Dem strategist: Our party better brace for a wipeout in 2022 midterms

AP Photo/Evan Vucci

Failure has its consequences, and disgraces eventually generate accountability. Those are the unspoken lessons in this analysis from a Democratic strategist quoted by Newsweek yesterday, who predicts a Republican sweep in the midterms if Joe Biden can’t correct his collapse in public support. The 2022 midterms were always going to be fraught for Democrats, but this unnamed analyst sees a collapse ahead:

According to FiveThirtyEight, Biden’s approval rating sits at 45%, with 49% disapproving. Those numbers closely mirror Bill Clinton’s at the same point in his presidency, and are worse than Obama’s numbers in 2009.

Why does that matter?

Because Clinton lost 54 House seats and Obama lost 63.

One Democratic strategist explained to Newsweek that the party has no margin for error because of their razor-thin majority in the House — just eight seats.

The strategist described the party as “competitive” in the midterm elections if Biden is at 51% approval, headed for a good outcome if he stands at 53%, but poised to lose the House and Senate if he’s at 49% or below.

“Swing districts are three to four points more Republican than national polling,” the source said. “If Biden is down five to six points in swing districts, that’s how Democrats lose 30, 40 or 50 seats.”

The strategist predicts that Democrats will lose the Senate as well under these conditions, even with their numeric advantage in the 2022 cycle. Republicans have to defend more seats, but Democrats are more vulnerable, especially if swing districts end up swinging back to the GOP. Raphael Warnock will have to run again in Georgia too, in what looks like an uphill battle to hold onto a red-state seat after a fluke win in the special election several months ago.

The situation may be more dire than this strategist allows. Allahpundit mentions this YouGov poll briefly yesterday, but it’s worth a closer look. In it, Biden’s approval has plunged below the 40% mark, 39/49, with disapproval at its highest level in the series. Biden only gets 35% approval among independents, a level to which neither Obama nor Clinton plumbed in the run-up to their first midterms. The damage continues on issue polling too, where it’s the economy, stupid — and more:

Along with the overall drop in Biden’s approval ratings, a falling share of Americans approve of the president’s handling of specific issues. For the first time, a greater share of Americans disapprove (45%) of Biden’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic than approve (42%). This week, just 40% approve of the president’s handling of jobs and the economy, while 47% disapprove. In previous weeks, more usually have approved than have disapproved.

Only 16% of American adults now think the economy is improving, while nearly three times as many, 44%, say it is getting worse. Another 27% say the economy is about the same. At the beginning of the Biden presidency, just as great a share of Americans as today said the economy was worsening (44% in the Jan. 30-Feb. 2 poll), but that changed quickly. In May and for part of June, more people said the economy was improving than worsening. No longer.

Democrats remain somewhat positive about the economy: 33% say the economy is getting better while 22% think it is getting worse—but two-thirds of Republicans (66%) and nearly half of Independents (48%) think the economy is getting worse. The growing concern about inflation, not unemployment, may be exacerbating this. While those who think the economy is getting better — or not changing – are as likely to assign responsibility to Trump (37%) as to Biden (39%), nearly two-thirds of those who say it is getting worse (62%) place the blame on Biden.

It turns out that Americans don’t believe Biden when he says that inflation is only temporary. Even if inflation manages to cool off, its impact is cumulative. The lost buying power will remain lost unless we undergo a period of deflation, which would be disastrous. Thanks to inflation, Biden can’t even cite wage gains with any honesty as an improvement, and those will likely be more temporary than inflation anyway as pandemic-related government interventions in the jobs market fade out.

This, however, is the killer trend not just for Biden but for all Democrats:

That trend had already begun to accelerate even before Biden’s disgrace in Afghanistan. It’s picking up steam now post-retreat, and that may continue as long as Americans, green-card holders, and our Afghan partners remain stuck in Afghanistan. Even if that effect recedes — and it shouldn’t — a return to the Aug 1 position doesn’t do much to help Biden or Democrats.

The question is whether Biden can rebound from these setbacks. Democrats can certainly point to both Clinton and Obama to argue that presidents can change polling and the political landscape. To paraphrase Lloyd Bentsen, however, I’ve seen Obama and Clinton, and Joe Biden is no Barack or Bill, either as a politician or as a man. He’s never been anything more than an incompetent blusterer with good media coverage. Now that Biden’s incompetence and pompous, defensive blustering has been exposed, it will be veeeeerrrrry difficult to put that genie back in the bottle again.

Newsweek has already noted that Biden has a 45/49 in the RCP aggregate, but let’s look at their average for right/wrong direction over the past two years. The gap now is slightly wider than it was just before the 2020 presidential election. That doesn’t offer any comforting portents to Democrats, who deserve all of the effects they get for foisting an old and incompetent boob as their presidential nominee.