Over at CNN, Harry Enten took an an early look at the 2022 midterms and finds for all the doom and gloom of a party in the throes of white nationalism, the GOP seems to be well positioned.
Enten bases this very early analysis on the generic ballot. Keep in mind Democrats led in the final run – up to the 2020 election by about seven points and only won the national vote by around 3 percent (underperfoming Biden by a full point and a half).
Well, despite Biden still posting 50 percent plus approval rating, on the generic ballot, Democrats are underperforming the President. Perhaps worse, the party has not gained any support since the election at a time when the coverage of the Relief ACT and vaccination progress has been glowing. If the party is not gaining ground at a time when they have implemented the most popular parts of their agenda (remember, polls showed the Relief Act at over 80 percent support), what are the odds do at a time when they will attempt to levy massive new tax increases and push social/cultural related bills such as immigration reform?
For Democrats to even have a shot at holding the House, let alone the Senate, they need Biden to remain popular. But, even if Biden manages to maintain 50 percent plus approval ratings there is no guarantee due to their lagging numbers Democrats can maintain control of Congress. Keep in mind, control of the House and Senate will run through states and districts more Republican than the national as a whole adding another wrinkle.
There are caveats to this analysis. We have seen a dozen or so legislative special elections since the start of the year and no seats have flipped. Likewise any change in vote percentages from prior elections has been minimal so it seems the GOP base is not as fired up as past midterms or the Democratic base depressed. We also have seen few quality generic ballot surveys yet.
But, looking at the political landscape regardless of polls does show Democrats know next year will be rough. The party is rushing to pass its legislative agenda by elimination of the filibuster while Nancy Pelosi reportedly wrote to the White House to stop pilfering her House members (they took three members anyway).
Much still remains on the results of redistricting for the House, candidate recruitment and what happens in open Senate contests. But, again, those contests are being played out in more favorable GOP territory than not. Plus, the GOP could have, at least in the Senate, outside chances in New Hampshire and Nevada. Democrats best shots are already known (PA, NC, WI) with little chance additional states will pop online regardless of retirements.
As Democrats pursue the more divisive elements of their agenda they may well remember the past few months as the highwater mark of their control of the levers of power. Except, that highwater mark was arguably no higher than at the end of the last election despite pursuing the most popular elements of their agenda. Not a good omen heading into the stretch.