over the abortion decision won’t be enough to save Democrats.
Elaine Carmack, a former Bill Clinton White House official, told a news conference at the Brookings Institution think tank in Washington: “The race between inflation and abortion has been going on for weeks. At the end of the summer, we think abortion really is Will change the vote in this race.”
“Right now, conventional wisdom seems to have shifted from this to inflation and questioning the economy. However, the truth is, it’s a completely tight race. With state after state polls are within the margin of error, we Will have to look at turnout because turnout will decide this game. “
Kamarck added that female turnout is key, but if the GOP does prevail, autopsies will begin. “Democrats are going to have a lot of soul-searching about where they stand, how they got into this race. Are they overestimating the power of abortion? Are they underestimating the economic message?“
Some critics believe the answer is yes. Buck, a former Republican aide who is now a partner at the strategic communications firm Seven Letters, said: “It shouldn’t surprise anyone that this election is about the economy — inflation, gas prices — and they’re in a big Abandoning the playing field to a certain extent. Say it to the Republicans on this one.”
Barker noted that Biden has bounced between Democratic messages about abortion and Republican plans to cut Social Security and health care programs. “It’s just basic political communication 101, you need to stick to some messages and bang them over and over and over and over, they’re all over the place, so it’s not surprising that whatever message they’re trying to get across to voters isn’t a breakthrough.”
The left is frustrated that Democrats have not better communicated achievements like the Child Tax Credit, which has provided unprecedented relief to working families during the coronavirus pandemic.
Democrats also believe that the climate and health care package Congress passed in August will help reduce inflation by making prescription drugs more affordable. The White House has also moved to forgive some student loan debt, which could boost turnout among younger voters.
But 8.5% inflation and fears of a possible recession have been at the heart of the Republican debate in the final weeks of the election. They’ve also invested heavily in sometimes blatantly racist ads, fueling voter concerns about a rise in violent crime, linking Democrats to so-called “defund the police” efforts.
Critics say it is hypocritical for a party that is still trying to downplay a violent coup attempt at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Last week, in a prime-time speech at nearby Union Station, Biden warned that democracy itself is on the ballot, issuing dark warnings about voter intimidation and the threat of political violence.
Emphasizing that there are an estimated 300+ election deniers running at all levels in the U.S. who are unwilling to accept the results of the election they are participating in, Biden said: “This is America’s path to chaos. It’s unprecedented and it’s illegal,” he said. Also un-American. Like I said before, you can’t love your country only by winning.”
In fact, just like 2020, there are fears that a contested election, attacked by disinformation and conspiracy theories, could tear America apart. The recent hammering of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband Paul at his home in San Francisco may herald worse to come.
John Hudak, a senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution, said: “Given the tinderbox we have now, it is only a matter of time before high-level political assassination occurs in the United States, which is a very unfortunate situation. We are now living in a situation that is not used to political assassination. country, a luxury not available to citizens of other countries. But there is a real dynamic and undercurrent of change there. “
Hudak predicts that many of those who deny the election will take office. “What happens when they start coordinating with each other?” To me, the coordinated attack on American democracy by elected officials is more terrifying than when they took office.
“Their ability to communicate and coordinate through official platforms, whether it’s the Secretary of State Association, etc., or through quieter platforms, personal communication, poses a great risk to the way votes are counted and the way future elections are managed.. “
But there is little sign that Republican voters’ concerns about democracy are waning. The midterm race often feels like a divided screen, with Democrats and Republicans largely talking to each other.
“In every election in the past, there has been a common set of issues that everyone has agreed on, and one party has said, this is how we will Solve these problems and the other side says, no, this is how we will solve these problems. The difference today: two different parties, two different sets of problems, two different realities, two different sets of facts that support those realities … it’s like two planets revolving around the sun and in different orbits.”
Regardless of the outcome, speculation about the 2024 presidential race is likely to begin before the last vote in 2022. If Democrats suffer significant losses, Biden could face calls, especially from the left, to announce he is no longer running. He will turn 80 on November 20 and is already the oldest president in American history.
Trump, 76, looks set to announce his candidacy sooner or later, even if his nominated candidate is having a bad night. At a rally in support of Republican candidates in Iowa on Thursday night, he declared: “Get ready, that’s all I’m going to tell you — very soon. Get ready.”