The midterm battle lines are coming into focus


Six months out from the midterm elections, the bets the two parties are making about what will swing the outcome have become clearer in recent days – and they couldn’t be more different.

After sagging in the polls and struggling to find a message for months, Democrats think they have finally found a way to reverse their fortunes, in the form of a leaked draft opinion from the Supreme Court.

Even before the high court releases its final ruling on the future of Roe v. Wade, Democrats have seized on the abortion issue, hoping it will not only galvanize their depressed base, but also allow them to make up lost ground with independents, particularly women.

In a similar vein, Democrats, extending all the way to President Joe Biden, are also attempting to shift voters’ focus to the Republicans, casting the “ultra-MAGA agenda” – abortion included – as “extreme.”

For this newfound strategy to be successful, though, Democrats will need to overcome two daunting forces:

1) The first midterm election of a president’s term is almost always treacherous for the party in power, and so far there’s been little reason to think 2022 will be much different for Biden’s party.

2) Voters’ perceptions of the economy – and Biden’s handling of it – are only getting worse.

A new CNN poll found that just 34% of Americans approved of the way Biden is handling the economy, while 66% disapproved – his lowest rating on the issue of his presidency. The survey also showed that 77% of Americans rated economic conditions in the US as “poor,” while just 23% rated them as “good” – the public’s most negative views of the economy in roughly a decade.

And half of Americans said in the poll that the economy was the most important issue facing the country (which was conducted before the news of the Supreme Court draft opinion).

That’s where the GOP’s bet comes in. The party’s leaders have largely ignored the substance of the draft opinion, focusing instead on the leak itself, a sign that they see the abortion issue as a losing one. After all, polls have consistently shown a majority of Americans do not favor overturning Roe v. Wade.

Rather, Republicans are continuing to hammer Democrats on issues that have been top of mind for a wide swath of the public for months: inflation and the rising costs of gas and other goods. Republicans are confident that focusing on economic issues that directly affect Americans’ daily lives will be more salient to an already fired-up GOP base, as well as independents.

The Point: The economy – inflation specifically – and abortion are emerging as the two dominant issues of the midterm elections. Which issue is a more motivating one for swing voters come November will go a long way in determining if Democrats are still on the path to an electoral wipeout – or whether they can at the very least stem their losses.

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