I had a good laugh at this Politico story this morning in which centrist Dem Abigail Spanberger drags along a “news” photographer to show her voters before the midterms how much she really, really doesn’t want to defund the police. Spanberger famously chewed out her Democratic colleagues in a conference call after the 2020 election, warning that “defund the police” had nearly cost the party its majority and her a House seat. (She won her race by less than two points.) “We will get f—ing torn apart in 2022” if we double down on that message, she warned them.
Now she’s doing ride-alongs with cops with the media in tow to show just how pro-police she is.
That’s not the funny part, though. The funny part is her thinking it’s going to matter in a national climate as awful for Democrats as this one is. New from Cook Political Report:
This week’s House rating changes pic.twitter.com/eMUEAyjIF8
— Kyle Kondik (@kkondik) April 20, 2022
You know things are grim for the left when “safe Democratic” seats are being put in play. That’s what an expanding map looks like: As swing voters tilt more heavily towards Republicans, even “stretch” districts begin to become competitive.
Spanberger’s a little safer this year than she was in 2020 thanks to redistricting. Her new district broke for Biden by six points in 2020, which in an average year would make her a solid favorite for reelection. Revisit last night’s post about the electoral horror show Dems are facing, though, and you’ll see that at the moment her party is looking at a *nine-point* shift nationally towards the GOP.
Cook currently rates her seat a toss-up. By November I’d bet Republicans are favored there:
NEW @CookPolitical House ratings: after today’s changes, there are 27 Dem-held seats in Toss Up or worse, vs. just 12 GOP-held seats in Toss Up or worse. And, this disparity is certain to widen once FL/NH complete redistricting. https://t.co/mAdCOtLpRZ pic.twitter.com/UJ4qBQh6tg
— Dave Wasserman (@Redistrict) April 20, 2022
“[O]ur main question about the House continues to be not whether Republicans will flip the House — although we would not completely shut the door on Democrats’ retaining control if the political environment improves markedly — but rather how big the Republicans’ eventual majority will be,” writes Kyle Kondik, summarizing Cook’s analysis. And yet, as gruesome as the outlook is for Dems, the realities of redistricting and partisan “self-sorting” across the country over the past decade may limit how many seats the GOP can realistically expect to flip. Kondik guesstimates that they’ll end up picking up 20+, which will be good enough for a solid Republican House majority (figure 235-200 or so) but nowhere near the 63-seat tsunami of 2010.
There are just too many deep, deep blue (and deep, deep red) seats out there at this point for that sort of swing nowadays — in theory. But the worse inflation gets, the more the battlespace will extend to even “safe Dem” districts. Is a 40-seat pick-up a la the Democrats’ blue wave of 2018 still possible? Stay tuned.
Ruy Teixeira has spent the last few months begging his party to veer away from progressive culture wars and back towards “common sense” proposals to try to cut into Republicans’ growing advantage with America’s working class. Last week he published a new post more or less resigning himself to a bloodbath this fall and hoping that the party will at least learn some lessons from it. Biden was elected to restore normalcy, he reminded them, not to bring about transformational economic and cultural change. The president and his handlers got high on their own propaganda supply early in his term about him somehow becoming a new FDR despite having the narrowest possible majority in the Senate and they never quite recovered:
The Democrats could do worse than a return to the basics: we are all about getting the country back to normal. We are leaving covid behind by fully re-opening schools and businesses. We are doing everything we can to tame inflation including mobilizing all our energy resources, from oil and gas to renewables. And we are going to get crime and the border under control with tough but fair policies.
That would be a decent damage minimization approach. But realistically it will be difficult to get the party to speak with one voice on these issues and it is probably a bit late in the cycle for a thorough reset. Democrats may be better off accepting they will take their lumps in 2022 but use the election as a teachable moment.
That teachable moment should be, above all, about re-acquainting the party with the actually-existing demographics and politics of the country they live in. Given patterns of educational and geographical polarization, they are now at a crippling disadvantage in what remains an overwhelmingly working class and non-urban country.
Biden *has* made moves in that direction lately. Reportedly he’s looking to delay the end of Title 42 in order to forestall a border crisis. His administration may or may not appeal the court ruling lifting the transportation mask mandate but they’re not going to seek a stay that would see it reinstated immediately. He just announced plans to open more public land to drilling and his team is moving to shore up struggling nuclear plants financially. And he’s been in “fund the police” mode for awhile now.
Will any of that help? Not a lot, probably. It’s mostly eleventh-hour stuff they’re scrambling to do to try to head off an electoral wipeout. But as Teixeira says, a wipeout might be helpful to them long-term. It’ll shatter their illusions about moving left and drive home like nothing else would that their eroding support among blue-collar people has reached a crisis stage which only a pivot towards the center will ease. Frankly, given how large the Republican majority in the House is apt to be, Biden won’t have a choice except to moderate.