Thursday, September 15, 2022

Democratic Improvement in Senate Races Seems to be Stalling

As I write this, the political prognosticating website FiveThirtyEight is giving Democrats a 71% chance of winning the Senate.  Meanwhile, FiveThirtyEight gives Republicans a 72% chance of gaining a majority in the House.

With the large number of House races and the dearth of polling in those races, it's hard to track where the parties are in the House.  But the Senate is a different story.  The narrative over the last month or so has been Democrats doing better and better in the Senate matchups.  Much of that is due to poor candidate quality.  Thanks to the intervention of Donald Trump in GOP primaries, Republicans have been stuck with MAGA candidates who lack the broad popularity to win general elections. Add to poor candidate quality,  lower gas prices over the summer, the backlash to GOP overreach on abortion post-Dobbs, and legislative successes by the Biden administration which has boosted the President's popularity.

But in the last few days, I've noticed a new trend.  Democratic improving fortunes in the Senate races seems to have stalled.  In Nevada, the Democratic incumbent trails.   In Pennsylvania, the Democrats best chance for a pickup, Democratic Lt. Governor Fetterman campaign seems to be sputtering due in no small part to concerns about his health post-stroke.  In Georgia, Republican Herschel Walker, who is maybe the worst Senate candidate in history, has actually led the last few polls.  Republicans lead close races in Ohio, Florida and North Carolina, although within the margin of error.  Meanwhile, the Democrats lead in Arizona, New Hampshire, Wisconsin against horrible Trump-backed GOP candidates, but that lead is within the margin of error.  Colorado and the State of Washington even appear to have Democratic incumbents involved in reasonably close races. 

Part of what is going on might just be gravity exerting itself.  It is extremely hard for the party controlling the Presidency to win mid-term elections.  Inflation continues to be a problem.  While Biden's numbers have improved, he remains unpopular.  Democrats also may be putting too many eggs in the abortion basket thinking their new-found political advantage on that issue will carry them across the finish line.  Pushing too hard on that issue can eventually lead to a backlash. 

Despite FiveThirtyEight giving Democrats a 71% chance of winning the Senate, the closeness of several contests suggest the final weeks of this election will be critical.

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