As a fairly general rule, midterm elections go poorly for the President’s Party. 1994, 2006, 2010, 2014, and 2018 all went badly. There’s still a strong possibility that 2022 will too. There’s at least some “counter-wisdom” now saying it won’t though. I’m asking three basic questions that should tell us the score in the end.
- 1. Has the GOP simply disqualified themselves with a Majority of voters? Doug Mastriano, Herschel Walker, Kari Lake, J.D. Vance- these are just some of the names the GOP put up in major swing states for big statewide races. With the exception of Colorado, virtually every competitive swing state GOP primary electorate (and some non-swing) chose the most “ultra MAGA” Republican option, or his endorsed choice in the race. Even with inflation and crime being at or near the top of almost every internal poll I’ve seen this year, did the Republicans simply pick people time and again who are unacceptable to *most* of the electorate? Did they let Democrats off the hook against a real headwind by picking people who quite frankly just sound angry?
- 2. Is Dobbs as big to 2022 as Impeachment was to 1998 or 9/11 was to 2002? Midterms are bad for the President’s party unless there is an event that simply shakes the ground we walk on. In 1998, Republican overreach lead to the Democrats picking up House seats in Bill Clinton’s second midterm. It turns out the public didn’t want him impeached for an affair, or whatever other reasoning the GOP gave. In 2002, the 9/11 attacks and subsequent drumbeat to war in Iraq broke down history for Democrats and gave Bush’s GOP big wins. So the question for 2022 is, does the Dobbs ruling overturning Roe v. Wade meet that threshold? Does Dobbs plus some combination of January 6th and lingering Trump investigations meet it? Internal polling I’ve read is not as conclusive as one might think. Simply being pro-choice does not move an electorate your way. The opponent being a certified extremist has to be a part of it. Can Democrats broad brush the whole GOP with this? They had some success this Summer. It’s not clear yet if it will work on a mass scale.
- 3. Is the Democratic brand toxic? Joe Biden won the 2020 Election. His party lost seats in the House though. Going back as far as 2014 there have been questions as to whether the Democratic brand is simply too weak when not running an individually compelling candidate. Sure, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, and Joe Biden can win, but the party as a whole has largely been a minority party at every level of governance since 1994. The 2020 election saw deterioration of Democratic numbers with Latinos, Asians, and Black men. Republicans have been chipping away at Jewish voters as well. Democrats built their house on a mountain of demographic hopes, and there are signs that destiny will be a dark one for them. If 2022 continues those 2020 trends, the GOP is going to make nice gains. Another midterm beating for a Democratic President may suggest that actually governing the first two years of each Presidency ends up making us quite unpopular.
Once we know the answers to these questions, we should know who will wake up happy on November 9th.