It’s well-known mantra that the party in the White House always struggles in midterm elections, as lofty expectations give way to the grinding ineffectiveness of the American legislative process, suppressing majority support, while the out-party is energized with desires of revenge. Indeed, the out-party typically gains over 30 House seats in the first midterm of a new presidency.
But anomalies exist. In 2002, George W. Bush and his Republicans rode the post-9/11 zeitgeist to congressional victories. Is 2022 more like 2002, or like any other normal midterm? Today, Kerry Eleveld and I will dig deep into the issue.
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My operating theory is that this is a 2002-style year. The usual midterms are referendums on the incumbent president and his party. But with Donald Trump big-footing everywhere, Democrats benefit from making it a 2020-redux. Abortion will play a particularly outsized role, not just as motivation in its own right, but as proof that holding the White House doesn’t mean we and the Democrats are actually in power. The whole system is legitimately rigged against us. If being out of power gooses turnout, we have a legitimate claim to that crown. And the quality of candidates actually matters, as Republicans do everything in their power to nominate Marjorie Taylor Greene-type wackos for key races in battleground states and districts.
On the other hand, President Joe Biden’s clumsy handling of the student debt issue has tamped support and engagement from critically important young voters—a calamitous development bordering on political malpractice. The economy may be humming on various metrics, like unemployment rate and rising wages, but inflation, housing costs, and high gas prices are getting the bigger headlines. Indeed, the price of gas is the only economic indicator everyone sees in two-foot-tall letters when they’re out and about. And of course, Joe Biden has woeful approval ratings.
Consider a world at war and further economic disruptions as a result, compounded by the inevitable climate catastrophes (drought, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, fires), and we are looking at the most turbulent pre-election season in ages.
Join me and and Kerry as we discuss these factors, and debate what effects they might have on the most important races this fall.