In just over a month, on November 8th, the USA will elect a new Congress. The citizens then re-elect the entire House of Representatives with a total of 435 MPs. In addition, a third of the seats in the Senate, i.e. 35, will be newly elected. Currently, President Joe Biden's Democratic Party commands a razor-thin majority in both houses of Congress. They hold 222 of the 435 seats in the House of Representatives.
In the Senate, the majority is even tighter. Republicans and Democrats each have 50 seats. Only the extra voice of Vice President Kamala Harris is decisive here. Of the 35 Senate seats, 14 are currently held by Democrats and 21 by Republicans. Most of them are considered safe due to the two-party system. However, it would be enough for the Republicans to win back two states that went to Joe Biden in the election two years ago.
The largest nationwide election after the presidential election is usually seen as a reckoning with the current administration in Washington. It is therefore not surprising that the opposition in particular can regularly celebrate successes in the midterms. In 2018, the Democrats were able to steal the House of Representatives from Trump's Republicans. Four years earlier, in the midst of Barack Obama's tenure, the Republican Party won both chambers of Congress outright, blocking pretty much every decision the former president made.
All the more surprisingly, most polls in the summer showed clear advantages for the Democrats. They seemed to have particularly good chances, especially in the very important group of swing voters. Most voters in the US are loyal to one of the two major parties. According to a poll by the New York Times, 31 percent definitely see themselves as Democrats and 30 percent definitely as Republicans. Only around three percent belong to another party. In the many tight races in the midterms, it will therefore primarily depend on the independent swing voters.
A narrow lead in the polls for Democrats has meanwhile created a comfortable situation for political opponents. Among swing voters, a majority of Americans prefer a Republican candidate in their respective constituency. Calculated for the country, Republicans are clearly ahead of the ruling Democrats by three percent. A month ago, the Democrats were still leading by one percent. Republicans are not only catching up in important races for seats in the Senate, seats that were believed to be secure for Democrats in the House of Representatives are also increasingly being jeopardized.
Four percentage points difference doesn't seem to pose too much of a problem in a national survey. However, the proportions for President Joe Biden's party could be devastating. If the polls do not change by the beginning of November, not only the democratic victory in the Senate, which was believed to be certain, could be in jeopardy. The loss of many swing voters: inside would probably also be the final end for the blue hopes of being able to defend the House of Representatives, says the author of the "New York Times" study Nate Cohn.
In addition, the killing sprees in Buffalo, Uvalde and Highland Parks once again put the entire country into a state of shock. Gun control was a hot topic in Congress. In both areas, Democrats traditionally have more trust in the population. Even if many conservatives reject abortions and stricter gun laws, swing voters in particular clearly tend towards the Democrats. This advantage was particularly reinforced by the public hearings that followed the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol. The court hearings were broadcast live across the country. A circumstance that may not have cast a good light on some high-ranking members of the Republican party.
However, other issues are now dominating the news. Many citizens are afraid of the economic situation in the country. Refugees are being flown between states and Republican senators are warning of rising crime in the country. In the current study, 52 percent of respondents stated that they consider these three topics to be the most important for their choice. On the other hand, only 14 percent spoke out in favor of the security of democracy, stricter gun laws and the right to abortions. A clear decrease compared to the summer.
The Republicans have significantly more trust in the population when it comes to economic issues and the handling of migration and crime. The opposition party is aware of this fact. That is why the Republicans focus precisely on these demarcations in their commercials and campaign appearances. Whenever a Democrat advocates increased police surveillance or judicial reform, Republicans regard him as a "weak on crime." This message seems to be resonating with voters.
One demographic group that Republicans have been particularly able to catch up with is women. These are traditionally in line with the Democratic Party, especially on the issues of abortion and gun ownership. In the current study by the "New York Times", however, a majority of them said they were concerned about the economy and rising crime. Another success for the Republicans.
In addition to women, the Democrats also seem to be losing working-class people without college degrees to political opponents. By far they consider inflation and economy to be the most important issues in the upcoming election. When Donald Trump was elected six years ago, the accusation was raised that the Democrats had not succeeded in picking up this group of voters, who were originally considered safe.
It remains to be seen whether the Democrats will be able to fight back in the next three weeks. In their election ads, the Democratic candidates, at least for the most part, still refer to the decision against Roe v. Wade and abortion rights. Current news and public discourse seem to continue to work against them. In any case, it will be difficult to acquire a convincing profile so shortly before the election that could convince swing voters about inflation, migration and crime. Losing both houses of Congress would be a major setback for President Biden and the Democrats. After all, stricter gun laws or a legal right to abortion cannot be enforced without a majority.
Sources: New York Times (I), New York Times (II), State Agency for Civic Education B-W