Steve Israel: A bump in Biden approval rating ‘probably saves the Senate for Democrats’
Former Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) predicted on Monday that just a slight uptick in President Biden’s approval numbers could spare Democrats a thrashing in the Senate in this year’s midterm elections.
But whether Democrats can retain their paper-thin Senate majority may come down to a few factors, Israel said, warning that if Biden’s approval rating stays where it is now and the party’s voter base heads into Election Day unmotivated, it could cost Democrats at the polls.
“If base intensity is anemic and swing voter propensity is in the 30s and the president’s favorability remains in the 40s, it makes it that much tougher for Democrats to win,” Israel, a former chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal.
“However, if Joe Biden’s numbers go up, if they can just go up to the mid to high 40s, that probably saves the Senate for Democrats and it could mean retaining the majority for Democrats,” he added. “I think it’s going to be jump ball.”
Israel is an opinion contributor to The Hill.
With the Senate split 50-50 and Democrats relying on Vice President Harris to cast any tie-breaking vote in their favor, a net loss of just one seat this year would cost the party the majority it picked up little more than a year ago.
But Democratic strategists, party officials and lawmakers are more optimistic of their chances of holding on to the Senate than they are the House, where an ultra-narrow majority and the decennial redistricting process has put the party in a tough defensive position.
Democrats say that, on the Senate side, they have a few things going for them. For one, they’re defending fewer seats this cycle than Republicans and see opportunities to play offense in states like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and North Carolina.
At the same time, they believe that they’ve benefited from strong candidate recruitment and fewer divisive primaries. Meanwhile, Republicans are facing several competitive nominating contests that threaten to divide their voters and distract from efforts to campaign against Democrats early on.
Nevertheless, Israel noted, history is not on the Democrats’ side. With just a few exceptions, the party of the president tends to lose ground in Congress during midterm elections. Combined with Biden’s low approval ratings, that could spell trouble for Democrats in November.
“When you really break it down, it looks like the Republicans are in pretty good shape in terms of history,” Israel said.
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