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Why Republicans are struggling to win back the Senate
It's not some magical occurrence nor a mysterious coincidence that they have weak candidates. It's because of the MAGA movement, pure and simple.
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This is a good news story, and one that points to the fallacies of conventional wisdom in politics and the bubble that Washington, DC political reporters are in.
All we’ve heard for many months is that the party in power after a presidential election always loses seats in the mid-terms, and often loses control of Congress. In both the House and the Senate, we’ve been told, Democrats face a terrible challenge in 2022. Add in inflation and gas prices, and, Beltway pundits told us, we’re looking at a complete and total wipeout.
That is the conventional wisdom. But there is nothing conventional about the times we are living in.
No matter, the pundits and political reporters say, abortion (after a right was stripped away by the Trump-stacked Supreme Court), isn’t going to be an issue. Neither is gun violence. Or January 6th. Or overall MAGA extremism, stripping LGBTQ rights, banning books and stopping teaching about racism in schools. Why? Because, well, the convention wisdom says it can’t be— that’s why. It’s a ridiculous argument — but they’ve stuck to it.
Many of us have argued otherwise. But once the media has a narrative it’s hard to break it. And in the House, with gerrymandering by the GOP so firmly in place, coupled with voter suppression and the narrow Democratic hold right now, it’s easy for them to stick to that narrative no matter how many signs of hope we might see.
But in the Senate, and in races for governor in the states, it’s become all too clear that something else is happening, as polls four months out from the election show Republicans struggling. So they’ve had to admit the narrative isn’t holding, but they’ve decided the reason is the GOP just has a lot of weak candidates — with the implication being it’s just a coincidence, just by chance. But in fact, the weak candidates are a direct result of the MAGA movement and Democrats running on that fear, and sounding the alarm. There’s nothing coincidental about it.
So here is the good news from the Washington Post today, the kind of news that should be taken cautiously but should embolden everyone to keep fighting hard and getting out the vote:
Not for decades has the midterm environment appeared as favorable to Republicans, with President Biden’s approval rating at 39 percent, according to a Washington Post polling average in June and the share of voters approving of the country’s direction dropping to 10 percent in a Monmouth poll late last month. But four months from Election Day, Republicans are struggling in several of the marquee Senate races because of candidate challenges and campaigns still recovering from brutal Republican primaries, putting control of the upper chamber of Congress in 2023 up for grabs….
…[B]ehind the scenes, Republican operatives are growing increasingly nervous. One GOP strategist watching the Senate race closely, who like others interviewed for this article requested anonymity to speak more openly about internal deliberations, said that “there are massive problems on the candidate front.”
The article points to Dr. Oz in Pennsylvania, Hershel Walker in Georgia, J.D. Vance in Ohio, incumbent Senator Ron Johnson in Wisconsin and others as making the GOP leadership very concerned, as events from their pasts and their extremist statements of the present — and their bad poll numbers — show the GOP is in trouble if it wants to seize control of the Senate.
And in governors’ races it’s happening too:
Democrats are also ahead in gubernatorial polling averages for Nevada, Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. Internal party polling has found Democratic incumbents in some gubernatorial races polling double digits ahead of Biden on both job approval and favorability.
All of this is posed at first as some kind of mystery:
For now, there is limited independent polling, but at least for the moment, Democrats in these key statewide contests appear to be outpacing the historical norms. In the 2014 midterms, no Senate candidate performed more than nine points better than then-President Barack Obama’s approval rating in exit polls, a pattern that would doom the party with Biden polling at or below 40 percent.
But then the Post, to its credit, quotes Democratic strategist Simon Rosenberg:
“The question is, are there forces in the election more powerful than the disappointment in Biden?” asked Simon Rosenberg, a Democratic strategist. “The answer is yes, and that is opposition and fear for MAGA, which is the thing that has driven the last two elections.”
The Post doesn’t, however, explain why the GOP has these candidates that are scaring the daylights out of people and driving them to vote, still making it seem like it just happened by chance.
But of course, we all know that these candidates are a product of the MAGA movement — and Trump. Walker, Oz and Vance were recruited or backed by Trump, who endorsed them and rallied for them, even as Republicans in leadership weren’t keen on the idea.
Doug Mastriano, the Big Lie-promoting Republican Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate, was among those who stormed the Capitol on January 6th, and won the primary by supporting Trump, the insurrection and the false claims of voter fraud. He’s an ardent Christian nationalist. Sen. Ron Johnson has been pushing Covid denialism and has been implicated in the scheme to send fake electors to the Electoral College.
All of these candidates heralded the fall of Roe, attacked mask and vaccine mandates, and want to flood the country with more guns in the midst of an epidemic of gun violence. They are not weak candidates by coincidence. They are weak candidates because they are extremists who were embraced by the base of the GOP but are frightening to many other voters.
And that underscores why Democrats must cut through the media noise and stick to the issues driving voters to the polls. It’s about our rights, our safety and and the future of democracy. And that’s what they must run on.