Narrowing 100 data points to one line – which points somewhere – is tough in 800 words. Bear with me. Horrible leadership is hard to cover. Biden proves the point. His polls are in freefall as his decisions on Afghanistan, vaccine mandates, economy, rule of law are awful. But something else is afoot – and fascinating. Off-year elections, shadows of 2022, could be a surprise.
Here is the lay of land and what it means. Three off-year governors’ elections will happen in two months, Virginia, New Jersey, and California’s recall (in two weeks). With Democrats controlling the White House, Senate and House – VP just campaigned in California – one would expect Democrat wins.
Here is the surprise – looking closely, this is not the rumbling rails suggest. Polls are illuminating. In Virginia, Hillary Clinton’s moneyman and former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe – haunted by pseudo- scandals – fights to keep an edge, battling fresh, high-integrity Republican Glenn Youngkin.
According to Virginia polling, even with a 7-4 congressional seat advantage, the split is statistically even, with McAuliffe holding off Youngkin, 47 to 45. Moreover, trending is toward Youngkin, who was behind by nine points just three weeks ago. See, e.g., Virginia Gubernatorial Race Heats Up; McAuliffe leads Youngkin by slim margin in Virginia gubernatorial race.
Interestingly, battlelines center on COVID response and economy. McAuliffe has hitched his wagon to Biden’s – now falling – star. While candidates urge masks and vaccines, the Republican says rights take precedent, opposing heavy-handed mandates. The Democrat favors them. Similarly, the Republican is pro-business, Democrat unapologetically pro-government.
Likely, Bidens’ unforgivable debacle in Afghanistan will not help the Democrats. Nor will his angry, autocratic, anti-freedom speech hammering half the country for free choices and doubt.
In California, a similar picture exists. While Newsom, beleaguered Democrat governor, says he is sure to win – that is, defeat his recall – moderate Democrats swarm with Republicans.
The formerly left-tilting San Francisco mayor (seven years), lieutenant governor (eight more), and the three-year governor has no room to hide. Caught in recurring hypocrisy, author of COVID bungling, mass homelessness, water rationing, high crime, and taxes, fleeing tax base, spluttering economy, he owns it.
With 24 Republicans and nine Democrats after his seat, the recall could be a rout. If so, Republican candidates like Larry Elder, African American, incisive, famous could win.
Given that both races should not be tight – change is afoot. Democrat stock is falling. If New Jersey is more Democrat, even that race – featuring an incumbent – could swerve.
Looking broadly at congressional races in 2022, odds get better weekly. As the economy, including inflation, unemployment, spending, debt, interest rates, get worse – and as Biden-Harris continue to mishandle foreign policy, security, crime, and COVID, Democrats decline.
The Senate is split 50-50, Harris as the tiebreaker. The House is Democrat-controlled by 220-209. That means one Senate pick-up, a handful in the House – and everything changes. If both chambers flip, impeachments, legislative vetoes, investigations are possible – balance.
What are the odds? Nationally, with redistricting (tipping Republicans), traditional losses in midterms for a president – even a good one – suggest a likely flip of both chambers.
This is an unusual election cycle. People of all persuasions – except far left – are increasingly distressed, dissatisfied, frightened of this White House, motivated to check recklessness.
Looking at these Democrat states – things suggest a tip. Not clear is how fast or far. Warner and Kaine in Virginia are associated with bad judgment – and support Biden. Kaine was Hillary’s running mate. Neither is up this cycle, but their influence is in decline.
Likewise, several Virginia House Democrat seats could flip. If the electorate grows sicker of Biden, House races will pay. Of eleven seats, seven are Democrat, Alaine Luria, Bobby Scott, Donald McEachin, Abigail Spanberger, Donald Beyer Jr, Jennifer Wexton, and Gerald Connolly.
That said, none escapes scrutiny. Of the seven Democrats, Luria, Riggleman, and Spanberger were close, and each could tighten in 2022, especially if the economy tanks, COVID restrictions, and resentment grow, terrorism, crime, or drug deaths rise.
Elected as moderates, some have turned leftist. For example, Spanberger seems to have taken a hard left, now faces a level-headed Republican, Taylor Keeney – founder of Little Hands Virginia, a non-profit providing resources to mothers and children in need, former press secretary for a Republican governor, tied to Teach America. See, e.g., Taylor will put VA-07 first. Let’s do this Virginia!.
In New Jersey, while races tip Democrat, three of 12 seats were tight in 2020 – and could be in 2022, including Andy Kim, Jeff Van Drew, and Tom Malinowski. Small changes could prevail.
Likewise, in California, the recall, disaffection with Biden-Harris, economic collapse, border mess, foreign policy nightmares, elevated crime, terrorism, or tension – could tip seats. Forty-two of California’s 53 House seats are Democrat – and face political headwinds.
Moreover, redistricting based on the 2020 census cost Democrats one congressional seat and one electoral vote. Trends push away from Democrats, as Republicans got three new seats in 2020. Biden approval ratings dip in new public opinion poll.
What does it all mean? Simply put, these states should look bluer than blue, all Democrat. They do not. Instead, Republican sentiment grows in all three, from governors to Congress.
Taken in context, as red states getting strong in their convictions, under intense attack from an angry, ignoble, at times seemingly off-the-wall and extrajudicial White House – the 2022 cycle seems increasingly likely to move from blue-purple to purple-red to red. With these states as a touchstone, Congress may flip, allowing a return to credible constitutional checks on Biden.
Robert Charles is a former Assistant Secretary of State under Colin Powell, former Reagan and Bush 41 White House staffer, attorney, and naval intelligence officer (USNR). He wrote “Narcotics and Terrorism” (2003), “Eagles and Evergreens” (2018), and is National Spokesman for AMAC.