This week: The Briefing, Vol. X, Issue 39
- A referendum on Biden
- What to look for in that poll’s fine print
- Nevada Senate race shaping up well for GOP
The Biden referendum: Jen Psaki, The former White House spokeswoman for Joe Biden, made a genuinely insightful comment about the upcoming midterm election over the weekend.
“Look,” she said. “I think the Democrats, if the election is about who is the most extreme… then they’re going to win. If it is a referendum on the president, they will lose, and they know that.”
Not everything here seems completely accurate. Democrats have, for example, embraced a lot of extreme positions that are costing them and Biden more unpopular. They are even losing ground with the Hispanic vote because of their abrupt shift leftward toward zero deportations and transgender ideology, to name just two examples.
But Psaki is still correct in that Democrats understand their need to distract from Biden’s record.
Their ominous, paranoid comments about democracy being under attack — embodied by Biden’s “red light” speech — seem like the best available distraction to many of them. Other Democrats seem to be running on the theory that abortion can save them if it becomes the main issue in post-Roe America. So far, this is not working for the Democrats’ gubernatorial nominee in Georgia, Stacey Abrams, but it could prove more successful in other states.
Donald Trump, of course, is always a great distraction for Democrats, and he usually seems more than happy to accommodate them by making himself the center of attention. His new feud with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is certainly an unnecessary distraction that should at least wait until after the election. But Trump is as Trump does.
At heart, Republicans would most like for Joe Biden to be the center of attention, just as Psaki said.
This is why the Democrats’ Florida Senate candidate, Val Demings is avoiding this week’s Biden visit to her state like she’s running from the coronavirus. It is also why, when Ohio Republican J.D. Vance talks about energy policy, he doesn’t just speak abstractly or even just about his Democratic opponent, Rep. Tim Ryan — he talks specifically about Biden and his role in energy policy. His exact quote: “The fact that we are depleting the petroleum reserve of this country, so Joe Biden can claim a victory on gas prices for a midterm election, is the most politically selfish thing and American president has done in recent memory.”
Both parties understand that if every voter were to cast a ballot based on his or her feelings about Joe Biden, Republicans would win the national congressional vote by somewhere between 10 and 14 points, a landslide of historic proportions. That would easily be enough to regain the House majority and deprive Biden of the ability to enact any more is legislative agenda, and probably it would result in a Republican Senate majority as well.
Unfortunately, this is not how elections work. Biden is significantly less popular than his party’s candidates. And Republicans have many of their own distractions.
One noteworthy development last week was the pulling of national party funding from J.R. Majewski in Ohio’s Toledo-area 9th district. The reason is that he appears to have lied about being deployed to Afghanistan.
This is just one of several distractions that Republicans will try to minimize, in the same manner that Democrats try to minimize Biden.
They will also liberally use the name and likeness of Nancy Pelosi, The most recognizable figure in the Democratic Congressional leadership. Republicans have found in previous election cycles that Pelosi’s name gets a huge rise out of focus group participants and elicits a strong reaction when her name is mentioned in a campaign ad.
Generic ballot: Which party is winning the race for the U.S. House? It depends on who you ask. If you are a pollster, and you are asking likely voters, then the answer is, probably the Republicans. If you ask registered voters, you will get a less accurate result.
Indeed, going back to early September, seven of the last eight poles that surveyed likely voters found either a tide result or a Republican lead. The only poles that show Democrats winning are poles of registered voters, which are far less useful and will begin to fall off as the election nears.
Meanwhile, Republicans find themselves taking the lead in key statewide races in Nevada and Wisconsin. Expect to see them surge in other states as well, as they already have in Ohio. This suggests there is some substance to the shift in the House polling.
It is already obvious that a few of the Trumpiest pics as house nominees are turning out to be flops. But that alone will not stop Republicans from winning a substantial House majority. And some of those Trumpy candidates The Democrats helped win their nominations will win in the general election, too. When that happens, expect to see some repercussions, as the Democratic rank and file question what the party is doing with their money.
Nevada: Former Attorney General Adam Laxalt has leapt into and kept the lead in his race against incumbent Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto for the better part of a month now. That Cortez-Masto is trailing is obviously bad for her, but the worst part is that her numbers are as low as 43%.
The key to this race, as to the very close gubernatorial race taking place in tandem, will be how much Republicans can bite into Democratic margins with Hispanic voters. As in Texas, Republicans are making inroads with this key voting bloc, thanks to Biden’s unpopularity and the Democratic Party’s leftward lurch in the era of unrestrained wokeness.
It stands to reason, given Democrats’ lusty embrace of the idea that America is inherently evil and racist, and of transgender ideology, which is potentially threatening to any demographic group that has a high rate of family formation and bearing children.
The deliberate Democratic effort to campaign on a abortion in many statewide races is a double-edged sword. There are voters who are scared about a post-Roe world, but this is also going to antagonize Hispanic voters who used to vote Democratic without thinking twice.
Pennsylvania: Having found an opening with his health condition and his lack of transparency about it, Republicans are now pressing Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman for his non-payment of taxes for several years.
Republican Mehmet Oz is attempting a comeback against the odds, but conditions for such a comeback are probably about as suitable as he could hope for. He remains two to five points behind according to every single poll of the race taken since the beginning of August. That seems discouraging, but it also means he is within striking distance.