It’s now six months before the party of inflation and mandates takes on the party of overturning free and fair elections. I can’t wait to see who America picks!
Four years ago, when we were six months away from the 2018 midterms, I made official predictions from which I never wavered: the Democrats were going to take the House but the Republicans would hold the Senate. I was right then, and I’m going to be right again now.
Six months out from the 2022 midterms, let’s take a look at the race for the two chambers of Congress.
Part I: The House of Representatives
Current composition of the 435-seat House of Representatives:
- Democrats: 221
- Republicans: 209
- Vacant: 5
- All are up for re-election
- Number of seats needed for a majority in the House: 218
- Number of seats Democrats can lose and still retain majority: 3
- Number of seats Republicans must add to obtain majority: 9
The Democrats’ pad on the majority is just three seats, so there is no margin for error. And, frankly, there’s no drama here either. As I told you in January, history is very much against the Democrats in 2022, and current indicators point against them as well. The Democrats were always going to face an uphill climb. Now it’s more like a vertical ascent.
In order to take more time with the less predictable Senate, let’s quickly run through the reasons Republicans will win the House:
Since 1946, parties of incumbent presidents have only twice gained seats at the midterms.
With the Democrats’ pad at only three seats, they can’t afford to lose four, to say nothing of most of the numbers we see over the last 75 years.
Another key historical pattern I noted in January is that although Democrats have great turnout in presidential elections, they generally struggle in midterm elections. Democratic voters’ don’t seem to realize Congressional elections matter just as much as presidential ones. Their greatest demographic advantages are with minorities and young people, but those two groups are less consistent voters outside of presidential elections. (Exception: 2018, when President Trump inspired higher midterm turnout than we had seen in a century, mostly to oppose him.) The whiter and older Republican base more consistently shows up in midterms, and with fewer overall votes cast their votes pack more of a punch.
It’s a simple equation: Democratic
President + midterm election = doom for the Democratic House.
2. President Biden’s approval rating
The incumbent president’s party particularly struggles when the president is unpopular. For Democrats who hope the two anomalies from the above bar chart — the 1998 and 2002 results — might apply this time around: think again. Those two gains by the incumbent president’s party reflected two unusually popular presidents. In fact, they were the most popular presidents heading into a midterm in the last 75 years:
Bill Clinton in 1998 and George W. Bush in 2002 had, for very different reasons (Merriam Webster classifies the Monica Lewinsky scandal and 9/11 terrorist attacks as antonyms), approval from about two-thirds of the country.
In general, if a president is around 60%, he can contain the damage. When approval ratings are below about 50%, however, presidents’ parties badly suffer.
So what’s President Biden’s approval? Well, it’s not good.
Were the midterms held tomorrow, history suggests a 30- to 50-seat loss in the House for the Democrats. Again, their pad on the majority is just 3.
3. The generic ballot
It’s not just President Biden who’s struggling. The Democratic brand as a whole is struggling.
Democrats once had the people’s good will. Coming out of the mobocratic conclusion to the tumultuous Trump presidency, the people largely supported the new party on power. Democrats’ subsequent failures, however, will now help give the car keys back to Trump. His army of election-skeptical sycophants will get planted next to key levers of power in federal and state elections this November, and in 2024 they will determine whether unverified accusations of election fraud justifies sending their preferred slate of electors.
Way to go, Dems.
Finally, we should remember why the public isn’t happy with President Biden and his Democratic Party…
4. It’s been a rough 18 months.
We’ve followed one president with shaky mental acuity with another. That’s not the kind of record the United States should be setting.
To distract from that, we’re trying to set another record: inflation. The White House told us it’d be transitory. They were wrong. They told us actually the economy is doing great thanks to rising wages, the job market, and growing GDP. But real wages fell, and now the economy just contracted. They told us inflation was due to the supply chain problem created by the pandemic Trump failed to effectively manage. That’s only part of it.
Inflation is at a 40-year high for various reasons, and one of them, predictably, was the myopic fiscal policy of throwing money at an economy that was already in recovery. Research from the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco estimated that this flood of money probably tacked on about 3% of our 8% inflation, not an insignificant contribution. Low interest rates have also contributed, and now we need the Fed to save us from elected officials by taking action that could easily lead to a recession.
Relatedly, a new record was just set as well: highest gas prices in US history (although when factoring inflation, not quite… unless we hit an average of over $5 per gallon).
Republicans will argue other things will doom their Democratic opponents as well — education, an untrustworthy CDC, the anti-free speech Twitterati, and progressive culture in general — but I don’t think those problems are nearly as big for Democrats’ political chances this November. In fact, the Democrats would much rather fight a war on those winnable social and cultural issues, because the economy is a losing battle.
So, in an already difficult year for Democrats’ political chances, the economy is going to destroy them in the House of Representatives.
Can they, however, keep the Senate? As the chamber that has the advice and consent power over judicial appointments, the Senate is arguably the more important Congressional body. If, for example, a Supreme Court position opens up while Republicans control the Senate, I’d put my money on it remaining vacant until the next election.
Fortunately for Democrats, Senate elections aren’t as predictable as House elections in midterm years. Their chance of retaining the Senate is better.
But is it likely? That’s what tomorrow’s post is for. I hope to see you then.
Today’s featured image of the US Capitol building was found at Wikipedia Commons before PPFA’s crack graphics team wrote three words over it.
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