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Will the GOP snatch defeat from the jaws of victory?

FILE – People walk outside the U.S Capitol building in Washington, June 9, 2022. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

The midterm elections are a tale of two chambers.

The findings of a new national survey by NBC News illustrate the challenge Democrats face in the House and the possibilities it enjoys in the Senate as the party tries to maintain its slim majority in both houses of Congress.

Three out of every four registered voters feel the country is heading in the wrong direction. Two of three voters believe the nation is in an economic recession and most people think the country’s best days are behind it. It’s hardly surprising that under these circumstances President Biden’s approval rating is underwater. But Democrats persist despite the obstacles with the help of GOP missteps.

This toxic environment certainly dampens Democratic prospects for Democratic control of the U.S. of Representatives. Political forecasting website FiveThrityEight.com gives the party only a 22 percent chance of hanging onto the lower chamber.  But FiveThirtyEight gives Democrats a whopping 63 percent odds of maintaining its Senate majority.

Why is there such a big difference between the forecasts for the House and the Senate? Why are Republican hopes for taking the House so high and so low for the Senate?

The answer is simple. House races reflect national trends while Senate races are more judgements on the qualities of individual candidates.

House incumbents operate in anonymity. Voters, especially people who live in large metropolitan areas know little about the people who represent them in the U.S. House of Representatives. Most House members in large metropolitan areas get little attention from the news media. The visibility for challengers is even worse.

This information vacuum forces voters to rely on factors that are internal and personal like their feelings about the state of the nation. It’s much easier for people to answer questions about the nation’s direction than it is for them to reflect on the quality of their seemingly anonymous representation in the lower chamber of Congress.

The dynamic in U.S. Senate races is completely different. Voters know much more about the incumbent and the challenger. Senate incumbents get on TV frequently over the course of their six-year terms and even their challengers receive media attention during election year. Senate voters choose between the candidates while House voters rely on whether they are in a good or bad mood.

These are the best of times and worst of times for Republicans. Voters are in a sour mood, which gives the GOP an opportunity to take control of the House. However, the party has failed to field quality candidates for the Senate, which is the reason for its troubles there.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) recently expressed doubt about Republican chances to gain control of the upper chamber. He cited “candidate quality” as the reason for his pessimism. He’s right about that. Republicans have fielded untested celebrity candidates in three key Senate races that could make or break the contest for control.

The three candidates, Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania, Herschel Walker in Georgia and J.D. Vance in Ohio have made rookie mistakes. The GOP urge to nominate celebrity candidates without any political experience in wake of former President Trump has clouded the party’s efforts to take control of the Senate. Prospects that were so very bright just a few short months ago.

Trump’s celebrity campaign worked against a battle scared veteran of the political wars like Hillary Clinton. But the three celebrity GOP candidates seem in over their heads and face Democratic candidates who are not establishment candidates like Clinton, the former First Lady and secretary of State.

Vance’s opponent, Rep. Tim Ryan (R-Ohio) once challenged Nancy Pelosi for House Speaker. Walker’s competition, Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) is a Baptist preacher and pastor who was a first-time candidate in 2020. Facing off against Oz, Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman of is truly a maverick candidate with a funky personality and wardrobe that screams “I’m not a politician.”

While the GOP claim on a Senate majority looks shaky, the party is poised to win the House. But Republican prospects for a sweeping majority in the lower chamber have evaporated.

The Democratic victory in the special election in New York’s 19th Congressional district on Tuesday demonstrates that abortion rights is a potent issue for Democratic hopefuls in bellwether suburban constituencies.

For every action, there is a reaction. Republican prospects started to darken the day the U.S. Supreme Court nullified Roe vs. Wade and ended abortion rights for millions of American women. The GOP once had a big edge in partisan enthusiasm, but the new NBC poll indicates that Democratic voters are now as excited about the midterms as their Republican counterparts.

The NBC poll has another stunning finding that should strike fear into the hearts of Republican strategists. The threat to democracy has replaced concern about the economy as the big-ticket issue concern for the voting public. As gas prices decrease and Trump’s legal liability increases, the big headline on election night could be: GOP snatches defeat from the jaws of victory.

Brad Bannon is a Democratic pollster and CEO of Bannon Communications Research. His podcast, “Deadline D.C. with Brad Bannon,” airs on Periscope TV and the Progressive Voices Network. Follow him on Twitter: @BradBannon

Tags 2022 midterm elections Biden Congress Democrats impeachment Election House of Representatives John Fetterman Mitch McConnell Republicans Senate Voting

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