A look at the U.S. midterms two months out
Words by Sebastian Andrew
An unpopular Democrat is in the White House. The electorate has suffered through nearly two years of cost-of-living pressures. Unified Democratic control of government is tenuous, with weak majorities in both chambers creating legislative chaos. With all this, and keeping in mind that it’s tradition for a president’s party to face backlash in midterm elections, it should be a foregone conclusion that Republicans sweep into power in November.
But it isn’t. In fact, I believe it is far more likely that Democrats retain control of the house, than Republicans experience the same 40+ seat gain that brought the Democrats into power in 2018. And further, that Democrats are more likely to hold the senate, than Republicans are to gain more than 52 seats. And no, this is not a Democratic ‘cope’ as conservative shitposters on Twitter like to say, when anyone predicts anything less than Republican supermajorities in both chambers.
So why are Republicans bucking the midterm tradition and heading to defeat, or at best a pathetic victory?
The number one reason Democrats have a fighting chance is Dobbs.
For those unaware, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization was a case decided in early June that overturned the landmark cases Roe v. Wade (and lesser-known Planned Parenthood v. Casey) which guaranteed a constitutional right to abortion and prohibited states from imposing certain burdens. Voter backlash to this decision has been immense. Coinciding with the Dobbs decision was a rise in Democratic enthusiasm in opinion polls, surpassing Republican enthusiasm, and favourable gains in individual races and the national popular vote. There have been tangible effects too — an anti-abortion initiative decisively beaten in the traditionally Republican state of Kansas, and Democratic overperformances in five by-elections.
This has motivated not only Democrats to vote, but independents/swing voters, and even Republicans, to think twice about voting Republican. For decades, Republicans have courted the vote of socially liberal, wealthy suburbanites who disagree with their horrific abortion rhetoric but vote for lower taxes. Content that while Republicans talk a big and horrifying game, they could never actually implement any of it. Well now they can, and these voters, horrified at the prospect, are fleeing. Republicans are (rightfully so) crumbling under the pressure. Some are doubling down, some are running from their past views. But regardless of what they do, nothing is working. Voters have listened to them for years go on about their repulsive plans and are starting to take them seriously — and decisively rejecting them.
Another thorn in the side of Republicans is that they have selected (and I say this objectively) absolutely terrible candidates. The most unelectable slate in recent history.
Their candidates for swing seats in the Senate include a far-right nationalist with the charisma of a serial killer, a former athlete who breathes gaffes, a pseudo-science pushing billionaire who’s drastically out of touch, and an alt-right author who has no campaign beyond spewing incel talking points. Taking the Senate should have been an easy task. Even in a somewhat neutral environment, Democrats have plenty of vulnerable territory on offer. The right Republican should have no trouble nabbing the seats of Georgia and Arizona. Ohio should be an afterthought.
Their candidates for the House aren’t much better; fringe, election-denying lunatics or previously failed candidates, but the Senate is appallingly bad. So much so, that it seems probable that Democrats will sweep three out of four of these seats (and have a decent shot in Republican leaning Ohio). Democrats have had better luck, selecting (objectively) decent to superb candidates in most swing states and seats. Republicans had been hoping that a national environment leaning strongly in their favour would pull their awful candidates over the line. Now that it’s shaping up to a more neutral/Democratic tilting environment, their awful slate is being judged on their own merits (lack off) and it’s looking bleak.
Abortion backlash and candidate quality are the two most decisive factors in this midterm. There are others at play — Democrats increasingly making inroads to voters who are highly engaged and more likely to vote than ever before, and Biden’s popularity increasing due to decreases in gas prices and recent legislative victories. Of course, it’s still two months out from the midterms. A lot can change in this time. But while this serves as a warning for Democrats, it’s also one for Republicans. Things can still get a lot worse for them. At this stage, I’d posit a decisive break in favour of Democrats, rather than Republicans.
Stay tuned for a final prediction closer to the election.