Bedwetting or Whistling Past the Graveyard?

February 2, 2022

The conventional wisdom about this year’s midterms is that Democrats will lose about 20 seats in the House and the GOP takes control of the Senate. History confirms that the party in the White House almost always loses seats in the midterms. Moreover, President Biden’s approval rating is underwater, the generic ballot has Democrats down, and a host of vulnerable Democrats are retiring. One is reminded of the Mark Twain quote, “History doesn’t always repeat itself, but it often rhymes.

There is a contrasting view that the mainstream pundits’ bedwetting is uncalled for and that several fundamentals are at work so that the 2022 midterms defy expectations. Here is the counterargument:

2018 Midterm Turnout Crushed All Previous Levels
Turnout in every midterm since 18-year-olds were granted the vote had been within a 5-percentage point turnout band. The increase in 2018 was 13% over four years prior.

  • Part of the surge was from previously general-election-only voters who voted in 2018. They favored Democrats by 11%.
  • The balance of the surge were people who had never voted before. They favored Democrats by 19%.
  • Together these add up to 25 million new Democratic midterm voters, about as many as traditional midterm Democrats.
    The surge was widespread rather than just among Democratic base voters.

Biden Earned 7.1 Million More Votes Than Trump in 2020
Polling consistently shows that, when the election is about Trump, turnout surges more for the opposition than for Trump allies. Democrats have more voters on the bench—if we can get them into the game.

The Public Reckoning Continues

  • January 6 Committee investigations continue with high profile hearings beginning in March.
  • The GA vote rigging charges will soon be before a local Grand Jury.
  • The NY Attorney General may soon bring criminal charges.

Trump’s Endorsements in Key Republican Primaries in Seats with Vulnerable Democrats

  • The urge to “out-Trump” one another will make luring swing voters in the General Election more difficult for the Primary winners.
  • Trump’s campaigning against mainstream GOP incumbents prevents a united front going into the fall.

Essentially, the argument goes: Trump’s refusal to leave the stage lifts Democrats’ hopes considerably more than Biden’s first-year record in the White House. And, the size of the recent crop of midterm Democratic voters provides a cushion for voter drop-off.

At this point in the election cycle, most dismiss this assessment as simply whistling past the graveyard, and believe that Democrats are in for a very tough cycle.

We will know soon enough who is right, and in the meantime, our team at Chism Strategies is doing all we can to help progressive candidates and causes this year.

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