Soaring inflation and gas prices, along with President Joe Biden’s plummeting approval rating, present significant challenges for congressional Democrats trying to avoid a Republican wave in the midterm elections.
Democrats are hoping the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision to overturn Roe. v. Wade will galvanize their party faithful and give them a fighting chance to maintain their congressional power.
“This fall, Roe is on the ballot,” Biden said after last week’s ruling. “Personal freedoms are on the ballot.”
Some Democrats also believe damaging testimony against former President Donald Trump and his efforts to overturn the 2020 election will remind voters of the dangers democracy could face if Republican vote-deniers aren’t defeated.
But Republicans say Americans’ biggest concerns continue to be inflation and rising prices that are ravaging household budgets.
“Runaway inflation has pushed workers and families to the breaking point,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said earlier this month in one of the many Senate floor speeches he’s spent criticizing Biden’s handling of the economy.
A Quinnipiac Poll released this month finds that 59% of Americans believe rising prices in the U.S. is a crisis.
Sixty-eight percent of those surveyed say the price of gas has been a very serious (30%) or somewhat serious (38%) problem for them and their family.
Among registered voters, 58% give President Biden a negative job approval rating.
The sitting president in power historically loses seats in midterm elections and Republicans only need to pick up four seats to retake the U.S. House of Representatives.
The president’s party, on average, has lost an average of 30 House seats in a president’s first midterm election.
So it’s highly unlikely Democrats will hold onto the House, while the U.S. Senate is harder to predict.
During Trump’s first term in 2018, Republicans lost 40 House seats, while in former President Barack Obama’s first term in 2010, Democrats lost 63 seats.
The Cook Political Report currently has 33 House races as “toss-ups,” with a dozen considered a “lean” toward the Democrats and 11 with a “lean” toward Republicans.
Two of the Democratic seats considered tossups are in Virginia — Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-7th, and Rep. Elaine Luria, D-2nd.
While all 435 House seats are up for election, only 34 Senate seats are.
The Senate is 50-50, so the GOP just needs a net pickup of one seat to gain power. But while that may seem easy, the upper chamber is more complicated.
Senators, with their six-year terms and statewide appeal, can sometimes overcome national political headwinds that favor the opposing party.
The key states in play for Senate races are Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
The Pennsylvania Senate race between Democrat John Fetterman and Republican Memhet Oz is expected to be especially tight.
If Republicans retake the Senate, President Biden will have an especially tough time getting judicial nominees approved and his legislative agenda is likely to come to even more of a standstill.
The GOP hopes that will help set it up to retake the White House in 2024.
But Republicans have their own issues to deal with on that front.
Trump is still considering another run, while continuing to lie about the 2020 election and facing possible legal exposure linked to the Jan. 6 insurrection.