Things seem to be looking up for Democratic Senate candidates.
Just a few months ago, Republicans were widely considered the favorites to take control of the Senate after the crucial midterm elections in the United States in November. Given the current 50-50 split, Republicans need only flip one seat to regain a majority in the upper house.
But now the appointment of several controversial Republican candidates and a recent string of Democratic legislative victories have caused many election forecasters to reconsider their predictions. Democrats appear better positioned to retain the Senate now than at any other time in this election cycle, although experts caution the outlook could still change significantly before November.
The Democrats enjoy a favorable senatorial map this year, as they are not defending any seats in the states carried by Donald Trump in 2020.
The Democratic outlook was also helped by Republicans’ inability to recruit top candidates in several states, including incumbent Governors Doug Ducey of Arizona and Chris Sununu of New Hampshire. Instead, vulnerable Republicans have been able to secure nominations in a number of key battleground states, often with the help of Trump’s endorsement.
In Georgia, former professional soccer player Herschel Walker caused a scandal for not acknowledging the existence of two secret children and abusing his ex-wife. Walker admitted to the abuse, saying he suffered from mental illness at the time.
In Pennsylvania, famed physician Mehmet Oz has alienated voters due to his questionable past health claims and longtime residency in New Jersey before deciding to run for office.
In Ohio, author JD Vance struggled to find a foothold, recently criticized because his now-shuttered nonprofit dedicated to opioid addiction promoted the work of a doctor with ties to the pharmaceutical industry.
While Republican candidates stumbled, Democrats enjoyed a wave of victories on Capitol Hill.
Last week, Biden signed the Cut Inflation Act, a sweeping spending package that includes hundreds of billions of dollars in investments aimed at reducing the country’s global warming emissions and cutting costs. health of Americans.
The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v Wade, ending the federal right to abortion access, also appears to be driving voters to the polls. On Tuesday, Democrat Pat Ryan won a hotly contested special congressional race in New York after leading a campaign focused on protecting abortion rights.
Republican Senate candidates have indicated that abortion rights could be a weakness for them in the November election. Blake Masters, who is running against Democratic Senator Mark Kelly in Arizona, changed its campaign website this week to remove some terms expressing support for tough restrictions on abortion.
All of these developments seem to resonate in several key Senate races. According FiveThirtyEightDemocrats advanced slightly in Ohio and Georgia, while party candidates in Pennsylvania and Arizona opened larger leads of eight to nine points.
“Retirements, recruiting failures, and vicious primaries — coupled with Trump endorsements — have left Republicans with a flawed and deeply damaged slate of candidates, while Democrats field strong, proven incumbents and challengers who are backed by their own unique coalition of voters,” Christie Roberts, executive director of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, said in A memo late last month.
Even senior Republicans have acknowledged that the tide has turned against them in the battle for the Senate. Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell said Monday the party’s chances of regaining control of the chamber were “50-50.”
“We have a 50-50 Senate right now. We have a 50-50 nation,” McConnell said at a business lunch in Kentucky. “And I think the result will probably be very, very close anyway.”
Election forecasters have also noticed this change in momentum. FiveThirtyEight’s forecast model now indicates that Democrats are slightly favored to keep control of the Senate, while the Cook Political Report updated his Senate prediction at “toss-up” last week.
“I would have said, before the primaries started in earnest in early May, Republicans had at least a 60 percent chance of overthrowing control of the Senate,” said Jessica Taylor, Cook’s Senate and Governors’ editor. “We see it now as a pure toss-up, and I can see anywhere between Democrats taking one seat and Republicans taking three.”
The Democrats do not dismiss this new advantage, but rather emphasize the weaknesses of their opponents. An anti-Trump group ran an ad featuring Walker’s ex-wife, Cindy Grossman, describing how he once held a gun to her head and threatened to kill her.
The Ohio Democratic Party purchased the derelict website of Vance’s defunct nonprofit, adding a salutation to the homepage reading, “This site no longer exists because JD Vance is a fraud .”
Democrat John Fetterman in Pennsylvania has made increasingly humorous efforts to troll his opponent. At one point, Fetterman’s campaign circulated a petition calling for Oz’s induction into the New Jersey Hall of Fame. Fetterman even went so far as to enlist the help of celebrities like Nicole “Snooki” Polizzifrom the Jersey Shore reality show, to filmed commercials encouraging Oz to return home to New Jersey.
Democratic Senate candidates have also enjoyed a cash benefit in recent months. The DSCC reported a $10 million transportation in July, marking the fourth consecutive month that the group has surpassed its counterpart, the Republican National Senate Committee. The NRSC recently cut advertising purchases in three battleground states, prompting questions about possible financial hardship, though the committee fiercely pushed back on that speculation.
“We have invested in building our grassroots fundraising program, which has paid off this cycle and will benefit the NRSC and the party as a whole for cycles to come,” Chris Hartline, communications director, said Monday. of the NRSC. “We work closely with each of our campaigns and will continue to do so.”
But even if the Democrats manage to keep control of the Senate, the Republicans are still favored take over the House, in part because of their success in redistricting. If Congress is split after the midterms, Democrats will face serious obstacles in trying to advance their legislative agenda.
“In this scenario, I expect [House] Republicans are going too far week after week, passing one form of extreme legislation after another when they are not trying to investigate the Biden administration. This is all going to die a quick and painful death in the Senate,” said Jim Manley, who served as senior adviser to late Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid.
While it may be difficult to pass bills, a Democratic majority in the Senate could still reap significant rewards for Biden, particularly when it comes to presidential nominations. If another Supreme Court seat opens up by 2024, a Democratic Senate would help Biden add another liberal justice to the bench.
“While there may not be much chance of legislating because the House will be dominated by extremists, that doesn’t mean nothing can be done,” Manley said. “Maybe there will be a chance or two to try to work on a bipartisan basis after some negotiation, but I think the Senate would spend most of its time in such a scenario confirming judicial nominees. “
Although things are looking up now for Democrats, pundits warn that November is still a political eternity away and Republicans have historical leanings working in their favor. The president’s party typically loses seats in midterm elections, and Biden’s approval rating is now underwater for about a yearwhich might be enough for Republicans to overthrow the Senate.
“Although things are looking up for Democrats, it could go backwards. It could just be an echo on the radar. I wouldn’t be shocked if it does and we sort of go back to a midterm stasis, where the out-of-power party has the momentum,” Taylor said. “But even if Democrats can cut some, that could mean keeping the Senate.”