Jim Geraghty wrote this Tuesday:
There are some little signs that the “red wave” of this election may be picking up speed.
In one of those “I feel like I’m taking crazy pills” moments, I continue to notice that the president and vice president are nowhere near the campaign trail with other Democratic candidates most days as the midterm campaign season approaches the final stretch — and almost all of Washington is acting like this is perfectly normal.
Today, President Biden — whose job-approval rating is around 42 percent — will be “participating in a virtual reception for Representative Lisa Blunt Rochester” this evening. Blunt Rochester represents Delaware’s at-large district in the U.S. House of Representatives. Delaware scores a D+6 on the Cook Partisan Voting Index. Blunt Rochester won with 56 percent of the vote in 2016, 64 percent of the vote in 2018, and 57 percent of the vote in 2020. In her last fundraising update, Blunt Rochester had raised more than $2.1 million; her GOP rival, Lee Murphy, had raised a bit more than $288,000.
In other words, with 27 days until Election Day, the president is appearing at a virtual event for a near-lock Democratic candidate in his home state, where the incumbent already enjoys a 7–1 fundraising advantage.
Here’s the public schedule for Vice President Kamala Harris for today: “At 3:00 p.m. eastern, the Vice President will ceremonially swear-in Travis LeBlanc to be a member of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board. This ceremony in the Vice President’s Ceremonial Office will be pooled press.” Harris’s current approval rating is 37.6 percent.
Yesterday, Harris attended a DNC fundraiser in Princeton, N.J., and taped an appearance on Seth Meyers’s late-night television program. On Saturday, she traveled to Austin to give the keynote address at the Texas Democratic Party’s Johnson-Jordan Reception fundraiser. (The Texas Tribute noted that, “One topic noticeably absent from her visit was immigration.”) Texas Democratic Party chairman Gilberto Hinojosa boasted that, “[Harris’] trip shows that the nation’s eyes truly are upon Texas as we head into the midterm elections — and, critically, that from Beto’s race, to Mike’s and Rochelle’s races, to races up and down the ballot, Texas is a winnable state.”
Alas, gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke could not rearrange his schedule to meet with the vice president while she was in his state, with the election a month away. He did show up and stay for an entire Dixie Chicks concert at The Woodlands Saturday night.
Tomorrow, President Biden travels to Colorado to designate Camp Hale an official national monument, and Colorado senator Michael Bennet, currently comfortably leading in his reelection bid, is expected to join the president for the event. I guess if you’re an incumbent who’s ahead by about seven points, it is safe to appear with Biden.
You notice that, at least so far, Biden and Harris are not appearing alongside incumbents such as Mark Kelly in Arizona, Catherine Cortez Masto in Nevada, and Raphael Warnock in Georgia. They’re not doing joint events with Tim Ryan in Ohio, or John Fetterman in Pennsylvania, or Mandela Barnes in Wisconsin. If Democrats thought Biden or Harris would do some good in those races, they would be there. (Meanwhile, Barack Obama is also limiting the number of campaign events he does this fall.)
Speaking of Tim Ryan, NBC News recently noticed that the Ohio Democrat is attempting to win his Senate race more or less “all by his lonesome,” with exceptionally little help from Democratic committees and allied groups:
Through Monday, Republicans had spent or reserved at least $37.9 million worth of advertising on the general election, according to AdImpact, an ad tracking firm. Only $3.7 million of that had come directly from Vance’s campaign, with another $1.6 million split between the campaign and the National Republican Senatorial Committee through coordinated advertising.
On the Democratic side, Ryan’s campaign had accounted for $24 million of the more than $29 million spent or reserved through Election Day and splitting another $835,000 with the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Other outside Democratic groups had committed only $4.5 million to the race — about 14% of what the GOP groups are spending.
Polls have been fairly consistent in showing Republican candidate J. D. Vance with a lead, but it’s a small one. American Greatness — a group largely attuned with Vance’s philosophy — commissioned a poll and found the Republican Senate candidate ahead of Ryan by two percentage points. Meanwhile, the same survey found the allegedly boring, milquetoast GOP governor Mike DeWine ahead by 22 points. That is not a typo; the poll found a 20-point split between the performances of the GOP senatorial and gubernatorial nominees.
Democrats can read polls, too, and for whatever reason, they don’t see Ryan as a wise investment of limited resources this late in the campaign. If Democrats don’t think they can spare a couple million for a guy who’s only down by a few points in a key Senate race, they must be really worried about some other races.
Also notice that you don’t hear nearly as much Democratic excitement about Mandela Barnes’s bid in Wisconsin anymore, and don’t sleep on the governor’s race in that state either. Over in Nevada, Senate GOP candidate Adam Laxalt has very quietly built a consistent lead over Democratic incumbent Catherine Cortez Masto, and that state’s governor’s race is another one that has slowly shifted away from the Democrats, with Democratic governor Steve Sisolak, who once enjoyed a steady lead, now either tied with or narrowly ahead of Republican Joe Lombardo.
You don’t hear as much Democratic buzz about Cheri Beasley pulling off an upset in North Carolina’s Senate race, either. Republican Ted Budd rarely leads by much, but he hasn’t trailed in an independent poll since June; one poll by the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling had Beasley up by one point in late August.
Wisconsin, Nevada, North Carolina — none of these Senate races look like GOP landslides, but none of them look like easy pickup opportunities for Democrats, either. And if Democrats are forced to prioritize to the point where they’re skimping on a once-promising prospect such as Tim Ryan, they probably can’t afford to prioritize these Senate races, either.
Meanwhile, over in the battle for control of the U.S. House of Representatives, there’s a poll showing a Republican leading a race in Rhode Island, which is something you almost never see:
A new poll has found Republican Allan Fung with a lead outside the margin of error for the first time in the race for Rhode Island’s 2nd Congressional District, buoying GOP hopes of picking up a the blue-state seat next month.
The new Boston Globe/Suffolk University survey of 422 likely voters in the 2nd District finds Fung at 45 percent and Democrat Seth Magaziner at 37 percent, with 13 percent undecided and 5 percent backing independent William Gilbert, who will appear on the ballot as “Moderate.”
The 8-point lead for Fung in the new survey confirms the findings of last week’s 12 News/Roger Williams University poll, which showed Fung leading Magaziner by a similar margin of 6 points. The results have increased the alarm among Democrats that they could lose a seat they’ve held for years, due to the retirement of 11-term incumbent Jim Langevin.
Finally, I feel like a lot of Democrat-aligned media voices are sort of sleepwalking into the usual midterm drubbing. Five days ago, CNN asked, “Could Republicans lose a Senate race in deep-red Utah?” Every time I make even the briefest reference to the Mike Lee–Evan McMullin Senate race in Utah, some enthusiastic McMullin supporter on Twitter crashes through the wall like the Kool-Aid Man and insists that McMullin is going to win. Lee’s lead isn’t as big as you might expect, but he’s led every poll. Every poll!
Joe Biden’s job-approval rating in Utah is 27 percent, according to the Civiqs polling firm. You think that’s the kind of environment where a two-term incumbent Republican loses?
Washington Post columnist Lizette Alvarez writes that Val Demings is ‘a law-and-order Democrat [who] could disrupt . . . reelection.’ But the only poll Demings has led this cycle was a poll of registered voters done back in early August. Biden’s approval rating in Florida is 37 percent. Ron DeSantis is on pace to crush Charlie Crist in the state’s governor’s race. None of those are factors that point to a big upset win for Demings.
When the now-traditional midterm wave hits the Democrats, why does it always seem worse than expected? Probably because so many media voices spend October telling Democrats that it won’t be that bad.