With the November 8th election just around the corner, American voters are finalizing their scrutiny of candidates. The president of the United States is not on the ballot, which is why this is a so-called midterm election.
Historically, they were considered to be less important than presidential-election years, but just like divisions in American politics have deepened in the past two decades, midterms have basically become as important as presidential elections. The reason is primarily Congress: the entire House of Representatives, with its 435 members, and one-third of the U.S. Senate will have to face voters. The two main parties, Democrats and Republicans, have been locked since at least the 2000 election in a narrow fight over the congressional majority.
Currently, the Democrats control both chambers, but with very small margins. After a couple of extraordinary elections to fill vacancies, their majority in the House is down to nine seats. In the Senate, the two parties are exactly evenly divided, 50-50, but since the vice president of the United States is the Senate president, and since she, Kamala Harris, is a Democrat, her party currently runs the Senate by the slimmest of majorities.
It is widely expected that the Republicans will win a sizable majority in the House, possibly by as much as 30 seats. Until recently, there were no clear signs that they were going to take over the Senate, but that has changed in the past month. As of Monday, October 24th, RealClearPolitics.com (RCP) predicted a Republican Senate majority of 53-47.
The Republican surge is due to many different factors, one being the widespread dissatisfaction with high inflation and other economic woes. Another is the apparent unwillingness of President Biden to close the U.S. border with Mexico. If he did, many suggest, it would radically reduce illegal immigration.
A third issue that is high on many voters’ priority lists is the sharp rise in crime since Democrats took over Congress and the White House. A combination of lenient prosecutors (often elected Democrats) and tighter police budgets have turned cities like Baltimore, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Seattle into cesspools of crime and social decay.
Meanwhile, Democrat candidates for Congress, as well as for state offices, have spent a good part of this year’s campaign season talking about how important it is that women can abort babies up to the point of birth. Few voters agree with them, and fewer still take it as a reason to vote for a Democrat. On the contrary, the aforementioned rise in support for Republicans is directly traceable back to this discord between Democrat opinions and voter sentiments.
As far as the Senate is concerned, four states have recently swung Republican. In Pennsylvania, the Democrat favorite John Fetterman has lost his once significant lead over Trump-endorsed Republican candidate Mehmet Oz. Their recent debate left undecided voters leaning toward Oz, and the latest RCP numbers put Oz ahead of Fetterman at the ballot box.
A Newsweek article offers a number of reasons for this. One of them is Fetterman’s unwillingness to deal with crime while mayor of Braddock, a blighted wasteland of a town just outside Pittsburgh. A review of crime data from BestPlaces.net suggests that violent crime kept rising during Fetterman’s tenure as mayor from 2006 to 2019.
The Associated Press piled on to Fetterman’s dubious record by examining his performance as Lt. Governor of Pennsylvania. According to the AP, his job schedule does not offer a very flattering
portrait of his time in the $179,000-a-year elected job. They show Fetterman typically kept a light work schedule and was often absent from state business, including presiding over the state Senate, which is one of his chief duties.
They also note that the calendar was blank for a third of his workdays; when he showed up at the office, he rarely put in more than 4-5 hours per day.
A record of laziness does not sit well, especially with work-ethic-minded Pennsylvanians. Republican Mehmet Oz has added fuel to fire, portraying Fetterman as a far-out leftist whose support for Vermont’s socialist U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders puts him out of touch with the middle class, their economic strife, and their social values.
Fetterman’s campaign is slowly imploding, and it is not the only one. In Georgia, incumbent Democrat Senator Raphael Warnock is facing Republican challenger Herschel Walker. On October 12th, Newsmax reported that Walker had taken a small but crucial lead in the race, with 46% of likely voters preferring him, to 44% favoring Warnock.
Warnock is doing well, given that Georgia is a relatively conservative state and he is a radical leftist. To sustain him in the race against Herschel Walker, many leftist forces have tried to smear Walker with an assortment of allegations.
Among them is a story that he allegedly paid off a girlfriend to have an abortion, and that she three years later went full term with another child, fathered by him. Walker has flat-out denied both stories, but he has also faced accusations of domestic violence—from his own son, no less. Walker has not denied these accusations but said he has gone through redemption and is now a better man.
As the RealClearPolitics analysis suggests, these accusations have not made a dent in Walker’s lead. He is a well-known public figure, having retired from a long, successful professional career in American football. This, together with solidifying voter dissatisfaction with President Biden and Democrat policies in general, may explain why every new poll improves Walker’s chances of winning.
A similar trend is underway in Nevada: since mid-September, Republican Adam Laxalt has been leading Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto by a small margin.
Laxalt is a former U.S. Navy officer and a lawyer. He served as attorney general—minister of justice—for the state of Nevada from 2015 to 2019. After a failed candidacy for governor in 2018, Laxalt went on to work as Nevada co-chair for President Trump’s re-election campaign.
Overall, Laxalt is a cookie-cutter American politician, with a legal career in government as the main item on his CV. The front page of his campaign website has no tab for his policy views; a deeper dig reveals brief, almost generic opinions on the economy, immigration, and a few other issues.
On economic policy, Laxalt succinctly explains that he wants to “stop the spending spree that has led to record-breaking inflation” and “stand up to reckless mandates” in the labor market. Exactly what those mandates are, is unclear.
He is more outspoken on immigration, making it a top priority to stop the large inflow of illegals across the U.S.-Mexico border.
His Democrat opponent, Catherine Cortez Masto, has also served as attorney general for Nevada. However, her main campaign point is that she is a Latina. Democrat politicians crave ethnic-minority status, sometimes so much that they ‘mistakenly’ claim to belong to a minority. That is not the case with Cortez Masto, but the fact that she touts her Latina background is noteworthy, given that voters with Latin American backgrounds increasingly support Republicans.
As for policy issues, Cortez Masto is proud of having expanded government, both in terms of spending and on the regulatory side (e.g., increasing the legal minimum wage). She supports “reproductive freedom,” a far-left euphemism for up-to-birth abortions.
Arizona is home to another vigorous, ideologically charged campaign. Back in September, Democrat Mark Kelly held a comfortable lead of 5-7% over Republican Blake Masters. However, since early October, Kelly’s lead has declined, from a 4% lead in the Fox 10/Insider Advantage poll on October 11th to a meager 1% margin in the Daily Wire/Trafalgar poll from October 16-17th.
It is this trend that makes RealClearPolitics predict a win for Masters on November 8th. This would put a non-politician in the Senate: Blake Masters is a venture capitalist who has helped start multiple successful businesses, now worth tens of billions of dollars.
Masters is quick to mention that he worked for President Trump during the transition phase between the 2016 election and the new president taking office. Trump remains widely popular among Republican voters, especially in western states like Arizona.
To further underscore his maverick profile, Masters points to “an unholy alliance between Big Government, Big Tech, and Big Business,” which, he says, is actively imposing “their radically liberal ideology” on America. (The word “liberal” is to be understood as “leftist,” contrary to its European meaning.)
The contrast between Masters and Mark Kelly, his Democrat opponent, could not be clearer. Kelly is a Navy veteran, a marine and aeronautical engineer, and a combat pilot who served on the USS Midway aircraft carrier during Operation Desert Storm. He then became an astronaut and did a long mission to the International Space Station.
Mark Kelly became a U.S. Senator in 2020 after incumbent John McCain died. Kelly’s foray into politics was in part motivated by the 2011 assassination attempt on his wife, former Democrat Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. Picking up her mantle, Kelly runs on a mainstream leftist policy agenda, including restrictions on gun ownership, expanded government funding of health care (without any explanation of how much he wants to raise taxes to pay for it), and expanding civil rights, a.k.a., social justice, for sexual deviants.
There is also an interesting gubernatorial race in Arizona. The Republican candidate, Kari Lake, won a hotly contested primary election on August 2nd. Lake is supported by former president Donald Trump, who appears to have given her the same boost that other Trump-supported candidates around the country have experienced.
Kari Lake, a former news anchor for a local TV station, has a media presence that few other politicians have. Her campaign platform includes classic conservative economic ideas: tax cuts, removing economic regulations, and improved opportunities for vocational education in high school, or ‘secondary school’ as it is known in Europe.
Her opponent, Democrat Kate Hobbs, is a career politician. She was elected to the Arizona state legislature in 2010 and went on to run for secretary of state in 2016. This position is essentially comparable to a minister of the interior in many European countries, except the secretary of state does not supervise law enforcement.
One of the key functions of the secretary of state is to oversee elections. Arizona was one of the states where, in 2020, accusations ran high about election fraud. It is an open question to what extent Hobbs has been tarnished as a gubernatorial candidate by holding that office at that time, but her Republican opponent has promised that as governor, she will make election integrity a top priority.
The most reliable polls, with the largest sample of voters, put Lake ahead of Hobbs by as much as three percentage points. No poll this past month has been able to produce more than a 1% lead for Hobbs, and that one was done by notoriously left-leaning CNN.
As a testament to the strength of the Republican wave in this election, Lee Zeldin, Republican candidate for governor of New York, has a reasonably good chance of defeating incumbent Democrat Kathy Hochul. In at least one recent poll, Zeldin actually leads Hochul.
Normally, New York is solidly democratic. In 2018, Governor Andrew Cuomo won re-election by a 22% margin. He was forced to resign in August 2021 after facing credible allegations of sexual harassment. As lieutenant governor under Cuomo, Kathy Hochul replaced him.
Given that Cuomo was elected governor both in 2014 and 2018 with double-digit margins, it is striking to see polls where Hochul leads Zeldin by as little as 2-4%. As with the Arizona race, those polls have a greater voter sample than polls giving Hochul a bigger lead.
Elsewhere, Republicans are poised to win other important gubernatorial races. Most spotlights are on Ron DeSantis, governor of Florida, who is approximately ten points ahead of his Democrat opponent. DeSantis is often mentioned as a Republican presidential candidate in 2024.
All in all, things look good for the Republicans, and for the many candidates who have received an endorsement from former president Donald Trump. While he probably will not run for president again, his legacy will shape Republican congressional policies in the coming two years, as well as presidential candidates in 2024.