Elections on anvil Can Dems feel hopeful about the midterms?
WASHINGTON: Just a couple of months ago, Democrats’ prospects heading into the November elections looked, if not quite doomed, then decidedly dour: Not only do Americans tend to swing against the president’s party in the midterms, but President Biden was also presiding over the worst spate of inflation in four decades and his approval ratings over the summer had plunged to the lowest of any elected president at that point in his term since the end of World War II, according to FiveThirtyEight. But the national political environment has changed: Since July, Biden’s approval rating has risen by five percentage points and Democrats have gained around a net three percentage points in the generic ballot, which asks whether voters would prefer Democrats or Republicans to control Congress, overtaking the Republican Party’s lead.
What are some of the issues that voters care most about, and how might the parties’ recent rhetorical and legislative handling of them be driving the race? Here’s what people are saying. When the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, there was a great deal of speculation among poll watchers and pundits about whether the abrogation of the constitutional right to abortion would redound to the Democratic Party’s benefit, potentially boosting turnout and swinging independents who might otherwise vote for Republicans.
Shortly before the decision was handed down, but weeks after a draft of it had been leaked, the Times columnist Michelle Goldberg didn’t find much evidence to support this theory: “I don’t know that I’ve seen a new influx of energy,” Samhita Mukhopadhyay, the co-editor of “Nasty Women: Feminism, Resistance and Revolution in Trump’s America” and the former executive editor of Teen Vogue, told her. “It’s surprising. There were marches, but it wasn’t the level of activism that we saw a couple of years ago with Black Lives Matter or even the Women’s March.”
In the months since, though, there have been signs that the curtailment of abortion rights has moved the needle: In an August poll, Gallup found that abortion had climbed on Americans’ list of “most important problems” facing the country, ranking behind only economic concerns and more general issues of government and leadership.
What’s more, according to a Times analysis, Roe’s overturning was followed by a surge in voter registration among women in 10 states with available data, including Kansas, where strong turnout in an August primary helped defeat a referendum that would have effectively ended abortion rights in the state.
Because most Americans favor at least some abortion rights, many Republicans have tried to avoid making abortion a central campaign issue, emphasizing instead that the matter has been returned to the states.
Poll after poll after poll has found that inflation remains voters’ top concern heading into November. And while July’s Consumer Price Index report suggested that inflation had peaked, the August report suggested that it was not cooling as quickly as the White House and many economists had forecast. The price of rent and some food items actually increased between July and August, and workers lost buying power over the last year as prices increased faster than wages.
These would be problems for any party in power during an election year, much less one whose leader has boasted of delivering wage gains. “Citizens of countries suffering from inflation have routinely sought to assign blame — to the government, to greedy companies or to politicians,” The Times’s Jonathan Weisman wrote last week of the Republican campaign strategy to blame Democrats for inflation. “Inflationary periods often yield labor strife, as workers and unions press for wage increases to keep up with rising prices, point fingers at ‘price-gouging’ companies and, more than anything, rage at those in power.”