By Dave Andrusko
The last few days have produced stories that have the potential to change the fundamentals of what we expect come November 8th, the mid-year elections.
Ruy Teixeira offers multiple insights, the common denominator of which is that Democrats are counting on abortion to rescue them from the simple fact that they are wildly out of step with the American public on many issues. They also are counting on the citizenry to ignore the abysmal record of President Joe Biden. (The latest Reuters/Ipsos survey has his approval rating at 39%.)
But, in fact, as Teixeira writes,
The idea that Democrats can just turn up the volume on, say, abortion and select economic issues and ignore sociocultural issues where they are viewed as out of the mainstream is absurd. Culture matters and the issues to which they are connected matter. They are a hugely important part of how voters assess who is on their side and who is not; whose philosophy they can identify with and whose they can’t.
Indeed, pro-abortion Democrats are counting on a tidal wave of opposition to the Dobbs decision that overturned Roe v. Wade, and not exclusively from women.
But has the air already gone out of that balloon? Writing for Axios Stef W. Kight and Jacque Schrag observe
Americans’ Google searches and story interactions around crime and immigration are eclipsing abortion and the FBI search of Mar-a- Lago, according to the Axios midterms dashboard powered by Google Trends, as well as new data from NewsWhip.
Why it matters: With elections seven weeks away, some topics more likely to favor Democrats have been losing ground to those that may favor Republicans.
The big picture: Democrats have been laser focused on abortion as a winning issue, but the new data shows a waning interest nationally after the initial surge that followed the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade. It remains high in some states and districts, including Indiana, which passed a near total ban last month.
Going hand in hand with the belief that abortion will be a winning issue for Democrat is the conviction that there will be a surge of voting for Democrats. But that argument is on shaky grounds as well.
Writing in the Washington Post under the headline “This little-known election predictor should worry Democrats” David Byler observes
According to pollster John Couvillon, 52 percent of 2022 primary voters cast ballots in GOP races, while 48 percent voted in Democratic races. That’s a good sign for Republicans. High primary turnout signals enthusiasm for the general election — and the party with the stronger primary turnout typically does better in the midterms.
We don’t yet know whether this pattern will repeat in November. But a thorough examination of the data shows that Republicans do have a primary turnout advantage — even considering Dobbs and the other complexities of this election cycle.
Looking back further, Byler writes
Measured by total votes, the GOP is the strongest it has been in five midterm elections.
In 2010 and 2014 — the last two midterm cycles in which Republicans enjoyed a turnout advantage — voter interest was low and Republicans won by out-mobilizing Democrats. This year appears to be different: Voter interest is high among all voters and Republicans have a primary turnout edge.
The GOP surge is broad-based: In 33 of the states that Couvillon tracked, Republicans added votes to their 2018 totals. Democrats increased their vote total in only 16 states.
And Republicans saw their largest net gains in populous, closely fought purple states. Seven of the 10 states where they gained the most votes feature a competitive Senate or gubernatorial race this year.
Nothing that has happened in the last several months changes this underlying and uncomfortable fact: Democrats have failed to develop a party brand capable of unifying a dominant majority of Americans behind their political project. Indeed, the current Democratic brand suffers from multiple deficiencies that make it somewhere between uncompelling and toxic to wide swathes of American voters who might potentially be their allies. And those swathes are very, very important. Without better performance there, Democrats’ hold on power will be ever tenuous, as will be their ability to implement their agenda at scale.