(The hill) — Republican concerns about a midterm rout are growing heading into the critical post-Labor Day campaign season, with analysts who previously predicted huge GOP gains shifting their predictions to the Democrats.
Rick Tyler, a Republican strategist and analyst, said the environment doesn’t look “even close” to a red wave election year.
“The enthusiasm just isn’t there,” Tyler said. “The last time Republicans had a good year, they were six points ahead in the general poll. We are now only two points ahead. So it’s definitely not going to happen.”
RealClearPolitics average values polls measuring whether voters would prefer Republicans or Democrats to control Congress show the GOP slipping from a 4.8-point advantage in late April to less than a point as of Friday. Around this time in 2010, when Republicans saw historic gains in Congress, general polls showed a four- to six-point lead for the GOP.
The result of Tuesday’s special election underscores the narrowing polls. New York’s 19th Congressional District — which includes suburban areas and went for former President Trump in 2016 but for President Biden in 2020 — is representative of the kind of battleground districts Republicans hope to flip in the whole country.
But while Republican Mark Molinaro stuck to the party’s positions on inflation and the economy, topics Republicans have repeatedly said are top of mind for voters, Democrat Pat Ryan narrowly won the seat after focusing heavily on abortion rights after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade earlier this summer.
Former Republican Senator Rick Santorum (Pennsylvania) said Newsmax Thursday that after the special election, “Republicans need to start paying attention.”
“The problem is that Republicans have to pick up to win Congress is in districts like this,” Santorum said. “If you look at the national polls, if you look at a lot of these races like in my home state of Pennsylvania — if it’s a red wave year, the polls don’t show it right now.”
democrats celebrating the victory in New York also point to the recent special house elections in Minnesota and Nebraska as evidence of enthusiasm. Candidates there bucked historical trends in GOP-leaning districts, though they ultimately lost those races.
And after the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Dobbs case and the January 6 controversy surrounding Trump and the FBI’s seizure of classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago mansion, Democrats have sought to highlight the Republican negatives rather than turn the election into a referendum on Biden or democratic leadership.
“MAGA Republicans hope voters will ignore their dangerous extremism, but NY-19 shows us that voters will reject their ultimate agenda,” Democratic National Campaign Committee spokesman Tommy Garcia said in a statement.
Top Republicans have already begun to temper their expectations of taking back the evenly divided Senate as GOP nominees who were endorsed by Trump show signs of difficulty.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said last week that the House was more likely to transfer control than the Senate, citing the “quality of the nominees.”
Tyler blamed Trump for the changing dynamic.
“Donald Trump turned this campaign from a referendum on Joe Biden, inflation, high food prices, high gas prices and affordable housing into a referendum on him,” he said.
The weaknesses of the GOP candidates along with the results of recent elections have led the election analysts at Sabato’s Crystal Ball to University of Virginia Center for Politics and on Prepare a political report to shift several predictions for key midterm congressional races against Democrats. Cook revised his projected GOP gain in the House from 15-30 seats to 10-20 seats, as well as his forecast for the Senate, which Republicans have a toss-up advantage.
That marks a sharp contrast from nine months ago, when House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) provided for that 2022 could be an even bigger Republican wave than 2010, when Republicans won a staggering 63 seats.
Republicans have since warned House members not to draw curtains early and that the election will be tough, but GOP lawmakers are still largely operating on the assumption that they will win control of the chamber.
A loss in the Senate and only a slim GOP majority in the House would “cause the media to say, ‘You know, it was a split decision,'” Tyler said. “No mandate, no red wave, no rejection of Biden’s policies. This is a disaster for the Republican Party.
Other GOP operatives downplayed those fears, saying the New York special election was an emergency, compounded by high Democratic turnout in the same-day primary, and noting there were still months before the midterms. elections.
“Anyone who thought retaking the majority was going to be easy should brace themselves,” National Republican Congressional Committee communications director Michael McAdams said in a statement. “Majorities are won in November, not August, and we look forward to making the case against the failed one-party rule of the Democrats.”
Sarah Chamberlain, president and CEO of the Republican Main Street Partnership, cautioned against looking at New York’s special election as an indication of what might happen in November. Many voters didn’t even know the election was happening, she said, or were on vacation.
“I wouldn’t mark it yet. We’ll wait and see and do more studies, but I think things are fine,” Chamberlain said.
Republicans have outperformed expectations before. Although Democrats have more than a six-point lead on general bulletin in 2020, Republicans gained seats in the House of Representatives and pushed Democrats into their weakest lower house majority in a century.
Democrats are also spending millions to defend seats instead of being offensive in the House map, a GOP strategist noted, with a record number of House Democrats retiring rather than running for re-election this year, helping GOP party to expand its acquisition capabilities.
Kyle Condick, managing editor at Sabato’s Crystal Ball, said weaknesses in GOP Senate and gubernatorial candidates, as well as many Republicans’ anti-abortion stance, have given Democrats an opportunity to “make the election more of a choice than a referendum.” . But he cautioned against a complete reassessment of the midterm environment before Labor Day and that Republicans could still flip both chambers even if they fall short of “red wave” expectations.
“It’s possible that the Democrats’ addition of more college-educated voters at the expense of losing more non-college-educated voters skewed some of these special elections because the college cohort is a more reliable voting block,” Kondick said. “However, if the GOP had a lot of enthusiasm over the Democrats — and if it was bringing a lot of lapsed GOP voters back into the fold — one would think they’d be doing better than they are.”