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The six-month marker of the Biden administration is a natural point to reflect, and to take stock of next year’s midterm elections.
The mainstream media has been quick to declare Democrats with the upper hand. “Democrats See Edge in Early Senate Map as Trump Casts Big Shadow” pronounced a recent New York Times headline, while CNN declared “A new election forecast gives Democrats hope for 2022.”
On the House side, the combination of history, redistricting, political gravity and a razor-thin Democrat majority put Republicans in the driver’s seat. Even Democrats are conceding this point privately.
In the Senate battle, the GOP is defending open seats in tough terrain and facing uncertain primaries in red territory. Unlike 2010 and the first Obama midterm, there is not a massive backlash to President Biden’s policies translating into widespread voter discontent. Unlike 2014 when Obama’s approval numbers were bottoming out, there are not Democrat incumbents rushing to the exits in the face of a strong GOP recruiting class.
Any Republican who believes next year’s environment is shaping up to resemble 2010 or 2014 – when they picked up six and nine seats, respectively – is kidding themselves, at least right now.
But therein lies the rub. Time is on the GOP side.
When the Democrats took back in the Senate in January, they got more than control of all three branches of government – they took ownership of all that happens between now and next November. That may prove to be more than they can chew.
Right now, its’s difficult to discern a tangible Democrat governing agenda. They split their time evenly between relitigating the events of Jan. 6 and finding ways to spend more taxpayer money on proposals with eye-popping price tags.
Meanwhile, voters are dealing with the fallout of a rising crime wave where the left has lost all credibility, thanks to last year’s open arms embrace of the “Defund the Police” mantra that has aged as well as milk left in an office refrigerator before the pandemic.
Shots ringing out during the Thursday dinner rush of the busy 14th Street Corridor of Washington D.C. – mere blocks from the White House – thrust the crime issue front and center once again.
All the while, the economic warnings signs are blinking red. A poll released by the American Action Network showed nearly 9 in 10 voters worried about the rising cost of living, a factor that goes beyond an esoteric or ideological debate. Anyone who has filled up their gas tank or bought groceries this summer is feeling the pinch firsthand.
While recruiting and fundraising cannot be overlooked, midterm elections are fundamentally a referendum on the party in charge.
The solution from the party in charge is far from reassuring. The progressive left is pushing for even more spending – some have thrown around the number $4.1 trillion as a “silver lining” should the infrastructure package stall.
And then there’s Joe Biden, who has offered little in the way of reassurance about economic jitters. At one point, when queried by a restaurant owner about persistent labor shortages during a town hall meeting in Ohio, Biden demanded a thank you for COVID-induced financial aid, lectured the man about not paying higher wages, and concluded by declaring we’re “gonna be in a bind for a little while.”
Hardly the stuff of economic legends.
Should increasing COVID cases lead to further shutdowns – something every American of every political stripe should be hoping does not happen – further turbulence could be looming.
Back to the midterms. While recruiting and fundraising cannot be overlooked, midterm elections are fundamentally a referendum on the party in charge. A strong candidate running for Congress with the political winds in their face is akin to having the league’s best field goal kicker but a quarterback who cannot make a completion.
The Democrats are led by Biden, who rubbed shoulders with the legendary Tom Brady in the Rose Garden and cracked jokes about their ages. It made for a good laugh, but few would compare Biden’s political skills to Brady’s ability on the football field. The latter has seven Super Bowl rings for his efforts.
Biden may have won a presidential election in the throes of a pandemic last year, but the real test comes next November for his teammates carrying his policies up and down the ballot.