Historically, midterm environments are difficult for the President’s party. Since 1980, only two midterms have seen the President’s party gain seats (1998 and 2002) and the gains were marginal. Contrast this with the results of other midterms like 1994 (-54 House seats), 2006 (-30), 2010 (-63) and 2014 (-14). So, regardless of the general environment, Democrats faced a steep 2022.
But a number of events this year and set in motion by last year have conspired to all but ensure they will at the very least lose their Senate majority. The first is the narrow majority the Democrats started out with at the beginning of the year in both the House and the Senate. Considering Republicans dominated legislative elections last year by the simple act of redistricting, the majority could disappear.
Another factor is admittedly relative, but no less valid, in Joe Biden’s failure to lead. Running on a platform of moderation and leadership, the President has been anything but. Instead, the President has embraced the progressive vs. moderate wing of the party on vaccine mandates, spending, abortion and taxes. Worse, the President’s attacks on the former President Trump over COVID have been undermined by the lack of leadership to defeat the virus.
Per economic reports, the significant increase in GDP and wages should be a boon to Democrats. But instead, due to a logistics and supply chain shortage, and the massive number of dollars flowing through the economy, have led to sky – high inflation. Food prices have increased significantly while clean energy mandates along with a federal moratorium on new drilling has led to multi dollar increases in gas prices. To put this in perspective, in October the Department of Labor reported wages rose 0.4 percent but inflation rose by a massive 0.9 percent.
To alleviate these issues in off – year elections, Democrats raised the specter of a Trump controlled Republican Party as being an unacceptable alternative. However, for many voters, a Democratic controlled government in the throes of a progressive majority is not looking any better.
How can we know this? Well, because we just had our spate of off – year elections (Virginia, NJ, local races across the country). In Virginia, a state Joe Biden carried by 10 points a little more than a year ago, Republican Glen Youngkin, defeated former Governor Terry McAuliffe by 2.5 points. Additionally, Republicans also took the open Lt. Governor’s slot (state’s first female black Lt Governor) and defeated a two term Democratic Attorney General with the state’s first Latino Attorney General. Down the ballot, Republicans retook the legislature. All across the board, relative to 2020, the GOP rebounded.
In New Jersey, a state Joe Biden took by 16 points, a little known GOP gubernatorial candidate who was outspent 10 – 1 lost by a mere 3 points. Personifying just how atrophied the Democratic Party’s relationship with working class whites has become, the party’s Senate Majority Leader lost to a GOP challenger who spent $153 on his campaign.
Elsewhere, in NYC, Republicans won NYC Council seats, scored an upset in Sussex and Nassau County Executive races and lead in County Attorney races. In row offices (county offices) in the PA suburbs which have swung hard from the GOP, the party won every open office. The party held an open PA Supreme Court seat as well.
But perhaps the biggest, and perhaps most monumental race was in Texas HD 118, where a special election was being held in the majority Hispanic district based in San Antonio. Republicans won the special election (which saw significant turnout for a run – off) with 3 percent in a district Biden carried by double digits. Combine this with the AP Votecast review of votes in Virginia which showed Glen Youngkin winning by 10 percent and you are beginning to see Hispanics become a key part of the GOP coalition and marinating power in diversifying Sun Belt states.
So, what can we take away from this? Well, first – off, if national factors don’t change (inflation, supply chain shortages, COVID #’s), 2022 will be a bloodbath for Democrats. The generic ballot at the start of 2021 has gone from +6D to pretty much even. 2020 showed us the generic ballot also leans to the left.
Secondly, though preliminary analysis from Virginia and New Jersey shows Democrats held their margins among college educated white voters, they lost ground in every geographic area relative to 2017 (last gubernatorial elections) and 2020.
How is this the case you might be asking? Well, in rural Virginia, Republicans won 15 counties with over 80 percent of the vote. In the suburbs, the GOP was buoyed by actually EXPANDING on Trump’s margins among blue – collar white voters. These voters live everywhere. Finally, if the Hispanic margins in Virginia are true, the GOP may have found a new ally in marginal races.
Democrats may luck out in individual races (ie. New Hampshire Senate) or be fortunate enough to face marginal GOP opposition but generally this is unlikely to be the case. Democrats seem to know they are in for a world of hurt. A number of swing seat Democrats in the House have announced they will not run for reelection. Worse, even though some Democrats might face fringe opposition, a national environment can carry many boats (history is replete with these examples).
So, personally, I am left to wonder how 2022 can get any worse for Democrats?