Biden struggles to halt half-time loss as Republicans prepare for big gains

Momentum appears to be with Republicans capitalizing on economic frustration as experts say the party is peaking at the right time

Joe Biden is battling in the back row to prevent defeat in Tuesday's midterm elections as Republicans appear poised to make big gains in the US Congress, setting up two years of political trench warfare.

The president, along with former president Barack Obama, has crossed America in a last-ditch effort to convince voters that a Democratic victory is critical not only to Biden's legislative agenda but also to the preservation of American democracy.

But the momentum appears to be with Republicans capitalizing on frustration over inflation and fears of crime and illegal immigration. Election and poll forecasters say it is highly likely that former president Donald Trump's party will win a majority in the House of Representatives and also have a chance to take control of the Senate.

"The Republican Party is peaking at the right time," said Brendan Buck, a former aide to Republican chairman Paul Ryan and John Boehner. “Democrats did a good job defying political gravity for a long time but finally caught up with them. It feels like a healthy Republican majority in the House and, if I were a gambler, I'd guess that Republicans took the one Senate seat they needed."

Midterms are held every four years but by 2022 they are far from routine and have seen a huge increase in early turnout. Tuesday's election was the first national test of democracy since Trump followers staged a deadly uprising at the US Capitol on January 6 last year.

At stake are 435 seats in the House, 35 seats in the 100-member Senate, 36 state governors, three US state governors and a number of mayors and local offices. About 129 ballots in 36 states including abortion laws in California, Kentucky, Michigan, Montana, and Vermont.

Surprising Democratic victories in the House and Senate will give Biden the mandate to pursue a thorough legislative agenda on issues such as abortion rights, police reform and voting rights during his remaining two years in the Oval Office.

But Republican control in both chambers would be enough to thwart such ambitions and raise questions over open US support for Ukraine's war against Russia. Biden may face congressional investigations in everything from his withdrawal from Afghanistan to his son Hunter's foreign business dealings.

Michael Steele, former chairman of the Republican National Committee, said: “In the end it doesn't matter: one chamber, two chamber, if the Republicans have control, the next 18 to 24 months in this country will be a new political hell unlike anything ever. we'll see."

As the long campaign enters the live house, both major parties are pouring millions of dollars into TV commercials, blowing up social media, knocking on thousands of doors and holding rallies with their biggest stars. Biden's final swing implies a defensive posture in the states that Democrats already hold — California, Illinois and New Mexico — along with the battlefields of Pennsylvania.

Midterms often serve as a referendum on the day's president. Biden's public approval rating has remained below 50% for more than a year, coming in at 40% in a recent Reuters/Ipsos poll. The same survey shows that 69% of Americans believe the country is on the wrong track and only 18% say it is on the right track.

History is also against Democrats. The ruling party usually loses a DPR seat in the middle of the president's four-year term. In 2006, George W Bush said his Republican Party was "thumping" in the midterms. In 2010, Obama called the loss of 63 House seats from his party a "fire". In 2018, two years into Trump's presidency, Republicans gave up 41 House seats. In all three cases, DPR control was reversed.

This year Republicans need only five seats for a majority. As if anticipating a Republican takeover, 31 House Democrats announced they were retiring or seeking other office, the most for the party since 1992.

The prospects for the Republican Party have been further enhanced through collusion, a practice in which one party manipulates congressional district lines to strengthen its own power during the once-decades-long division process.

Republicans meanwhile need to get a seat for control of the Senate, which is currently split 50-50 with Vice President Kamala Harris voting the decisive vote. Candidates like TV doctor Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania and former American soccer star Herschel Walker in Georgia have proven tougher than expected. Campaigns for Democratic seats in Arizona and Nevada are also contested.

Polls have been wrong before, however, and there may still be surprises. Among the uncertainties this time around is the impact of the Supreme Court's decision in June that overturned constitutional abortion protections in Roe v Wade, which resulted in a wave of protest votes in the Kansas referendum and sparked an increase in voter registration among women across the country.

Democrats have spent nearly $320 million on TV ads focused on abortion rights, the New York Times reported, which is 10 times more than they spent on ads about inflation, which has raised the cost of food and gas. But polls show that the economy remains a higher concern for voters, suggesting that anger over the abortion decision will not be enough to save Democrats.

Elaine Kamarck, a former White House official with Bill Clinton, said at a press conference at the Brookings Institution think tank in Washington: “This has been a race between inflation and abortion for several weeks now. By the end of the summer, we thought abortion would really set the tone in this race."

“Now, conventional wisdom seems to have shifted away from that and towards inflation and questions about the economy. The fact is, however, this is a really tight race. State by state, polls are within the margin of error and we have to look at turnout because turnout will determine this race."

The number of women is key, Kamarck added, but if the Republicans win, the post-mortem will begin. “Democrats will have a lot of soul searching to do about their position, how they go into this race. Do they overestimate the power of abortion? Are they underestimating the economic message?”

Some commentators believe that the answer is yes. Buck, a former Republican aide who is now a partner at strategic communications firm Seven Letter, said: “It should come as no surprise to anyone that this election is about economic issues – inflation, gas prices – and they have largely left the playing field. to Republicans about this."

Biden has confused between messages about abortion and democracy to Republican plans to cut social security and health care programs, Buck said. "It's just basic political communication 101 that you have to stick to some messages and hit them over and over and over and over and over again and they're all over the map and so it's no surprise that whatever they're trying to get across to voters doesn't break through."

There is frustration on the left that Democrats are not better communicating achievements like the Child Tax Credit, which during the coronavirus pandemic provided relief to working families on a historical scale.

Democrats also argue that the climate and healthcare package passed by Congress in August would help reduce inflation by making prescription drugs more affordable. The White House is also moving to forgive some student loan debt, which could potentially increase turnout among younger voters.

But 8.5% inflation and anxiety about a possible recession have been central to Republican arguments in the final weeks of the election. They have also invested heavily in racist advertisements that blatantly stoke voter fears about an increase in violent crime, tying Democrats to so-called "defund the police" efforts.

Critics say this is hypocritical of a party still trying to play down the attempted violent coup at the US Capitol on January 6. In a prime time address from nearby Union Station last week, Biden warned that democracy itself is in the ballot and issued a dark warning about the threat of voter intimidation and political violence.

Highlighting the estimated more than 300 election detractors who are running for every level of office in America, and their reluctance to accept the results of the elections they are contesting, Biden said: “That is the road to chaos in America. It's unprecedented, it's against the law, and it's not American. As I said before, you can't love your country only when you win."

Indeed, as in 2020, there are fears that a disputed election plagued by disinformation and conspiracy theories could destroy America. The recent hammer attack on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's husband, Paul, at their San Francisco home may foreshadow worse things to come.

John Hudak, a senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution, said: “It is only a matter of time until there is a high level of political assassination in the United States given the firebox we have now and it is a very unfortunate situation. . We live in a country today which is not used to political assassination and it is a luxury that is not afforded to citizens of other countries. But there are dynamics and undercurrents that are really changing there."

Many election deniers will enter office, Hudak predicts. “What happens when they start coordinating with each other? Coordinated attacks by elected officials against American democracy are scarier to me than their mere arrival into office.

“Their ability to communicate and coordinate through official platforms, whether it be the association of secretaries of state and others, or through a more serene platform, individual communication, presents extreme risks to what vote counting will look like and how elections will be held in the future.”

But there is little sign that fears of democracy are starting to subside with Republican voters. The midterm campaign often feels like a split screen with Democrats and Republicans mostly talking past each other.

John Zogby, an author and pollster, told the state department of the State Press Department briefing: "In every election in the past, there has been a general set of issues that everyone agrees on, and one side says, this is how we're going to attack the issue. this. , and the other party says, no, this is how we will attack this matter. Today's difference: two different parties, two different sets of issues, two different realities, two different sets of facts to support that reality. It's like two planets revolving around the sun and in separate orbits."

Whatever the outcome, speculation regarding the 2024 presidential election is likely to kick in even before the final vote is in 2022. If Democrats suffer heavy losses, Biden may face calls, particularly from the left, to announce he is not running again. He turned 80 on November 20 and is already the oldest president in American history.

Trump, himself 76 years old, looks set to announce his candidacy sooner rather than later, even if his nominee has had a bad night. At a rally on Thursday night in favor of the Republican candidate in Iowa, he declared: “Get ready that's all I'm telling you – hurry up. Get ready." This article was written by EDUKASI CAMPUS.

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