I knew the media was finally, reluctantly and somewhat sadly, beginning to realize that the Republicans would win the House, and possibly the Senate, when I saw this front-page article from The New York Times:
“For President Biden, the Dreaming-of-FDR phase of his presidency could end in just over a week. If Republicans capture one or both houses of Congress in the midterm elections, as suggested polls, Mr. Biden’s domestic agenda will suddenly morph from a quest for a New Deal 2.0 to trench warfare defending the achievements of his first two years in office.”
The “if” is a formality. You don’t publish this story unless you think the Republicans are a lock to take control of the House; the only question is how many seats.
Additionally, “Biden and Democrats are privately … pessimistic and bracing for two years of crushing partisan conflict.” This is a fairly clear media signal. The same goes for Axios which manages a “red tsunami watch”.
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In its poll with Siena College, The Times found Arizona Sen. Mark Kelly with a six-point lead over Blake Masters (although the Libertarian candidate just dropped out and endorsed Masters). Nevada Senator Catherine Cortez Masto is tied with Republican Adam Laxalt at 47%. Herschel Walker, who has suffered a flurry of negative coverage — and the second abortion accuser appeared on camera yesterday with ‘Good Morning America’ — trails Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock by just 2 points, a tie statistical.
And in Pennsylvania, the poll gives John Fetterman a 5-point lead over Mehmet Oz, but most of the polling was done before the disastrous debate. The newspaper notes that Fetterman was still leading on Election Day post-debate, but I’d be surprised if Oz wasn’t leading in the next poll.
The Times followed up yesterday with the governor’s races in those states. While far-right Doug Mastriano has never gotten traction and trails Josh Shapiro in Pennsylvania by double digits, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp leads Stacey Abrams by 5 points (other polls give him a bigger lead ).
In Nevada, Republican Sheriff Joe Lombardo has a 4-point lead over Governor Steve Sisolek. And in Arizona, Kari Lake and Democrat Katie Hobbs are tied at 48%.
But Lake is expected to win — Hobbs refuses to debate her — and she’s a classic example of media myopia. The Arizona Democratic Party meddled in its primary by lashing out at its opponent over the theory that she was so extreme that she would be an easy target in the general election. Now the Times describes her as “a former telegenic local news anchor with a missionary zeal to promote her agenda.” And some conservatives are talking about her as Donald Trump’s running mate for 2024.
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Lake embraced Trump’s argument that the last election was stolen. She wants to ban abortion without exception. She loves exposing the media as hopelessly biased. She made a joke about badly injured Paul Pelosi the other day and the audience laughed.
Still, she’s had a reservoir of confidence for 25 years as a Phoenix anchor, and that’s why the media that was so quick to write her off seriously underestimated her.
Needless to say, gubernatorial contests are particularly 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 downplay the likes of Lake, Masters and Walker, who can all win, was a monumental blunder of the first magnitude.
The Times’ previous report on Biden’s agenda also mentions the prospect of several GOP investigations — which the White House needs to prepare for. Remember that by simply controlling the House, Kevin McCarthy’s lieutenants will chair committees, issue subpoenas, and launch endless investigations. Hillary Clinton and Benghazi come to mind.
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As Matthew Continetti writes in National Review:
“The Republican Congress will fight with the president on spending, immigration, the IRS, Ukraine aid and the debt ceiling. And it will open investigations into Biden’s personal and professional life. A Divided government in a polarized America doesn’t just stop the president’s legislative agenda, it saps the energy of the executive branch by forcing the White House into a defensive position.
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 tough for Joe Biden. It’s about to get worse.”
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One of the odd things about this home stretch to next Tuesday’s midterms, in addition to Biden’s low-key presence, is that Democrats are assigning blame ahead of time — adding, of course, to the party sluggishness. Senate predictions 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 running out, those midterms are crashing in the Republican direction.