US Midterms 2022: Inflation, abortion and Trump: How Democrats and Republicans fight for attention just before the election

In the US, the election year so far has been a political rollercoaster.

US Midterms 2022: Inflation, abortion and Trump: How Democrats and Republicans fight for attention just before the election

In the US, the election year so far has been a political rollercoaster. While the Republicans still had their momentum in spring in view of inflation and rising fuel prices, the Democrats were able to mobilize their electorate vigorously over the summer as a result of the controversial abortion verdict. Well, a good week before the important midterm elections, the tide seems to be turning in favor of the Conservatives again.

In general, the midterms are considered the first interim balance for the incumbent president and are traditionally used by voters to punish the governing party. Congress went to the Democrats in 2006 under George W. Bush, to the Republicans twice during Barack Obama's term of office (2010 and 2014) and again to the Democratic Party in 2018 with Donald Trump in the White House.

There are many indications that the Democrats will once again lose their narrow majority in the House of Representatives, which will be completely re-elected. In the Senate - where 35 seats are up for grabs - things could get tight for the Conservatives. The gubernatorial elections will also show how far the political weight will shift. An overview.

For a long time it looked as if the Republicans would start a wave in the usual "it's the economy, stupid" manner - in the spirit of the Midterms tradition. Since the beginning of the year, they have been spreading the message that President Joe Biden and his Democrats are to blame for the difficult economic situation and are ignoring the everyday concerns of citizens. A strategy that seems to be working in times of sharp rises in consumer prices and a recent inflation rate of 8.2 percent. Because economic issues and inflation in particular are the most pressing issue for most Americans - and one where the conservative party is believed to have more competence.

Meanwhile, the Democrats are feverishly trying to turn the tables and draw attention to their own achievements: the drop in fuel prices, the lifting of most corona restrictions and, last but not least, the multi-billion dollar climate protection and social package. The decision of the Supreme Court on June 24 to abolish the fundamental right to abortion, which has been in force for almost 50 years, came at just the right time. The verdict triggered a political earthquake and gave the Democrats an unexpected campaign topic with enormous potential for mobilization - at least over the summer.

But with the start of the cold season, inflation that is still at a record high and the cost of living rising, the tide seems to be turning in favor of the Republicans again. Away from their passion for the economy, the Conservatives are directing the debate shortly before the election to the fight against crime - with success. Even in the Democrat stronghold of New York, recent weeks have shown that candidates who focus on crime are catching up in polls.

"I wish the election had been a month ago," says Democratic strategist Navin Nayak in the New York Times. Because pollsters agree that which party manages to anchor its issues prominently in the minds of voters will ultimately get the most votes.

Time is running against the Democrats, who with the current stalemate in the Senate and only a razor-thin 222-213 majority in the House of Representatives have no room for error. In fact, thanks to district redistribution, Republicans would only need five seats to regain control of the House. In order for the Democrats to stay in power, they would have to capture a number of key swing-state districts and win about 80 percent of them, political analysts say. An unlikely scenario.

"Die Blauen" put their hopes in the Senate instead. They currently hold 48 of the 100 seats there, with two independents almost always voting with them - and in the event of a tie, Vice President Kamala Harris has the final say. But again, Democrats can't afford to lose a single seat. Although the conservatives in the important swing states of Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin have recently been able to improve their poll numbers, the gains have been partially wiped out by the scandals of other Republican Senate candidates. In Georgia, for example, the election campaign of Trump friend Herschel Walker has been overshadowed by claims that he financed the abortions of two ex-girlfriends - and that as a strict anti-abortion opponent.

According to policymakers, control of the chamber could ultimately be decided in three states: Nevada and Georgia, where Democratic incumbents - Catherine Cortez Masto and Raphael Warnock - are each seeking re-election, and Pennsylvania, where resigning Republican Pat Toomey is seeking a vacancy seat leaves. According to projections, the party that wins two of these three races is clearly the favorite for the Senate majority.

The gubernatorial elections will also show whether the predicted "red wave" will ultimately materialize, or whether the Democrats will be able to win over enough voters. In 36 states, the most powerful office in a state is up for vote. A good opportunity for some Republican candidates to get involved in the 2024 presidential election. For Democrats, on the other hand, governors are now often the last bulwark on issues like gun laws, voting rights and abortion, which are now in the hands of states.

Here, too, Joe Biden's unpopularity hovers like a dark cloud over the Democratic candidate. While polls show that the president has recovered slightly from his all-time low in the summer, his approval ratings remain in the low 40 percent range. According to the Fivethirtyeight statistics website, just under 42 percent support his policy, while 53 percent reject it.

So it's no wonder that Biden kept a low profile for a long time during the election campaign and rarely banged the drum for Democratic candidates. Instead, he never tires of calling the midterms "the most important midterm elections of our lives". This is not just a vote, the President emphasized on Friday in the important swing state of Pennsylvania. "It's a choice between two completely different visions of America," he warned, blatantly alluding to Donald Trump.

Although the ex-president himself is not named on any ballot paper, he is still the dominant personality in the party among the Republicans - even if it is by no means undisputed (read more about this here). However, this hardly diminishes his influence in the election campaign, in which he supports numerous MAGA candidates who are loyal to him. Many, like right-wing gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake in Arizona, Senate candidate and celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania, and populist best-selling author J.D. Vance, Ohio, repeats Trump's widely debunked allegations of voter fraud at almost every opportunity.

In the final spurt before November 8, Biden and his Democrats are now doing everything they can to add warnings about a return of Trump and his supporters in Congress to their midterms message. Elise Stefanik, a leading Republican congressman, on the other hand, accuses the Democrats of being distracted. The Democratic Party is trying to turn this into an election over Trump, she says. That is wrong. "It's a vote on Joe Biden."

Sources: NY Times, The New Yorker, Washington Post, CNN, Fivethirtyeight, with DPA and AFP footage

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