In September, some commentators were confident Democrats might be able to avoid a “red wave,” but with just three weeks to midterm election day, momentum from the overturning of Roe v. Wade and President Biden’s string of summer legislative wins could be waning.
Polling for the 2022 generic congressional vote — a closely watched indicator for midterm performance — shows Democrats’ average advantage over Republicans peaking in mid-September with a 1.3 percent lead, a decent advantage given that Biden’s approval rating consistently hovered in the low 40s.
However, three weeks away from the midterms, Republicans have managed to gain back momentum that they have not seen in months, leading by 2.2% on average when voters are asked which party they would support, according to RealClearPolitics.
“After the Dobbs ruling, the Kansas referendum and several special election victories, the focus had shifted, at least somewhat, off of exclusively the economy, and that was to the Democrats’ benefit,” said Democratic strategist and Fox News contributor Jessica Tarlov.
The shift in the political environment this summer lent itself to optimism for Democrats that GOP dominance in the midterms could be avoided. However, Tarlov says it depends on the definition of victory for Democrats this fall.
“I never thought Democrats would hold the House, but expected a slim GOP majority. Now it’s looking like it could be dozens of seats,” said Tarlov. “I believe there’s time to get it back under control, but messaging has to be laser-focused on the economy and crime, with little else.”
On Monday, the New York Times/Siena College’s latest poll showed Republicans in a four-point lead, 49 % to 45%, over Democrats when voters were asked who they favored to represent them in Congress. Just last month, the Times/Siena’s September poll had Democrats with a one-point edge over Republicans.
Veteran GOP strategist Karl Rove, in an op-ed for Fox News Digital, attributed Republicans’ late-stage voter favorability to strong debate performances, healthy fundraising from Republican House leadership and Biden’s continued “disconnect” with voters on the economy.
Though the economy has consistently topped voter concerns since July, Biden kept abortion front-and-center in a political speech on Tuesday, pledging to push for legislation that would codify Roe v. Wade if Democrats maintain control of Congress.
“Three weeks is an eternity in politics, news cycles, and campaigns, but at this point, Democrats blew their lead by not listening to voters’ concerns, and now they have to protect seats Biden handily won in 2020,” said Erin Perrine, vice president at Tag Strategies and former communications director for Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas.
“The runway for Democrats is shortening quickly, with many states already starting the voting process,” said Perinne. “The likelihood they magically turn it around seems slim.”