Polls suggest House Democrats will buck midterm curse and add to their ranks
Conventional wisdom in Washington is that the party in control of the White House usually loses any number of congressional seats in the midterms. In 1994, President Bill Clinton saw his House majority collapse with the Democrats losing 54 seats and the speaker’s gavel, something that had held true since the Truman Administration. After wresting control back from the GOP in 2006 during the final two years of the George W. Bush Administration, Democrats faced a similar blood bath during the 2010 midterms losing 63 seats in what President Barack Obama aptly described as a “shellacking.”
With one of the slimmest majorities for any new president in modern history, President Joe Biden is already banking on the popularity of his legislation and executive actions to buoy Democratic prospects heading into the elections. Polling from last month following the passage of the American Rescue Plan indicated that 63 percent of Americans, including 58 percent of independents, supported the $1.9 trillion package passed with just Democratic votes. Similarly, according to a new poll out from The New York Times, Biden’s new infrastructure proposal, the American Jobs Act, “garners support from two in three Americans, and from seven in ten independent voters.” Interestingly enough, the plan has the support of more than 30 percent of registered Republican voters according to the same poll.
In addition to the broad level of support behind the Biden administration’s two landmark pieces of legislation, new polling from Morning Consult from earlier in the month demonstrates the total dominance of Democrats over Republicans on the most critical issues facing the American people. During the 2018 midterms, healthcare was the leading issue that drove voters to the polls — and that was before an international pandemic ravaged our country. According to data from that Morning Consult poll, Democrats in Congress hold a +25 percent advantage over their GOP colleagues when voters are asked who they trust more to handle COVID-19 — 51 percent to 26 percent. Similarly, Democrats hold a +19 percent advantage when it comes to healthcare writ-large and a +20 percent advantage when it comes to protecting Social Security and Medicare. Even more damning for Congressional Republicans is the fact that voters give House Democrats a five percent advantage on who they trust on issues of the economy, an issue that was squarely in the Republican column in recent elections, including 2020.
Team Blue’s advantage when it comes to key political issues isn’t the only concern for the House GOP Caucus. As Morning Consult’s Eli Yokley notes, “Democrats are beginning the budding 2022 election cycle with an enthusiasm advantage over Republicans as President Joe Biden and his party work to buck the traditional midterm curse of losing ground in Congress. At this early stage, Democratic voters, at 81 percent, are 9 percentage points more likely than Republican voters, at 72 percent, to say they’re at least “somewhat” enthusiastic about voting in the 2022 midterms, according to a new Morning Consult/Politico poll.”
2020 witnessed some of the closest House elections in recent memory with both New York’s 22nd and Iowa’s 2nd Congressional districts decided by just a handful of votes — both breaking for the Republican candidate. As Brooking’s notes, “The Republicans won the bulk of the contests settled by less than 2 percentage points, including most of the races in which control shifted between the parties.” No doubt Republican-controlled state legislatures that are empowered to draw updated congressional lines will be working overtime to frustrate Democratic enthusiasm by crafting difficult districts to run in. But the fact that the majority of closely contested races broke in the GOP direction should give Democrats added hope that those seats can flip back in just two years.
We are still a long way off from the midterms, with the new 117th Congress marking its 100th day just this past week, but early indications are that Democrats hold some early and important advantages when it comes to the issues, legislative initiatives, and voter enthusiasm.
These factors should give the Biden administration and Democratic House leadership some initial optimism that 2022 can buck historic midterm trends and Speaker Nancy Pelosi could actually add to her ranks in the House of Representatives.
Kevin Walling (@kevinpwalling) is a Democratic strategist, Vice President at HGCreative, co-founder of Celtic Strategies, and a regular guest on Fox News, Fox Business and Bloomberg TV and Radio.
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