Our new book is titled Divided We Stand: The 2020 Elections and American Politics. Among other things, it discusses state and congressional elections. There are some favorable signs for Democrats in the 2022 midterms.
Yet, there's nothing new about a late summer 'reassessment' of midterm assumptions. In fact, like clockwork, the out-party right about now starts to fret that their advantage is slipping, while the in-party sees green shoots springing from a barren landscape. Or, as Washington Examiner's David Drucker wrote on Twitter recently: "Midterm cycles since '06 have certain rhythm: 1) Maybe POTUS' party'll avoid losses. 2) Things look good for out party. 3) Things look REALLY good for out party. 4) Hold on, maybe POTUS' party won't lose as many seats as thought. 5) Could POTUS' party avoid wipeout? 6) WIPEOUT."
We have already cycled through numbers 1-3 and are currently in zone 4. Think of the pre-Afghanistan, pre-inflation, pre-Delta variant as #1; we moved into #2 during the late fall and winter of 2021 as inflation began to take a serious bite and hopes for a BBB plan melted down; and we've been in #3 for much of 2022.
But, have things really improved for Democrats? The most recent polls measuring the generic preference for Congress have shown a Democratic advantage of anywhere between 4 to 6 points. Overall, the generic ballot average in RealClearPolitics is a narrow R+2.2. So, suppose you compare Biden's net job approval rating of -17 (39 percent approve minus 56 percent disapprove) to Republicans' one to two-point advantage on the generic ballot? In that case, it looks as if Democrats are outpacing the president by 15 to 16 points. But, what if you looked at Biden's overall job approval number (39 percent) and compared it with the vote share a Democrat is getting in the generic ballot (43 percent). Looking at it that way, a Democrat is outpacing Biden by a much smaller 5 points. And historically, that's about the average margin that candidates of the in-party have been able to over-perform the president.