Democrats fear midterm breakdowns as party leaders rush to defend blue seats

Democrats fear midterm breakdowns as party leaders rush to defend blue seats


Democrats across the country scrambled Thursday to endorse candidates in seats President Biden has safely carried in 2020, the latest sign of panic that they could face heavy losses next week mid-term elections.

Vice President Harris and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton held a joint rally in an effort to save New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D), who faces a tough race in a state Republicans haven’t won in two decades. Biden traveled to New Mexico and Southern California to shore up vulnerable Democratic leaders — bypassing Arizona and Nevada, where officials fear he could be a drag on senators in tight races. Biden and Harris plan to spend part of the weekend in Illinois, boosting suburban candidates in the suburbs that are returning Republicans from 2020.

As Republicans have focused on inflation and crime to launch attacks on Democratic territory over the past month — contesting traditionally blue districts in California, Oregon, New York, Illinois and elsewhere — there is a growing sense among Democrats that there is little they can do in this a fighting point against the combined forces of history and economics.

“There is a general malaise hanging over the country,” said Joel Payne, a Democratic strategist. “What you see is an angry electorate that keeps throwing out the people in charge. They did it in 2016. They did it in 2018. They did it in 2020. And, if things are the way they seem, they’ll probably do it again in 2022.”

Although many Democrats privately believed for months that Republicans were likely to take the House, they have expressed growing fears in recent days that voters could give the GOP a substantial majority — a result that would be a major setback for the party in power. In some cases, the party appears to be ceding seats it previously contested, a reduction that strategists worry could signal a “red wave” of sweeping Republican victories in traditionally Democratic terrain.

While the battle for control of the Senate remains hotly contested — with both parties investing millions of dollars in several states that will determine whether Democrats retain, or even add to, their slim majority — in the House of Representatives, the debate has shifted to predicting how the new Republican majority will will be big. Democrats now hold 220 seats in the House and need 218 to retain control.

A Democratic strategist from one chamber said that if Democrats take 200 to 205 seats, they’ll call it a good night. If the party ends up with 190 seats or fewer — a 30-seat loss that would require several districts that Biden would carry in double digits — that would reflect a major red wave, said the strategist, who spoke on condition of anonymity. discuss internal considerations.

Biden’s allies are preparing to turn even a loss into a victory for the president, as President Barack Obama lost 63 seats in 2010 and President Donald Trump 40 in 2018, and Biden is not expected to lose that many. But because Biden began his presidency with a much smaller majority than his predecessors, even modest losses could leave Democrats with fewer seats than the 193 they held in 2011.

The party continued to express confidence in holding the Senate, where elections are historically less dependent on the national political environment than House races. Still, many of the competitive contests have tightened in recent days as Republican candidates have repeatedly linked their opponents to Biden, who faces stubbornly low approval ratings.

The White House announced Thursday that first lady Jill Biden will travel to Arizona, where Sen. Mark Kelly (D) faces a tough challenge from Republican Blake Masters. In recent days, she traveled to Rhode Island and New Hampshire to appear alongside Democratic candidates in districts her husband carried in 2020. Some candidates preferred to campaign alongside the first lady, though they avoided public appearances with her husband.

The president avoided campaigning in Arizona, where his approval rating is in the water. Kelly kept him at arm’s length as he fought off Masters’ charge that he was too close to Biden.

Biden and Obama plan to appear together in Pennsylvania on Saturday in an effort to boost Senate candidate John Fetterman, whose recovery from a stroke in May has become a central issue in the race. Republicans claimed their candidate, Mehmet Oz, is the favorite in that race after last month’s debate in which Fetterman slurred his words and struggled with the question-and-answer format. They poured money into the state, running ads highlighting Fetterman’s debate.

Democrats are also pouring money into the state, which has seen the most spending of any contest this year.

Even some voters who turned out Thursday night to see Clinton and Harris rally for Hochul were gloomy about the party’s outlook.

Easten Young, a senior studying political science and history at Columbia University who said he was voting in Kentucky, was concerned about the lack of enthusiasm among young voters.

“I’m not feeling too confident, honestly,” he said. “I really hope people like me get out and vote, especially young people, because it’s so important. But I don’t think it looks very good.”

Democrats face headwinds in a number of races, especially in the House of Representatives.

For example, the party is increasingly concerned that Republicans have a path to winning all three House seats in South Texas, a longtime Democratic stronghold.

Party leaders in Texas and Washington had long expected Republicans to gain a foothold in the region by sweeping the state’s 15th Congressional District, where Republican candidate Monica De La Cruz ran an aggressive and well-financed campaign. But now Democrats are alarmed by the GOP swing they see in the neighboring 34th and 28th districts, where Biden won by nearly 16 points and more than seven points, respectively.

Local Democrats have been urging the national party and donors for months to send more resources and focus to districts with large Hispanic populations, especially Texas’ 34th District, where Republican Rep. Mayra Flores won a special election in June. But national Democrats largely dismissed Flores’ victory because the district was set to turn much bluer for the November midterms due to redistricting.

Republicans are “competing and exploiting the frustration, the anxiety in the community. They showed up with real candidates and real money to compete. We’ve never seen that before,” said Democratic strategist Chuck Rocha, a former senior adviser to Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vt.) presidential campaign, pointing to the GOP’s heavy spending in the region to build on Trump’s 2020 gains among Latinos. .

“We’re facing headwinds, no doubt,” Rocha added.

In Wisconsin, local Democratic leaders are looking with dismay at a once-close race in the 3rd Congressional District, where Rep. Ron Kind (D) withdrew, leaving the seat open. GOP candidate Derrick Van Orden, who was photographed outside the US Capitol during January 62021, Rebellion, running against Democrat Brad Pfaff, state senator.

“We’re looking very, very good,” Van Orden said in a brief interview Tuesday night. He said the main issues in his race have become “gasoline, groceries and grandchildren,” adding that “we’re all worried about the kind of country we’re going to grow up in.”

House Majority PAC, the Democrats’ main super PAC for the House, recently canceled about $1.6 million in television bookings for the final two weeks of the race, giving Republicans a clearer shot at an open seat. Republicans spent about $3.8 million in the race, while Democrats spent about $2 million.

In an ominous sign for the party, finger-pointing and internal criticism of the strategy has begun to spill out into the open even as voters continue to cast their ballots. Some party strategists complained that they were warning voters about the threat a Republican-controlled Congress would pose to abortion rights, social security, health care and democracy itself have missed the mark.

Clinton said she wants Democrats “to be able to communicate more effectively” the benefits of their achievements on the economy, even as they tackle other issues.

“I would boil it down to this — it’s really hard to tell people what’s going to happen in the future when they’re understandably focused on the present,” she said in an interview on “CNN This Morning.”

Democrats admit that Republican attacks on crime have hurt their candidates, especially in blue states. In New York, Hochul’s Republican opponent, Lee Zeldin, tried to link the state’s rising crime rate to the Democrats’ bail policy. It’s a message Republicans across the country have embraced to paint their opponents as soft on crime.

An analysis of House Majority PAC spending found that 42 percent of the group’s ads mentioned abortion, 48 percent mentioned economic issues, 19 percent mentioned extremism or January 6, and 5 percent mentioned education. Most GOP ads focus on the economy and crime.

Democrats remain hopeful that the abortion issue will be overturned after the Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade will surprise on Election Day, allowing them to top the polls with surprise turnouts, as they did in the Kansas abortion rights referendum and the New York special election this summer. But they acknowledge that gains in early September polls began to fade as gas and other staple prices remained high and the Federal Reserve introduced a series of rate hikes to curb inflation.

Some party officials have begun to consider the potential silver lining of potential disruption in the House races, which are held every two years. With some of the losses expected to be in blue states and districts easily won by Biden in 2020, Democrats may have more opportunities to make an easier takeover in 2024, said one Democratic strategist familiar with the House races, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak frankly about the current situation.

“A clear path back to 2024,” the strategist said, “if we lose those seats on Tuesday.”

Dylan Wells, Annie Linskey, Michael Scherer, Sabrina Rodriguez and Azi Paybarah contributed to this report.

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