Student Opinion: Don’t expect a red wave in November
Just two months ago, gasoline averaged $5 per gallon, inflation spiked to 9.1% and President Biden’s approval rating was tanking. The November midterm elections could not come fast enough for Republicans. A red wave was all but certain, flipping both houses of Congress and bringing the Biden administration to a halt.
Fast-forward to the present, and the GOP base’s expectation of a red wave lingers, ignorant of the reality that no red wave is coming. Gas prices are beginning to fall, inflation is slowing and President Biden’s approval rating is beginning to inch up. The overturning of Roe v. Wade has brought glimmers of hope to the Democratic base, outperforming in several special elections in the wake of the Supreme Court decision.
Earlier this year, Republicans took the lead for the first time in years in the generic ballot, an average by FiveThirtyEight of polls that answers the simple question “Do voters want Republicans or Democrats in Congress?” GOP support peaked in May, leading by 2.7%, but the current poll has steadily fallen to a Democratic lead of 0.5%.
All signs point to a Democratic recovery after their catastrophic start to 2022. However, midterms are still midterms, and the party in power is almost guaranteed to lose congressional races because Americans enjoy gridlock.
The House of Representatives, in which the Democrats currently have a slim majority, follows the whims of the national environment and are almost always flipped in midterm elections. Republicans can bank on winning the House come November, but it’s far from the red wave expected earlier in the year.
Here’s where it gets especially tricky for Republicans.
The Senate, with its six-year terms and domineering influence over the legislative movement in Congress, is a different beast, and Republicans have repeatedly and cartoonishly shot themselves in the foot in the fight to overtake said beast.
With a 50-50 split in the Senate, Republicans just need one flipped seat to retake the majority. The outlook was already difficult for the GOP, who must defend 21 seats against only 14 Democratic seats.
But with the national environment favoring Republicans, pickups in toss-up seats held by Democrats in Arizona, Georgia and Nevada poised the GOP for a takeover of the Senate majority.
Enter former President Trump and the staunch Republican base, who decided to play checkers instead of chess in several must-win states’ primaries.
In Pennsylvania, an imperative hold for the GOP, rich television personality and semi-New Jersey resident Dr. Mehmet Oz was chosen solely via Trump endorsement in the primary to win the blue-collar state. Dr. Oz’s opponent, current Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, is running a basement campaign due to a recent stroke but has effectively jabbed the TV doctor for several out-of-touch blunders. Despite a winnable hold if Republicans ran a quality candidate, every poll shows a Fetterman domination over Oz, flipping the seat blue.
Georgia, which was supposed to be the easiest flip for Republicans, has turned into another nightmare. Former University of Georgia running back Herschel Walker has proven to be a fumbling campaigner, and a Democrat hold for incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock seems hopeful.
In Republican-leaning Ohio, Trump singlehandedly chose the now poorly-polling J.D. Vance in their GOP primary to succeed retiring Republican Rob Portman. While the seat will likely stay red, Republicans have been forced to spend $28 million on ads for Vance in a race that shouldn’t need the help. That money could have gone to any number of key battleground states to help them flip a seat, but Vance’s need for help will cost the party dearly.
Lastly, Arizona’s Senate seat is held by Democrat Mark Kelly who won a 2020 special election in the swing state to flip the late John McCain’s seat. Blake Masters, another Trump-picked candidate who won the Republican primary, has to overcome the leading Kelly and win over the key moderates in the state. Though more a toss-up than total disaster just yet, Masters might prove too MAGA to win in the swinging Arizona despite shifting his opinions more moderate regarding key issues like abortion.
Nov. 8 is still months away, but the Republican Party has simply dropped the ball and potentially doomed the Senate. Even though polls aren’t crystal balls, there has still been a steady path to Democratic recovery. If trends continue, November will only be a red ripple for Republicans.
BROWDER is the opinion editor. Follow him on Twitter.