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Stirewaltisms: House Forecast Calls for Climate Change
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Stirewaltisms: House Forecast Calls for Climate Change

The wind is blowing in a generally Republican direction.

HOUSE FORECAST: CLIMATE CHANGE

It’s been more than six months since the first primary of the 2022 midterms and we still haven’t come to a satisfactory answer to the most important question of any cycle: What’s the climate like?

In most midterms of our era, it’s usually simple and brain-numbingly obvious before Labor Day. But here we are two months from Election Day, and we can’t say for certain. What was shaping up this spring to be an old-fashioned hurricane for the party in power broke up before it could make landfall, mostly owing to the arrogance of the most recent Republican president. Then, just as it looked like Democrats might escape unscathed, the party and its leader embarked on a ridiculous effort to actually change an issue set that was already moving in their direction.

As Casey Stengle would say: “Can’t anybody here play this game?”

The egotism and political incompetence of our current president and his immediate  predecessor—like that of the hirelings in both parties who make profits as obscene as their lack of innovation and insight—is nothing new, however. You can pretty much predict what Joe Biden or Donald Trump will do next by determining the opposite of the smartest thing they could do to help the parties they lead. Arrogant nincompoopery being thus assumed, we turn to the issue set.

The economy, absent a war, a pandemic, or the arrival of extraterrestrials, will always be the top issue for voters. And so far, Democrats have dodged what seemed a few months ago to be the most likely scenario: crushing inflation that tipped over into an all-out recession by the start of the fall. Instead, gas prices have retreated a dollar per gallon since their June peak, and the economy actually may be improving. At the very least, voters are experiencing some sense of relief and are expressing increased optimism.

Most of the rest of the issues that matter are not important for how they persuade, but rather how they intensify. 

Democrats caught a huge break with the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson. As we have discussed, the reopening of the abortion debate in full will bring lots of voters to the polls who might otherwise sit out the midterm cycle; and if you’re that adamant of a pro-choicer, you’re probably not a Republican. Buuuuutttt … Republican voter intensity is also volcanic. Thanks in part to Biden’s effort to make himself relevant with free money by fiat for the core Democratic constituency of college graduates and his Dark Brandon goofball bit in Philadelphia, lots of dudes who might skip a midterm cycle are just dying to vote against him. On the plus side for Dems, though, is that Trump makes Bill and Hillary Clinton look like paragons of selfless party leadership. Trump’s inability to ever stop playing Evita Perón is the greatest gift to the Democratic Party since Herbert Hoover.

So let’s call it a wash. Democrats have been saved from the worst of the typical slide in base-voter intensity that usually afflicts parties in a president’s first midterm, but Republicans are as mad as hornets and determined to punish the blue team for its real excesses as well as the perceived slights to el presidente de por vida. That sounds quite a lot like the 2020 and 2018 electorates, in which voters stormed the polls in record numbers. That cuts into the GOP’s advantage in years like 2010 and 2014 in which dispirited Democrats stayed home and let the red team run up the score. But it also keeps the wind blowing in a generally Republican direction, which will be worth a bunch of down-ballot and state-level races for the GOP.  

Which is all a very long way of saying that the overall climate for the 2022 midterm elections is obviously, but not overwhelmingly, Republican. Let’s call it a national advantage of around 3 points, which should be enough to deliver about 15 seats and House control for the party now out of power. We’ll check back in a month or so, but right now it looks like a Republican House majority about as small as Democrats have had since 2018, something like 230 seats.

As for the Senate, you’ll have to wait for next week after the New Hampshire primary when we will return with our fearless forecast for the upper chamber!


Holy croakano! We welcome your feedback, so please email us with your tips, corrections, reactions, amplifications, etc. at STIREWALTISMS@THEDISPATCH.COM. If you’d like to be considered for publication, please include your real name and hometown. If you don’t want your comments to be made public, please specify.


STATSHOT                                                                              

Biden job performance

Average approval: 41.8 percent
Average disapproval: 55.2  percent
Net score: -13.4 points
Change from one week ago: ↑ 0.7 points
Change from one month ago: ↑ 5.2 points 

[Average includes: NPR/PBS NewsHour: 42% approve-54% disapprove; NBC News: 42% approve-55% disapprove; Fox News: 42% approve-58% disapprove; Ipsos/Reuters: 39% approve-57% disapprove; Wall Street Journal: 45% approve-54% disapprove; Quinnipiac University: 41% approve-53% disapprove]

Generic congressional ballot 

Democrats: 46.2 percent
Republicans: 44.1 percent
Net advantage: Democratic Party +2.1 points
Change from one week ago: Democratic Party ↑ 0.4 points
Change from one month ago: Democratic Party ↑ 0.1 points

[Average includes: NBC News: 45% Democrat, 47% Republican; Fox News: 41% Democrat, 41% Republican; NPR/PBS NewsHour: 48% Democrat, 44% Republican; Monmouth University: 49% Democrat, 46% Republican; Wall Street Journal: 47% Democrat, 44% Republican; Quinnipiac University: 47% Democrat, 43% Republican]


TIME OUT: DAS BOOT

New York Times: “Sure, the beginning of a field-goal attempt resembles a normal play: Each team gathers at the line of scrimmage to lunge forward at the snap. But the crush of bodies almost never affects the kick itself. By the time the first lineman wraps a meaty paw around another, the ball is already sailing to the holder, and in the space of 1.3 seconds, it’s hurtling toward the uprights. For the kicker, those 1.3 seconds may as well be another game. … [His job is] to enter a kind of trance, as if he were the last man on earth, and perform a complex choreography of his own. … None of this is unique to the football kicker. The biomechanical exactitude would be familiar to a dancer or figure skater, and the incongruous interlude of a field goal has echoes in other sports—like a penalty kick in soccer or a free throw in basketball. What’s odd is how little a field goal has in common with football.”


GOP LOOKS WEST IN SEARCH OF GOVERNORSHIPS 

Politico: “The Midwest is at the center of this year’s races for governor. But some blue-leaning states out West are fast becoming some of the most competitive—and surprising—races of 2022. … Republicans have grown increasingly bullish on a quartet of gubernatorial elections further west: Defending their open seat in Arizona, challenging incumbent Democrats in New Mexico and Nevada, and—most surprisingly—making a strong charge for the open seat in reliably blue Oregon, where an independent candidate has scrambled the usual electoral math. … [Oregon] is perhaps the most unusual race in the country. There, the typically blue state was upended by the independent candidacy of a well-funded former Democratic state senator, Betsy Johnson. Now, she, Democrat Tina Kotek and Republican Christine Drazan all have a viable shot at replacing outgoing Democratic Gov. Kate Brown.”

Dems sour on Abrams’ chances against Kemp: New York Times: “Georgia Democrats have grown increasingly pessimistic about Stacey Abrams’s chances of ousting Gov. Brian Kemp from office, pointing to her struggles to rally key parts of her party’s coalition and her inability to appeal to a slice of moderate Republican voters who can decide the state’s elections. Public and private polls have consistently shown her trailing Mr. Kemp, a Republican seeking a second term. And, in a particularly worrying sign for Ms. Abrams, polls also show she is drawing less support than the other high-profile Democrat on the ballot, Senator Raphael Warnock, who is seeking a first full term. … For years, she worked to register and turn out Democratic voters… Now, her struggles have some Georgia Democrats wondering if the Abrams model—seeking to expand the universe of voters to fit her politics—is truly better than trying to capture 50 percent of the voters who exist now.”

GOP fights losing battle for suburban women: Politico: “Republicans this election cycle thought they had finally achieved a breakthrough with suburban women after years of losing support. Now, as the primary season has all but ended, the GOP is back where it once was: Appealing directly to skeptical female voters, the women whose support will make or break the party’s drive to retake the Senate majority. … ‘I’m convinced that, based on numbers we have, Republicans have to make some kind of leap on the abortion issue,’ said Chuck Coughlin, an Arizona-based GOP strategist. ‘Because they’re getting killed among women.’ … In August, Republican Senate nominees in top battleground states began to bring female family members onscreen to vouch for them. The male GOP candidates in Ohio, Arizona, Nevada and Colorado had their wives speak directly to the camera about their character, while the Republican woman trying to flip a Senate seat in Washington has released two direct-to-camera ads in the last two weeks designed to convey nuance on abortion.”

Sensing little upside, candidates avoid debates: Politico: “The 2022 debate season is off to a slow start. In some cases, it may not start at all. In 2020, there were more than a dozen televised face-offs between Republican and Democratic Senate candidates, and several were already occurring in mid-September. But this year, it’s still a question whether debates will occur at all in many of the Senate’s top battleground states. … To date, general election debates have been confirmed in just two competitive Senate races, Arizona and Colorado. … The reluctance by both Republicans and Democrats this cycle to get grilled on live television reflects that candidates—even those in tight races—believe there are less risky ways to reach undecided voters. ‘The narrative going into most debates by the operatives advising clients is “You’re not going to win the election on a debate, but you sure can lose one,”’ said [Republican strategist] Paul Shumaker.” 

McConnell, Scott continue candidate quality feud: The Hill: “[Sen. Rick Scott] wrote a scathing op-ed in the Washington Examiner on Sept. 1 in which he slammed GOP critics for questioning the quality of Senate candidates. The op-ed was published less than two weeks after [Sen. Mitch McConnell] said ‘candidate quality’ could be a reason Republicans won’t capture control of the Senate in November. But on Tuesday, after meeting face to face with McConnell for the first time since the August recess, Scott said his op-ed was aimed at anonymous GOP sources quoted in media outlets and not at the Senate’s top Republican. … Scott’s op-ed, however, appeared timed to respond to McConnell’s expressed concerns about the quality of Senate candidates. … ‘Sen. McConnell and I clearly have a strategic disagreement here. … We have great candidates,’ he said last week.”

BRIEFLY

Poll: Republican men most enthusiastic for midterms—Washington Post

WinRed donor pool dries up as Election Day draws nearer—Politico

Poll: Gretchen Whitmer extends lead over Tudor DixonDetroit News 

Diehl or no Diehl? Trump acolyte wins GOP nod in Massachusetts—Boston Globe

Las Vegas Democratic official arrested for murder of investigative reporter—Las Vegas Review Journal

WITHIN EARSHOT: THAT WOULD EXPLAIN THE INFLATION

“We have created nearly ten thousand million jobs since President Biden took office, which is the fastest job growth in history.”—White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre discussing the August jobs report. 


MAILBAG

“I am VERY FRUSTRATED with the GOP for not articulating in concise, specific and user friendly language what are the steps they would take to address inflation, immigration and the resulting fentanyl crisis, street violence in our cities, student loan debt, etc. Stop wasting precious time on ‘When we gain the House we are going to hold hearings on…’ Nonsense. What does that do for me and much more importantly for our country!? Based on Biden’s speech [on September 1] we’re going to hear a lot of ‘politics’ around abortion. The GOP needs to have an articulate message on that subject, not to be defensive, but to clearly explain their position in a positive message. People will decide what is the best path forward.”—Greg Doyle, Wethersfield, Connecticut

There are lots of downsides to our hyper-nationalized politics, but perhaps chief among them is the inability of candidates to make the best arguments for their own constituencies. Connecticans think differently about abortion than New Yorkers, who think differently than Pennsylvanians, who think differently than West Virginians, and so on. In large part because of our media’s unhealthful focus on national news, it is very hard for candidates to appeal to the specific interests of their own electorates. It would not have been useful even 30 years ago so talk about a “Republican” or “Democratic” position on abortion given the diversity of opinion on the issue. Republicans may have been more pro-life and Democrats may have been more pro-choice, but it was in many ways a more regional than partisan issue. But now, all politics are national, thereby depriving candidates of the best arguments and voters of the best representation.


You should email us! Write to STIREWALTISMS@THEDISPATCH.COM with your tips, kudos, criticisms, insights, rediscovered words, wonderful names, recipes and, always, good jokes. Please include your real name—at least first and last—and hometown. Make sure to let me know in the email if you want to keep your submission private. My colleague, the dauntless Nate Moore, and I will look for your emails and then share the most interesting ones and my responses here. Clickety clack! 


CUTLINE CONTEST: POP GOES THE PRESSER 

(Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images.)

Winner: 

“President Biden is caught off guard at a press conference when an elderly man with the Newark Post introduces himself as Corn Pop.”—Seth Higgins, Saint Marys, Pennsylvania 

Honorable Mentions:

“Just thinking of a 2024 campaign in Iowa and having to eat another damn corn dog is making my head explode. Not a joke.”—Richard Basuk, New York, New York

“Hoisted on my own dang stream of thought again!”—Brendan Bossard, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Winner, 8th Grade Division:

“Ya smell that? The guys say, ‘Whoever smelt it, deals…’ No joke! I turned to my sister, Jill, and I told her how Corn Pop would smell. I’m serious!”—Tripp Whitbeck, Arlington, Virginia

Winner, Brevity, the Soul of Wit, Division:

“Tastes a bit like malarkey”—Leo Algminas, Wilmette, Illinois

Send your proposed cutline for the picture that appears at the top of this newsletter to STIREWALTISMS@THEDISPATCH.COM. We will pick the top entrants and an appropriate reward for the best of this month—even beyond the glory and adulation that will surely follow. Be hilarious, don’t be too dirty, and never be cruel. Include your full name and hometown. Have fun! 


YOU SHOULD SEE THE SIZE OF THE BREADSTICKS

NYT: “The Alfredo sauce was everywhere. The Alfredo sauce was in the northbound lanes. The Alfredo sauce seeped into the southbound lanes. Mile 11 of Interstate 55, in Memphis, was sauced up. … ‘Danielle, I understand it’s quite a mess there on the highway because the Alfredo sauce is everywhere,’ said Richard Ransom, an anchor for ABC24. Danielle Moss, the network’s chief pasta sauce correspondent, delivered the difficult news. ‘The Alfredo sauce is everywhere,’ Ms. Moss confirmed. … In an interview Wednesday morning, [Kate Bieri of Fox 13] said it did, indeed, smell great—‘like we were at an Olive Garden’—when she and Sam Hudson, a Fox 13 photographer, first arrived at about 5:40 p.m. She loves Alfredo sauce, she said. ‘Unfortunately, this is Memphis, and we had some pretty intense sun beating down on that Alfredo sauce, and also humidity,’ she said. … The responding crew members were ‘all wearing boots, like they were walking through snow but it was Alfredo sauce.’”

Chris Stirewalt is a contributing editor at The Dispatch, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and the author of Broken News, a new book on media and politics. Nate Moore contributed to this report.

Chris Stirewalt is a contributing editor at The Dispatch, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, the politics editor for NewsNation, co-host of the Ink Stained Wretches podcast, and author of Broken News, a book on media and politics.