Midterms: Dems Not Dead Yet...
Plenty of game left to play and other mixed metaphors
Nine days before an election is very much like the final 2 minutes of a close scoring NBA or NFL game. It is an entire ball game within the game, and victory can depend on unpredictable last second events. So, there is a lot of game left.
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But first, remember the strong likelihood of Democrats losing both the House and Senate next week was baked into the 2020 election results, with a 50/50 Senate and a small House majority that is now down to five seats. Given that nearly every mid-term election for a first-term incumbent President results in a loss of Congressional seats, odds makers gave the Democrats little chance at holding either branch from the start. Add the killer head winds of inflation, and this should be a GOP route.
But the Dems caught a lucky break, if you want to call the overturning of Roe v. Wade “lucky”. Plus the Democrats finally proved they could “do something” and passed a series of decent legislation. The polls began to tighten by late September, and Democrats started dreaming of growing their Senate majority and holding onto the House. Just to be able to dream like that should be something to be proud of. Sure enough, in the last few weeks, that polling bubble burst with a spat of bad economic news. Now the latest polls show doom and despair—relative to Democratic dreams—but still pretty damn good from where things were for the Dems six months ago.
The recent polls (before I hit SEND) still show GOP momentum. But the polls we see today are really reflecting moods and views expressed by voters one week ago, based on how they interpret events from the week before. So, for the 3-5 percent of voters who truly are fickle, last minute voters—some making their mind up in the voting booth—current polls are (almost) useless in predicting a close election. This is a critical point, given the handful of House and Senate races that will decide control of Congress will be decided by less than a two percent margin.
Which brings us to the last two minutes of this midterm election. With inflation gusts at the GOP’s back, the Dems need to change their game. First by attacking GOP talk about cutting Social Security and Medicare benefits. Then the Democrats need a strong economic message to close their campaigns on. As Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg pointed out, Democrats must translate what they have accomplished into tangible things that will help people move forward economically.
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Greenberg suggests touting the $3300 a year child tax credit given to working class families and reduced child poverty in the US by 40%, along with lowering medical and energy costs (from future green energy). I think the Democrats should repackage their success in passing an Infrastructure bill—that invests billions into US roads, bridges and mass transit; with the C.H.I.P.S. legislation—which create incentives to invest in domestically made micro chips for high tech industries; with provisions in the recently passed climate legislation that requires domestic production of green energy products to be eligible for government incentives, into a “Made in USA” Democratic platform. The Dems should run commercials touting the billions of dollars in recent private investments for electric car batteries and computer chip plants in the US that will usher in a new era of advanced manufacturing in America.
The current conventional wisdom gives the GOP the House, while the Senate is a toss-up. With a recalibrated message, no bad economic news, unpredictable events like the attack on Paul Pelosi (yes, I went there) or chaos in Brazil after their election which may impact the illogical last minute voter, the outcome could break blue. Admittedly, I have little faith the Democrats will successfully reengineer their messaging. (I do think the Brazil elections will be chaotic.)
Bottomline: Democrats should not despair if they lose both chambers, because that is exactly where conventional wisdom put things in late 2020. They just better dust themselves off and get ready for the next round in 2024.