‘Headwinds are pretty strong’: Democrats’ midterm hopes crumble
During a brief window this summer, the prospects for Democrats in the midterm elections were brightening. A string of Republican candidates faltered in the polls, gas prices fell and the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade galvanized support for abortion rights.
But with just under a month to go until the crucial vote, there are growing signs that Democratic momentum has stalled, giving Republicans a slight edge as they seek to regain control of the House of Representatives and Senate.
The latest inflation figures, released on Thursday, showed that the consumer price index’s core inflation measure rose 6.6% on an annual basis last month, its fastest pace fast in four decades – allowing Republicans to continue to hammer Democrats over their handling of the economy as Election Day approaches on Nov. 8.
At the same time, opinion polls showed declining support for Democratic Senate candidates in several crucial battleground states.
“The two bedrooms [of Congress] are still in play. . but the headwinds are pretty strong,” said Matt Bennett, co-founder of the Democratic think tank Third Way.
An important test for Democrats is the race for the Pennsylvania Senate, where brash, hoodie-clad Lt. Governor John Fetterman had built up a double-digit lead in the polls over the summer with a campaign of meme-heavy social media, despite having a stroke. which has largely kept him out of the campaign trail.
However, RealClearPolitics’ average now shows the Democrat ahead of his opponent, former Republican TV personality Mehmet Oz, by just 3.7 points in the margin of error, following a relentless ad campaign by ‘Oz accusing the Democrat of being “soft on crime”.
Concerns about Fetterman’s health were reignited this week by an NBC interview in which he used closed captions to help him understand the reporter’s questions.
In Wisconsin, meanwhile, polls conducted earlier this summer showed Democratic challenger Mandela Barnes with a healthy lead over Republican incumbent Ron Johnson. However, the latest investigations in the Midwestern state show Johnson – who has also accused his opponent of being soft on crime – edging out Barnes as Election Day approaches.
A Marquette University Law School survey released this week found that 52% of likely voters in Wisconsin said they support Johnson, compared to 46% for Barnes. Just two months ago, the same poll gave Barnes a seven-point lead.
Charles Franklin, who leads the Marquette poll, said “almost all” of the change could be attributed to independents lining up behind the Republican – a trend that could be mirrored in other races across the country as a small segment of undecided voters make up their minds by election day.
Democrats and Republicans agree that Senate control will likely come down to a handful of swing states, including not just Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, but also Georgia – where incumbent Democrat Raphael Warnock remains neck and neck in the polls with scandals Republican challenger Herschel Walker – and Nevada, where Catherine Cortez-Masto, the Democratic senator, has consistently trailed Republican challenger Adam Laxalt.
Midterm elections have historically served as a referendum on the incumbent White House and have won victories for the ruling party. Joe Biden’s approval ratings have risen in recent months, but only 42.6% of Americans say they approve of the president’s job, according to an average of FiveThirtyEight polls.
Several polls show lower levels of support when voters were asked how they rated the president’s handling of the economy in particular. As inflation continues to bite, analysts warn it could hurt Democrats in the final stretch of the campaign.
“If gas prices go up and inflation is more noticeable, that’s positive for Republicans and negative for Democrats,” said Kyle Kondik of the nonpartisan Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. “Democrats want the election to focus on other things.”
Democratic House and Senate candidates have anchored their campaigns on abortion, criticizing Republican efforts to restrict access to the procedure and promising to enshrine abortion rights in law if they are able. to form a sufficiently large majority in Congress. But in recent days, Democrats from all ideological backgrounds have publicly questioned whether the issue will be enough to secure Election Day victories.
Bernie Sanders, the progressive senator, this week urged fellow Democrats to avoid making abortion rights their “final argument” to voters.
“In my view, while the issue of abortion needs to remain front and center, it would be a political mistake for Democrats to ignore the state of the economy and let the lies and distortions unanswered Republicans,” Sanders wrote in an op-ed for The Guardian.
His comments were echoed by James Carville, the centrist Democratic strategist, who said: “A lot of these consultants think that if all we do is abort [advertising] spots that are going to win for us. I do not think so.
“It’s a good number,” Carville told The Associated Press. “But if you sit there and they hammer you on crime and the cost of living, you have to be more aggressive than just yelling abortion every two words.”
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