As November approaches, Democrats—voters and lawmakers—have at least a handful (if not more) of reasons for cautious optimism.
1) Although the White House’s response to the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade has been hesitant, President Joe Biden has begun to assert himself. His support for an abortion exception to the Senate filibuster and his pledge to immediately sign a bill codifying Roe into federal law once it reaches his desk have the makings of a campaign slogan.
“To codify Roe as federal law, we need two additional pro-choice senators and a pro-choice House. Your vote can make this possible “Friday at the White House, Biden vehemently denounced the Supreme Court’s decision.
“We cannot permit an out-of-control Supreme Court and extremist elements of the Republican Party to strip us of our liberties and personal autonomy,” he said.
The president also characterized the Supreme Court as a political entity acting outside of its proper legal domain, leaving open the possibility that he may pursue court reform in the future.
“What we are observing is not a constitutional ruling. It was a demonstration of raw political power “Biden is accused.
However, we should not get ahead of ourselves. Biden gave a fantastic speech on Friday, channeling the anger of activists, pledging to codify Roe, promising to veto any federal abortion ban passed by the GOP, urging Americans to express their anger at the polls this fall, and stating specifically that two additional pro-choice senators and a pro-choice House are required to pass federal abortion protections.
Biden has not given abortion opponents everything they want, but he has done more than enough for a midterm message.
2) House Democrats have zeroed in on the only viable strategy to mitigate losses this fall and possibly salvage their majority: aggressively attacking extremist Republican candidates.
Rep. John Yarmuth of Kentucky, who is retiring, best summarized the strategy: “If we win, it will be because we scared the crap out of people about the maniacs in charge.”
Democrats’ best strategies consist of aggressively attacking Republican extremists who are pushing for a national abortion ban, clinging to conspiracy theories about election fraud in 2020, and supporting January 6 rioters as patriotic protesters exercising their First Amendment rights. They are both base motivators and appeals to the few remaining sane Republicans and moderate abortion supporters.
Political strategists predict that the midterm elections will be primarily driven by either economic dissatisfaction or anger over the Supreme Court’s upcoming erosion of abortion protections and other privacy rights.
Simon Rosenberg, a Democratic strategist, predicted last week in a telephone briefing that November would primarily be a rematch between the MAGA movement and the anti-MAGA majority that has won the last three elections.
Running toward Donald Trump after his loss in 2020 and failed coup attempt in January “was always an enormous political risk,” said Rosenberg of the GOP, adding that Republicans have done nothing to sway swing voters in the interim.
Since the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe, the generic ballot has moved several points toward the Democrats.
Since the Dobbs ruling, CNN’s Harry Enten has counted eight polls in which Democrats have gained ground in generic matchups.
Enten writes that the average shift was approximately 3 points in favor of the Democrats. “This 3-point change may not seem substantial, and it could be reversed as we move away from the ruling. Nonetheless, it places the Democrats in their strongest position on the generic ballot in the past six months.”
4) Trump’s decline and DeSantis’ ascent encapsulates a dynamic that could come to dominate the 2024 Republican presidential race as candidates jockey for position. While Trump is arguably still the most popular member of the Republican Party, even his supporters have begun to oppose him running for the nomination again. And as Trump’s popularity begins to decline, DeSantis is gaining ground.
As he feels the Jan. 6 panel (and possibly the Justice Department) increasingly breathing down his neck, Democrats can only hope Trump does something rash, such as announce his candidacy unexpectedly before November. By announcing early, he would lose a ton of fundraising flexibility, but once you’ve orchestrated a coup against your own government, all bets are off.
But even if he does not, Trump has been wounded—perhaps not fatally, but nonetheless wounded. Even the most ardent supporters of President Trump are beginning to question whether he should run in 2024. Prior to midterm elections, Republicans had hoped their base would be singularly focused on inflation and rage against President Biden. This tinge of uncertainty could lead to divisions.
5) The hearings on January 6 are the greatest political suspense available. House of Cards was child’s play compared to this coup-d’état mystery unfolding in real time across the nation’s television screens. Did the president of the United States intend to cause the death of his vice president? Did he intend to do it himself, or did he intend to order his band of ragtag domestic terrorists to hang Vice President Pence? Who is going to tell us who is talking, who is not, and who will be arrested?
Every hearing appears to be more riveting and exponentially worse for Trump, his deranged inner circle, and the GOP lawmakers who participated in the plot to overthrow the republic. Several headlines from the previous month suggested that few people were watching the hearings in real time, but this does not indicate whether or not the hearings are gaining traction. The progressive consortium Navigator Research released a poll on Monday indicating that 64 percent of Americans have seen, read, or heard about the hearings (28 percent heard “a lot” and 36 percent heard “some”), which is identical to the 63 percent who said they had heard some or a lot about the hearings last month. So interest has not diminished at all.
Regardless of whether Trump announces his candidacy for president before November, the hearings on January 6 will remind the more than 81 million Americans who voted against him in 2020 why they did so. For Trump supporters, the hearings make him appear weak, out of control, and powerless. In contrast to both of Trump’s impeachment proceedings, he does not have an entourage of talking heads defending him, as the usual suspects are either avoiding subpoenas or avoiding cameras. Trump’s Truth(er) Social is a colossal failure, and his only public presence consists of the occasional statement.
Again, this is not what Republicans hoped for a few months before the election: a series of ongoing public hearings that they cannot stop and have no idea what will be uncovered.
All of these factors combined with the GOP’s field of candidates from the D-list should provide Democrats with ammunition to fight another day. Similar to every election since 2016, this year’s midterms will likely produce unprecedented outcomes to match our unprecedented times.