Democrats fear midterm map could slip away

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The liberal Navigator public tracking poll sent a major warning signal to Democrats in mid-October, reporting a 20 percentage point jump since September in the share of independent voters concerned about the economy and the gasoline prices.

That wasn’t the only data showing a reversal in the battle for Congress. Regional challenges had surfaced in internal Democratic polls in deep blue sanctuaries in the Pacific Northwest, New York and even Rhode Island, according to Democratic strategists. Crime, a major focus of Republican advertising, has also become a major issue in several races.

The candidates say they have felt the change in terrain.

“The economic concern is certainly worse, and I think that’s probably part of what has corroded concerns about abortion rights,” said Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, 34, a Democratic candidate for Congress in southern New York. State of Washington.

Perez is a symbol of Democratic struggles, battling in a race for the margin of error against exactly the kind of “ultra-MAGA” candidate Democrats have raised this year – Republican Joe Kent, who denies the election result of 2020, supports the United States The Capitol rioters have been abused and want a moratorium on all legal immigration. But Washington Democrats have yet to be able to invest directly in his race, as they play defense elsewhere on far less favorable issues.

“Anyone in the real world is very concerned about crime, very concerned about the price of groceries,” said Perez, whose own auto repair shop in northeast Portland was burglarized four times last year.

Rather than expanding their ambitions, Democratic strategists are now trying to keep voters, donors and volunteers from losing their temper. While the environment is widely believed to have deteriorated in recent weeks, it is much stronger for Democrats than it was in the spring, they argue.

“It’s much better than before. It’s not harder than we thought,” said Tim Persico, executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, who said he wanted there have more money to fund Perez.”We’re mid-term in a tough economic climate against an extremely well-endowed opponent. It’s supposed to be tough. It’s not supposed to be a straight line.”

President Biden also tried to quell any sense of Democratic panic on Friday, when he predicted the situation would improve again ahead of the Nov. 8 election.

“It was back and forth with them in front, us in front, them in front. Back and forth. And the polls were everywhere. I think we’re going to see one more change on our side in the last few days,” he said at the White House. “I think we’re going to see one more change on our side in the last few days.”

Unlike the Senate, where a handful of high-profile races will decide control, the next House majority will be assembled like a puzzle on Election Day, with the pieces chosen by retirements, redistricting, recruiting failures , the national mood and regional concerns. The GOP is almost certain to win at least some of the five seats it needs to take control via new district lines and a few more from flagship races where Democrats have all but stopped spending. But Democrats also find themselves in a position to unseat some Republican incumbents.

The real open questions are the dozens of races where the polls offer no clear signal. Far more Democratic seats are on the edge than Republican seats, subject to unknown factors such as turnout and voter whims over the coming weeks. Predicting the exact outcome has been made even more difficult as the 2020 polls largely failed to see the Republican House candidates strong overnight. On the other hand, recent special elections this cycle have shown that Democrats have exceeded expectations.

“The election is so close that we’ve just passed the point where national polls have the ability to tell us where we stand. It’s going to go race by race at this point,” said Simon Rosenberg, a Democratic strategist who has worked with the DCCC. “The big question that remains is whether the Democratic outperformance in public polls in recent elections carries over into the current vote.”

For now, Republicans have the momentum, with Democratic margins in Senate races across the country eroding over the past month and alarming polls from Democratic strongholds like Washington and New York showing that the Democrats statewide only have single-digit advantages. Generic polling averages, which test whether voters prefer a Republican or an anonymous Democrat for Congress, have also started to shift toward Republicans, currently standing 8-10 points more favorable to the GOP than at this point. of 2020.

“Issues that strongly favor Republicans, like the economy and crime, continue to grow in importance with voters as we get closer to Election Day,” said Michael McAdams, communications director for the Republican National Committee. of Congress. “It created a dire situation for Democrats.”

The shift has come even as Democrats have spent huge amounts of money advertising the abortion issue and the June Supreme Court ruling overturning abortion rights in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

“All the problems are against us. It’s really tough for a Democrat in a fringe neighborhood,” said another Democratic House strategist, who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to speak candidly. “There was a lot of attention on abortion immediately after-Dobbs. Over time, the immediacy wore off. The day-to-day reality of buying gas and groceries has overtaken him.

The reality of gas prices has become something of an obsession for Democratic leaders, who have seen their fortunes rise and fall with the numbers posted daily at roadside stations. Prices peaked nationwide in mid-June at over $5 a gallon, following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, before dropping to $3.65 in mid-September, then to rise to $3.91 in mid-October, according to the US Energy Information Administration. .

Last week, they fell slightly again, prompting Biden to announce, “We’re moving in the right direction.”

Democratic strategists continue to say their focus on abortion rights in advertising is a good strategy, despite criticism from some in their party. They say internal party research reveals there are still many voters who have not fully digested the implications of the new legal reality. Democrats hope the question can boost turnout, overcoming a slight electoral enthusiasm advantage Republicans have held in national polls all year.

“If I told you we were entering a midterm with the Democrats in full control and there was disapproval of the economy and high inflation, that midterm should have been over by now,” said Jesse Ferguson, a Democratic strategist working in multiple races. “The reality of the abortion issue, flawed Republican candidates, and Democrat progress on certain agenda items are why we’re still having the conversation.”

In recent weeks, Democrats have canceled television reservations in Arizona, Texas and Wisconsin, virtually conceding pickups to Republicans in three districts where Democratic incumbents have chosen not to seek reelection. The party has also been alarmed by a poll that shows Republican Allan Fung, the former mayor of Cranston, RI, top Democratic state treasurer Seth Magaziner in the heartland of New England, in a state that has no elected Republican to Congress since the 1990s.

Republicans, meanwhile, have tested Democratic boundaries with their extra spending. The Congressional Leadership Fund announced a $4 million investment in the district of Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (DN.Y.), the DCCC leader, fulfilling a longstanding GOP plan to make life harder for Democratic strategists, who must now worry that the man leading the effort was in danger of losing his seat.

In places like Washington’s 3rd District, which runs along Oregon’s northern border, Perez has outspent Kent on television based on his own fundraising.

But she has yet to receive direct help for ads from the DCCC or the House Majority PAC, the outside super PAC backing House Democrats, even though Kent’s ads include a disclaimer that attributes a part of the expenses at the NRCC. She was also not named to the Democratic Party’s Red-to-Blue program, which helps candidates switch seats. Persico, the DCCC leader, described his district as a winnable race he would invest in if he “had more money”.

“It’s one of the golden opportunities,” Perez said on Saturday. “And we’re really missing it right now. ”

Isaac Arnsdorf contributed to this report.

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