To avoid the worst-case scenario in November, Democrats must defy one of the most powerful trends shaping modern congressional elections. Recent polls have provided them a glimmer of optimism that they might do just that.
That trend is the tightening correlation between voters’ attitudes toward a president and their support for US House, Senate and even gubernatorial candidates from his party. With President Joe Biden’s approval ratings falling to the lowest levels of his presidency, that traditional pattern threatens Democrats with sweeping losses in November’s midterm elections.
But even as Biden has continued to sink, other Democrats running this year have stabilized or improved their positions in a spate of recent polls, both in several major Senate races and in measures of which party voters say they intend to support for the House of Representatives.
The question is whether this “decoupling,” as many political professionals call it, is a temporary blip in public opinion — or a reflection of enduring public doubts about the Donald Trump-era GOP that may override the typical reflex of voters unhappy with the president to vote for the other party.
“The fundamental question is: have forces been unleashed in the electorate that are more powerful than disappointment in Joe Biden?” says Simon Rosenberg, president of NDN, a Democratic research and advocacy group. “I would argue they have. Opposition to MAGA [the Trump movement] has been the driving force in the last two elections and it is likely to be the driving force in this one as well.”
Still, no one underestimates how sharp a break from recent history it will represent if Democrats en masse can escape the undertow of Biden’s sinking approval ratings. “It’s hard to fight history,” says Republican consultant Matt Gorman, who served as communications director for the National Republican Congressional Committee during the 2018 election, when a wave of discontent with Trump cost House Republicans dozens of seats. “It’s extremely hard.” [Continue reading…]