I knew the media were finally, reluctantly and somewhat sadly coming to grips with the reality that Republicans will win the House, and possibly the Senate, when I saw this front-page New York Times piece:
“For President Biden, the Dreaming-of-F.D.R. phase of his presidency may end in little more than a week. If Republicans capture one or both houses of Congress in midterm elections, as polling suggests, Mr. Biden’s domestic agenda will suddenly transform from a quest for a New Deal 2.0 to trench warfare defending the accomplishments of his first two years in office.”
The “if” is a formality. You don’t publish that story unless you think the Republicans are a lock to take over the House; the only question is by how many seats.
What’s more, “Biden and the Democrats are privately… pessimistic and bracing for two years of grinding partisan conflict.” That’s a pretty clear media signal. So is Axios running a “Red Tsunami Watch.”
In its poll with Siena College, the Times found Arizona Sen. Mark Kelly with a six-point lead over Blake Masters (though the Libertarian candidate just dropped out and endorsed Masters). Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto is tied with Republican Adam Laxalt at 47%. Herschel Walker, who’s endured an avalanche of negative coverage – and the second abortion accuser went on camera yesterday with “Good Morning America” – is trailing Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock by just 2 points, a statistical tie.
And in Pennsylvania, the poll gives John Fetterman a 5-point lead over Mehmet Oz, but most of the survey was taken before the disastrous debate. The paper notes that Fetterman was still ahead on the one day of post-debate polling, but I’d be surprised if Oz isn’t ahead in the next poll.
The Times followed up yesterday with governor’s races in those states. While hard-right Doug Mastriano has never gotten traction and trails Josh Shapiro in Pennsylvania by double digits, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp is ahead of Stacey Abrams by 5 points (other polls give him a larger lead).
In Nevada, Republican sheriff Joe Lombardo has a 4-point lead over Gov. Steve Sisolek. And in Arizona, Kari Lake and Democrat Katie Hobbs are tied at 48 percent.
But Lake is widely expected to win – Hobbs is refusing to debate her – and she’s a classic example of media myopia. Arizona’s Democratic Party meddled in her primary by taking a whack at her opponent on the theory that she was such an extremist she’d be an easy mark in the general election. Now the Times is describing her as “a telegenic former local news anchor with a missionary zeal to promote her agenda.” And some conservatives are talking her up as Donald Trump’s running mate for 2024.
Lake has embraced the Trump argument that the last election was stolen. She wants to ban abortion with no exceptions. She loves to slam the media as hopelessly biased. She made a joke about the seriously injured Paul Pelosi the other day and the audience laughed.
Yet she has a reservoir of trust from 25 years as a Phoenix anchor, and that is why the media that were so quick to write her off badly underestimated her.
Needless to say, gubernatorial contests are especially important this year because of abortion and because their secretaries of state, some of whom are election deniers, including in Arizona, can challenge the 2024 outcome.
For the media to mock and minimize the likes of Lake, Masters and Walker, all of whom may win, was a monumental blunder of the first magnitude.
The earlier Times report on Biden’s agenda also mentions the prospect of multiple GOP investigations – which the White House must be bracing for. Remember that simply by controlling the House, Kevin McCarthy’s lieutenants will chair committees, issue subpoenas and launch endless probes. Hillary Clinton and Benghazi comes to mind.
As Matthew Continetti writes in National Review:
“The Republican Congress will fight with the president over spending, immigration, the IRS, aid to Ukraine, and the debt ceiling. And it will open investigations into Biden’s personal and professional life. Divided government in a polarized America doesn’t simply halt a president’s legislative agenda. It saps energy out of the executive branch by forcing the White House into a defensive crouch.”
Continetti recalls that every president from Ronald Reagan to Donald Trump has been aggressively investigated by an opposition Congress. He concludes: “The job of president has been hard for Joe Biden. It’s about to get a lot worse.”
One of the weird things about this final stretch before next Tuesday’s midterms, in addition to Biden’s low-key presence, is that Democrats are assigning blame in advance – adding, of course, to the party’s gloom. Predictions about the Senate don’t make much sense because in off-year elections, turnout is everything.
But it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that, with the shot clock winding down, these midterms are breaking in the Republicans’ direction.