Democrats fear midterm depression as party leaders rush to defend blue seats
As Republicans have focused on inflation and crime over the past month to attack Democratic states — contests in traditionally blue districts in California, Oregon, New York, Illinois and elsewhere — there is a growing sense among Democrats that they can do little. This point is to combat the combined forces of history and economics.
“There is a general malaise hanging over the country,” said Joel Payne, a Democratic strategist. “What you see is an angry voter lashing out at the public. In the year They did it in 2016. They did in 2018. They did in 2020. And, if things are the way they are, they’re probably going to do it again in 2022. “
While many Democrats have believed privately that Republicans could take the House for months, in recent days they have expressed fears that voters could overwhelmingly vote for the GOP — a result that would result in a major rebuke of the incumbent party. In some cases, the party appears to be conceding previously contested seats, which strategists fear represents a “red tide” of Republicans sweeping through the traditional Democratic field.
While the battle for control of the Senate is closely contested — with both parties pouring in millions of dollars to determine or increase the slim advantage Democrats hold — how the debate in the House turned out to be predictable. Big will be the new Republican. Democrats have 220 seats in the House, and need 218 to retain control.
A House Democratic strategist said if Democrats hold 200 to 205 seats, they will consider it a good night. With the party at 190 seats or less — a 30-seat loss in many districts that would require Biden to flip by double digits — that reflects a big red tide, said the strategist, who spoke on condition of anonymity. Discuss internal discussions.
In the year As President Barack Obama lost 63 seats in 2010, and President Donald Trump lost 40 in 2018, Biden’s allies are preparing for the president to win even if he loses. But since Biden began his presidency with a much smaller margin than his predecessors, even modest losses would have given Democrats the edge in 2016. It could leave them with fewer seats than the 193 they had in 2011.
The party continues to express confidence in holding the Senate, where elections historically depend less on House races than on the national political landscape. Still, several competitive races have intensified in recent days as Republican candidates have aligned their opponents with Biden, who maintains stubbornly low approval ratings.
The White House announced Thursday that First Lady Jill Biden will travel to Arizona. In recent days, her husband has traveled to Rhode Island and New Hampshire to appear with Democratic candidates in 2020 districts. Some candidates chose to campaign alongside the first lady, avoiding public appearances with her husband.
The president avoided campaigning in Arizona, where authorized levels are underwater. Kelly has kept him on his toes as he fends off attacks from Masters, who say he is too close to Biden.
Biden and Obama plan to appear together Saturday in Pennsylvania, where Senate candidate John Fetterman’s recovery from an illness in May has become a key issue in the race. Republicans argued that their candidate, Mehmet Oz, was the favorite in that race last month when Fetterman stumbled over his words and struggled in a question-and-answer format. They invested money in the state by running ads featuring Fetterman’s debate performance.
Democrats are also pouring money into the state, which has seen the most spending of any race this year.
Even some voters who turned out to see Clinton and Harris square off Thursday evening were gloomy about the party’s hopes.
Easton Young, a senior political science and history student at Columbia University, said he will vote in Kentucky and is concerned about a lack of enthusiasm among young voters.
“I really don’t feel very confident,” he said. “I hope people like me will go out and vote, especially young people, because it’s so important. But I don’t think it looks very good. “
Democrats face headwinds in several races, especially in the House.
For example, the party has become concerned that Republicans have a way to win all three House seats in South Texas, a longtime Democratic stronghold.
Party leaders in Texas and Washington have been hoping that Republican candidate Monica De La Cruz can flip the state’s powerful and well-funded 15th Congressional District to gain ground in the state. But, now, Democrats are alarmed by the GOP momentum they’re seeing in the neighboring 34th and 28th districts, where Biden won by 16 points and more than seven points, respectively.
Local Democrats have been pleading for months with the national party and donors to send more resources and focus more on heavily Hispanic districts, particularly Texas’ 34th District, where Republican Rep. Mayra Flores won a special election in June. But national Democrats set aside Flores’ victory and the district is poised to go even bluer in mid-November redistricting.
Republicans are “competing and taking advantage of frustration, anxiety in the community. They’ve shown real candidates and real money to run. We’ve never seen this before,” said Democratic strategist Chuck Rocha, a former senior adviser to the presidential campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), on Trump’s 2020 gains. He pointed to the GOP’s huge spending in the region to build among Latinos.
“We’re facing headwinds, no doubt,” added Rocha.
In Wisconsin, local Democratic leaders are looking nervously at a once-close race in the 3rd Congressional District, where Rep. Ron Kind (D) is retiring and the seat is open. GOP candidate Derek Van Orden, pictured outside the U.S. Capitol during protests on Jan. 6, 2021, will face Democrat Brad Pfaff for state Sen.
“We’re doing very, very well,” Van Orden said in a brief interview Tuesday night. “Gas, groceries and grandchildren” became the main concerns of the race, he said.
House Majority PAC, the Democrats’ main super PAC for the House, recently canceled $1.6 million in TV earmarks for the last two weeks, giving Republicans a clear shot at the open seat. In the race, Republicans spent $3.8 million, while Democrats spent about $2 million.
In an ominous sign for the party, as voters continue to cast their ballots, some finger-pointing and internal criticism of strategy is becoming public. Some party strategists complained that the Republican-controlled Congress missed the point in warning voters about threats to abortion rights, Social Security, health care and democracy.
Even as they tackle other issues, Clinton said she wishes Democrats would “communicate more effectively” the gains they’ve made on the economy.
In an interview on “CNN This Morning,” she said, “I’ll mention this — it’s very difficult to tell people what’s going to happen in the future.”
Democrats have acknowledged that Republican attacks on crime have hurt their candidates, particularly in blue states. Hochul’s Republican challenger in New York, Lee Zeldin, tried to link the state’s rising crime rate to the Democrats’ bail policy. It’s a message Republicans across the country have embraced to paint their opponents as soft on crime.
A House Majority PAC spending analysis found that 42 percent of the group’s ads mention abortion, 48 percent economic issues, 19 percent extremism or Jan. 6 and 5 percent education. Most GOP ads focus on the economy and crime.
In the wake of the Supreme Court’s overturning of the ruling, Democrats continue to hope that abortion is under threat. Roe v. Wade They will be surprised on Election Day by allowing them to exceed the polls by overwhelming votes, as they did in the Kansas abortion rights referendum and the New York special election this summer. But the results of the election in early September show that they have started to decline, as the price of gas and other food items remained high and the Federal Reserve implemented a series of rate hikes to bring down inflation.
Some party officials are beginning to think of a possible silver lining in the biennial House races. Because some of the losses were in blue states and districts they won in 2020, Democrats in One Democratic strategist familiar with the House race, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said they may have a better chance of being easily swept in 2024. Discuss the situation of the game.
“Clear a path back in 2024,” the strategist said, “if we lose those seats on Tuesday.”
Dylan Wells, Annie Lynskey, Michael Scherer, Sabrina Rodriguez and Azzi Paybarah contributed to this report.