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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

A Sunnier View of Democratic Midterm Prospects

Big media and the blogosphere are full of stories about how the midterm races are “tightening” in the GOP’s favor. Some are even saying the Republicans have new momentum in the closing weeks of the campaigns. For an alternative perspective, however, check out “The Republicans’ disappointing midterm elections” by Peter Morici at Marketwatch. Among Morici’s observations:

“Voter dissatisfaction with President Joe Biden on inflationborder security and the general direction of the countrycrime in major cities and the culpability of the progressive prosecutors movement; and data suggesting school children were set back in math and reading thanks to prolonged pandemic shutdowns gave Republicans lots of grist to mill.

However, Biden’s recent winning streak in Congress — the CHIPS Act and the  Inflation Reduction Act — raised his approval ratings and rallied the troops. And the Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade has energized Democratic voters.

Larry Sabato’s crystal ball at the University of Virginia shows 214 House seats as safe, likely or leaning Republican and only 195 in the Democratic column. Of the remaining 26 seats, Republicans should still be able win at least four to grasp control. But they should be doing better.

The Senate has gone from the Republicans likely winning control to at best a toss-up. Sabato has 49 in each party’s column and Georgia and Nevada as toss-ups — compared with FiveThirtyEight’s assessment, that’s generous.

Even the betting markets “now see Republicans winning Senate in midterm elections, as GOP slightly favored for first time in 2 months.” If this strikes you as a lot of awfully confident crystal ball gazing, welcome to the club. But come on, does anybody really know what is going to happen?

Sure they could be right. After all, political patterns are based on stuff that actually happened. And smart gamblers don’t bet the ranch against the preponderance of data. But the best data indicator for election predictions is poll averages during the yet-to-come last few days of the campaign.

Morici adds, “conservatives have badly misread the tenor of the times,” and notes,

The Kansas referendum that would have excluded abortion rights from the state constitution lost badly and hardly helped conservatives’ public image.

In the August special election for the House seat in New York’s 19th district, signs reading “Choice Is on the Ballot” were ubiquitous. And Democrat Pat Ryan won in what should have been a good prospect for a Republican pickup.

See: Biden promises bill codifying abortion rights if Democrats keep Congress, with elections now just 3 weeks away

The Senate seat in Arizona held by Mark Kelly should be a good target for a Republican gain, and Blake Masters, backed by Trump and with funding from venture capitalist Peter Thiel, has cut the incumbent’s lead from about nine points to about five. But those last five points could prove illusive.

Masters has scrubbed “I am 100% pro-life” from his website, and now claims to be someplace in the middle and ran an ad to that effect.

Further, Morici argues, “GOP candidates should be hammering the economy, inflation, gas prices, the border crisis and the like, not playing defense on a wedge issue. When you are doing that, you’re losing.”

Also, “Republican woes go well beyond abortion rights. The GOP “Commitment to America” platform was late in coming, is merely a grab bag of conservative ideas and complaints, and does not provide the party with a coherent identity other than that it’s against the Democrats. And that Biden is happy to assign them one.”

The platform reads like it was hatched in a spirit of “Let’s throw some shite against the wall to pretend like we have a legislative vision and see if it sticks.” It didn’t.

Morici is skeptical about  the longer term effects of Biden’s policies. But in the short term leading up to the midterm elections, those same policies may help the Democrats do better than expected.

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