News for Democrats is good at a time they need it

Published August 25, 2022

By Thomas Mills

I have a lot of thoughts today and I am going to write about all of them. Instead of one subject I’ll tackle several. Bear with me. 

First, more news on the U.S. Senate race in North Carolina. A John Locke Foundation poll has Cheri Beasley tied with Ted Budd. That news comes on the heels of a poll last week that showed the former Chief Justice leading the Congressman. Clearly, there’s movement in this race that favors the Democrat. 

It’s still early and any momentum Beasley has can certainly evaporate. It did for Kay Hagan in 2014. However, Beasley is running a better campaign than Budd. Her tour across the state is catching attention at a time when voters are beginning to tune in.Her ads exposing Budd for opposing measures to reduce insulin prices appear to have landed blows. 

The poll shows the electorate shifting in Democrats’ direction as we head into the fall, though Republicans still hold leads in the generic ballots for Congress and state legislature as well as Supreme Court. The political environment has certainly improved for Democrats but there are still big warning signs. Biden’s approval rating is still abysmally low. Overwhelmintly, people believe the country is on the wrong track. The economy is improving, but inflation is still a dominant factor in people’s lives. 

The GOP hopes that these traditionally predictive measures stay bad for Democrats and that the election settles down into a relatively normal pattern. Democrats hope that external factors like the January 6 Committee, the Dobbsdecision, and the increasing extremism of the GOP will turn voters away from Republicans and buck the fundamentals that tend to drive midterm elections. Voters often seem a bit restless and prepared to upend political norms but then return to their traditional patterns as elections near. 

Democrats’ cautious optimism may be borne out if Republicans don’t figure out how to reel-in their extremists. The right-flank has found the GOP version of Defund the Police: Kill the feds. In the wake of the Mar-a-Lago search, Trumpists have been calling for defunding the FBI and other federal law enforcement agencies. A GOP candidate for Florida state house says he will introduce a bill to allow Floridians to “shoot FBI, IRS, ATF, and all other feds ON SIGHT!” One man was killed attacking an FBI office in Cincinnati and the FBI has warned that it is at increased danger due to the rhetoric. 

Republicans have been slow to condemn the rhetoric and have often inflamed it. They’ve claimed that the new budget bill funds an army of IRS agents who, Republican politicians warn, are “coming for you.” GOP House Majority Whip warned of “rogue” FBI agents, despite the agency being led by a Republican and Trump appointee. The rhetoric may fire up the GOP base, but it puts law enforcement in danger and could alienate more moderate voters.

Tom Bonier, CEO of the Democratic data firm Target Smart, says that women have substantially outpaced men in registering to vote since the Dobbs decision. As he noted, they’re probably not registering to support the Supreme Court’s action. These women could give a boost to Democratic enthusiasm in an off-year election when turnout matters.

The news for Democrats is good at the time they need it. The public will begin tuning into the midterm cycle in earnest in the coming weeks and the party has some momentum. That said, we live in a time when public opinion can turn on a dime. Republicans still have the fundamentals in their favor. The president is very unpopular. Inflation is still the number one concern of most voters. And Trump’s woes tend to fire up, instead of subdue, his supporters. Still, the red wave that seemed to be forming now looks more like just a swell.