I’m a Democrat. So, I look at positive news for my party and I ask myself, how are we going to mess that up? Or sometimes I ask, what are we missing here and why will we be disappointed this time?
So don’t be surprised if I’m skeptical about all the excitement I’m hearing and reading about how the Dems might just defy the odds and not only retain the Senate but somehow hold on to their slim House majority. I offer three reasons for my sober take on this.
First, there’s last week’s economic news. Inflation is still not under control so the Fed is continuing to raise interest rates and it has now pretty much accepted the idea that they’ll have to raise them enough to force us into a recession. Unless we get some surprisingly good news on inflation in October, it looks like the economy will continue to be a big drag on the party in power. And all of those positive signs in various primary contests, state ballot initiatives, special elections and polling happened before last week’s dire economic outlook was reported.
Then there’s reason to question all those happy polls. A few days ago Vox published a startling analysis of the Democratic bias in polling. They found that in 13 Senate races in 2018, nine underestimated the support for Republicans. And in the four that underestimated the strength of the Democrat they did so by an average of only 2.3% while in the nine races where the Republican outperformed the poll they did that by an average of 4.6%. It gets even worse when you have more data. When Vox looked at 47 Senate races going back to 2014, the polling underestimated the Republican candidate in 39 cases. Mandela Barnes was polling dead even with Sen. Ron Johnson in the latest Marquette poll, but the record suggests that even that may be too optimistic for Barnes.
Finally, there’s the abortion question. A lot of Democrats, including Barnes and Gov. Tony Evers, are pretty much building their entire campaigns around that issue. As I pointed out last week, I’m not so sure that’s a great idea because, while independent voters tend to agree with the Democrats on choice, they don’t rank the issue as one of their top five. And the issue that is at the top for independents — as well as everybody else — is inflation. See my first point above.
Of course, I could be wrong. In fact, I usually am, which is why I’ve taken a pledge to make no predictions for this November. I’m just pointing up relevant arguments that suggest that rumors of a Democratic counter wave might be somewhat exaggerated. As a Democrat, I’ve learned to set myself up to be pleasantly surprised instead of keenly disappointed.