In my latest at The Liberal Patriot, I look at Democratic prospects for the 2022 election, what, if anything, they can do to improve those prospects and what they need to learn from the likely election outcome.
“How bad will the 2022 election be for the Democrats? In all likelihood, quite bad. Biden’s approval rating is bad, his rating is worse on the most important issue, the economy, and it is truly terrible on high profile, contentious issues like crime and immigration. Democrats are behind on the generic Congressional ballot, despite the tendency of this measure to overestimate
Democratic strength. The results of special and off-cycle elections indicate a very pro-GOP electoral environment. And midterm elections are typically bad for the incumbent party anyway.
So there are not a lot of good signs here. In fact, hardly any. The prospect of a very serious wipeout does seem plausible. A case along these lines for the Senate was made by Simon Bazelon on Matt Yglesias’ substack newsletter. His approach was very simple. Estimate what the Democratic disadvantage on the Congressional ballot is likely to be at the election (-4.5) and compare that to Biden’s advantage in 2020 (+4.5). That suggests a 9 point pro-GOP shift in the national electoral environment which, applied across states would imply no Senate pickups for the Democrats from the Republicans and the loss of their on-cycle Arizona, Georgia, Nevada and New Hampshire Senate seats (and control of the Senate) to the GOP. The outlook for 2024 is even worse, implying that even good Democratic performance in the Presidential contest could still leave the Democrats with only about 42 Senate seats.
As for the House, variants of the same approach by Amy Walter and Henry Olsen suggest Democratic losses could reach 25-40 or so seats. That of course is much, much more than the Republicans need to flip control of the House.
What passes for optimism here can be gleaned from Alan Abramowitz’ 2022 election forecasting model, presented on Sabato’s Crystal Ball. Abramowitz uses a very simple model, predicting House and Senate seat swings from generic Congressional polling and seat exposure in each body for the incumbent party. Walking in Bazelon’s estimate for the future Congressional ballot margin, Abramowitz’ model predicts a loss of around 23 House seats and little, and perhaps no change, in the Senate.
What can the Democrats do to avoid their apparent upper bound of losses and wind up closer to Abramowitz’ prediction? One approach it to emphasize the “roaring” economy with strong growth and historically low joblessness. The problem here is that inflation has eaten up workers’ wage gains from the hot economy so that real wages have actually gone down in the last year by 2.7 percent. And people just generally hate inflation and encounter it constantly in their daily lives. That and continued supply chain difficulties account for voters’ sour outlook on the economy. It is unlikely that Democrats can talk people out of these views by emphasizing something they already know (the job market is good!)”