No matter what pundits think campaigns will debate in the fall, something new always pops up. Witness the leak of the reported draft Supreme Court decision on abortion. While most observers knew this was coming, we still don’t know the scope or release date of the final decision.
For campaign strategists, the question is this: How do swing voters respond? And will this become THE issue that moves them one way or the other? Or is it just another in a long list of issues upending the status quo of American life?
What we do know from history is that the president’s party does not fare well in the first midterm election, losing an average of about 26 House seats.
President Joe Biden’s approval rating has gone down as precipitously as gas and food prices have gone up. He is at 41.3% approval, according to Gallup, over six points lower than Barack Obama at the same point in his presidency and nearly on par with Jimmy Carter at this point in his presidency. Meanwhile, two-thirds of people think our country is on the wrong track. While some polls show an uptick in abortion as an issue, voters remain focused on the cost of living, public safety, the economy, and security at the border, not to mention the drums of war pounding overseas, supply chain vulnerabilities, and more. Even baby formula is in short supply.
Having chaired the National Republican Congressional Committee twice, I can tell you that Democrats are facing a bleak Election Day. They seem to agree — 33 House Democrats are not pursuing reelection, the most since 1992.
The analogy between 2010 and 2022 is strong, but it’s not perfect. After picking up 13 seats in the last election, Republicans start closer to the majority this time, with 208 seats (plus five GOP vacancies). Going into 2010, they held just 178 seats. Also, redistricting has shrunk the traditional battleground to about 31 seats this cycle.
Yet many signs, most notably Biden’s unpopularity, still point to significant GOP gains. More migrants are crossing the southern border than at any time in 22 years. Inflation is the worst it’s been in 40 years, and gas costs more than it ever has.
It’s easy to see why voters want to send a message to Washington by putting House Republicans in charge. America is tired of the Biden administration’s liberal agenda that is raising the cost of living. Republicans this summer will unveil a comprehensive set of solutions to ramp up domestic energy production to lower gas prices, slow down inflation by rejecting reckless spending, and secure America’s border.
Biden has countered criticism by claiming that the pandemic and Russia’s invasion are mostly responsible for what is happening with inflation and gasoline. Voters don’t care whether it’s Biden or Putin — they just know they’re worse off now than they were two years ago. They think the Biden administration has aggravated, not solved, the problems it has encountered. Voters are reminded of this every time they fill up their gas tanks, pay their bills, and buy their groceries.
Before House Democrats rammed through the administration’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 spending plan last year, a former Obama administration economist warned that it could trigger an avalanche of inflation. Despite administration denials, it turns out he was right.
Record gas prices are a similar story of Democrats making a challenging situation worse. The administration can call it “Putin’s price hike,” and liberals can scapegoat energy companies, but Biden made life harder on U.S. energy producers and then begged foreign countries to increase their production of oil. That all happened before the war in Ukraine.
As the former chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, I know that Republicans’ approach to energy — rolling back burdensome regulations and unleashing innovation — lowers costs and global emissions. Democrats’ approach raises both while funding our geopolitical rivals.
Voters are tired of Biden pushing an agenda that has surged inflation and energy prices, reminding many of the Jimmy Carter years. None of that was supposedly his fault until it was, and voters soundly rejected his reelection bid in 1980.
Biden’s name isn’t on the ballot, but the result this fall could be similar to 2010 — when voters punished House Democrats for the Obama administration’s policies. Biden’s unpopularity is increasing the chances a Republican House majority could prevent his liberal administration from doing even more harm to the economy and our security. And for voters whose paychecks are struggling to keep up with the rising costs of nearly everything, Nov. 8 cannot arrive soon enough.
Former congressman Greg Walden represented the people of Oregon’s Second Congressional District from 1999 to 2021. His colleagues twice elected him to lead the National Republican Congressional Committee, the national campaign arm of the U.S. House GOP. Under his leadership, House Republicans attained their largest back-to-back majorities in history.