Three Reasons For Dem Caution

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.

From Vox, Sept. 23, 2022.

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.


Published by dave cieslewicz

Madison/Upper Peninsula based writer. Mayor of Madison, WI from 2003 to 2011.

2 thoughts on “Three Reasons For Dem Caution

  1. “How are we going to mess that up?”

    Making the lamest ever PB&J sandwich for a political commercial? Good thing the dumpster dive idea was nixed. Not sure why you would highlight that you were a delinquent taxpayer.


  2. I see a scenario where Barnes loses to Sen. Johnson. Evers defeats Michaels. The danger is linking Evers to Barnes and pulling Evers into MB’s undertow. Linking Barnes security costs to his opposition to law enforcement are step two of this strategy.

    No one in the middle should be surprised Barnes is losing We knew he was going to be a weak candidate. This also shows the base’s opinion and national far left endorsements don’t create a winning candidate. The base might have believe they were right but in the end pushed a weak candidate into a race he could not win. A better candidate of which there were at least two in the primary might be doing better today and defeating Sen. Johnson.

    I think Barnes is pushing independents to vote for Johnson or not vote rather than vote for him.


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