AMAC Exclusive By: Herald Boas
Two major crises now beset President Biden — the influx of illegal immigrants at the southern border and the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban following the botched evacuation. It is very early in the 2022 national mid-term election cycle, and predictions are therefore very speculative, but the crises and problems faced by the Biden administration are serious enough to begin thinking about a potential “red wave” election that returns the GOP to control of both chambers of Congress.
The border crisis is persistently downplayed by both the administration and the mainstream media, which has largely acted as a cheerleader for Biden since early in his campaign. The media, however, has turned on Mr. Biden for his handling of Afghanistan, which has become, by all accounts, a disaster characterized by many as a “betrayal.”
Photos and videos of chaos at the southern border showing the entry of illegal and unvaccinated immigrants during a new surge in the pandemic have driven Mr. Biden’s numbers down in the most credible polls.
On the pandemic, fewer than half of Americans now approve of his leadership. On Afghanistan, the President’s numbers are even worse. According to a CBS News poll, 74% of Americans believe the Afghanistan withdrawal has gone very badly or somewhat badly. The same poll found that less than 50% of Americans now believe Biden to be competent, focused, and effective. A separate poll from USA Today on August 24th found that only 26% of respondents approved of Biden’s handling of the situation in Afghanistan, driving his overall approval rating down to a record-low 41% after resting comfortably north of 50% just last week.
President Trump also favored ending our military involvement in Afghanistan, but he insisted on a conditions-based withdrawal in order to avoid the very situation the United States now finds itself in. While Biden has sought to blame previous presidents for starting or continuing the United States’ involvement in Afghanistan, ultimately the responsibility for leaving in an orderly manner fell to him.
Typically, local, state and regional issues often determine midterm election results, providing modest or mixed gains for the opposition party. If, on the other hand, the election is nationalized, the conditions exist for a wave vote and a landslide.
A nationalization of midterm elections occurred in 2010, primarily over the healthcare issue following the passage of Obamacare. As a result, Republicans flipped the House of Representatives and picked up six seats in the Senate. In 2002, the nationalization of the election after 9/11 helped Republicans gain seats in both chambers of Congress. It was the first time since 1934 that the party of a newly elected president achieved such gains in the first midterm election. In perhaps the best example of a nationalization of a midterm election, Newt Gingrich’s “Contract With America” in 1994 helped Republicans win control of the House of Representatives for the first in time in 40 years while adding to their majority in the Senate.
There are already some signs of the nationalization of next year’s midterm election. The domestic economy seems strong, with the stock market up and interest rates low — all usually positive political news for an administration. But clear signs of inflation, especially in food, gasoline and car prices, cast doubt on where the economy will be in the summer and autumn next year when voters make up their minds. Already, just 22% of Americans say the economy is good, and 55% say it is headed in the wrong direction. The risk to Mr. Biden is increased, conservative economists contend, by the Democrats raising taxes and massive deficit spending — a one-two punch that has so often knocked out a booming economy in the past.
Democrats are still considered favored to win Senate seats they already control in four southwestern states, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada. But Republican chances to flip one of those have increased. The border crisis is already a hot issue in Arizona. And in Nevada, former state Attorney General Adam Laxalt recently announced his candidacy to replace incumbent Democrat Senator Catherine Cortez Masto. In his announcement video, Laxalt made clear he intends to nationalize his race, lambasting “the radical left, rich elites, woke corporations, academia, and the media” who are “taking over America.” Laxalt has also emphasized the issue of the border crisis that has seen refugees crowding into small towns and cities in many southwestern states, another issue that has galvanized Republicans nationally.
Republicans appear to be in good position to pick up Senate seats in Georgia and New Hampshire as well, and progressive Democratic policies of defunding the police, controversial educational theories, and packing the U.S. Supreme Court are endangering some other Democratic incumbents. In addition, such policies are also making it very difficult for Democrat candidates who are challenging potentially vulnerable GOP incumbents next year. A case in point is the Pennsylvania seat held by GOP Senator Pat Toomey, who is retiring. This open seat was considered a quite likely Democratic pick-up, but Biden’s anti-coal and anti-fracking energy policies have Democratic poll numbers sinking in western Pennsylvania, while defunding the police proposals are hurting liberal candidates in key Philadelphia suburbs.
Conservative prospects in the U.S. House are even better. While many pundits expect the GOP to win back control of the chamber next year, a wave election could produce a gain of 35-45 seats. Some Democrats, sensing an impending defeat, may already be cutting their losses. Ron Kind, a 13-term Democratic Congressman from Wisconsin’s 3rd Congressional District who is only 58 years old, recently announced his surprise retirement, which some have speculated is an effort to avoid defeat at the hands of a Republican next fall.
With 14 months until election day, no one can rule out Democrats surviving the usual midterm difficulties. But their current setbacks at the federal level are now also breaking out at the state level with the political problems of two of their most prominent governors. Andrew Cuomo has already resigned in disgrace in New York, and Gavin Newsom faces a looming recall vote in California. Should he lose that recall vote and should he be replaced by a conservative Republican, the demoralization of the Democratic Party in 2022 would be profound.