When Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.) announced Aug. 10 that he wouldn’t seek reelection, he became the eighth House Democrat to decide either to retire or seek a different office in November 2022.
Congressional incumbents always start a reelection campaign with major advantages over challengers, so losing eight of them at this point in the political cycle is ringing alarm bells among Democrats and encouraging growth in Republican optimism.
An Aug. 19 analysis by the website FiveThirtyEight was among the loudest of the alarms, saying “these departures are still an early warning for them, especially considering Democrats hold a narrow 222-to-213 seat majority, meaning Republicans need a net gain of just five seats to capture the chamber.”
Add to that factor the historical trend of a White House incumbent’s party virtually always losing seats in the first off-year election after gaining the Oval Office, and President Joe Biden’s plunging public approval numbers, and it’s hard to disagree with FiveThirtyEight’s analysis.
An NBC survey released on Aug. 22 found Biden’s public approval rating falling below 50 percent for the first time since he took office. Even more worrisome for Democrats is what the NBC survey uncovered on the public view of Congress.
“Forty-seven percent of registered voters prefer a Democrat-controlled Congress, while 46 percent want Republicans in charge. (That’s down from the Democrats’ 5-point advantage on this question in April),” the survey found.
Veteran GOP congressional strategist Brian Darling points to additional factors that he believes strongly suggest November 2022 could see a massive Republican victory.
“Democrats are going to lose control of the House next fall and recent announcements from swing state House Democrats confirm that many Democrats see a wave election on the horizon for Republicans in the House,” Darling told The Epoch Times on Aug. 23.
“Just look to President Obama’s first midterm election, where he lost 63 House seats and President Trump’s 41 House seat loss as strong evidence that history is not on the side of the Democrats,” Darling said.
“When you add up the factors of Republican-favored redistricting, Democrat retirements in swing districts, recent midterm voting trends, and the embarrassment of Afghanistan, there are going to be some strong headwinds that will make it likely that Republicans pick up far more than the five seats they need to take control of the House.”
Darling sees a real possibility that the GOP could pick up 50 to 55 seats next year, somewhere between Trump’s 41-seat loss and Obama’s 63-seat loss.
Eight House Republican incumbents have also announced either retirement plans or bids for higher office, although they are predominantly from heavily GOP districts.
Based on the FiveThirtyEight data, the average Republican advantage for the eight districts is 32 points, while four of the eight districts for the departing Democrats include electorates that lean Republican, with a resulting average advantage of only 1.3 points for the eight Democrat incumbents.
But Robin Biro, a Democratic strategist and former regional campaign director for President Barack Obama, sees an important wild card in his party’s prospects for 2022.
“The inescapable reality is that, for better or worse, Donald Trump really did upset the system. Nobody knows what to expect for the midterms because Trump changed everything, and his impacts on the system are still very palpable, even without his social media platforms,” Biro told The Epoch Times on Aug. 23.
“The GOP lost the House, Senate, and White House under Trump, and yet they are still holding him up as their standard-bearer, so I would not be at all surprised if they did not take back the House, so long as he basically still has the GOP seemingly in a hostage situation.”
“Ordinarily, this would be cyclical, and they would course-correct, but this situation is far from ordinary,” said Biro, host of the American Discourse podcast.
Washington, D.C.-based Democratic strategist Kevin Chavous told The Epoch Times on Aug. 23 that he expects his party to lose 10 to 15 seats, but he also sees some opportunities.
“Our job is to limit the damage and try to pick up a couple of seats where we can win. We have the advantage of controlling the redistricting process in New York state, for example. We can win a couple there,” Chavous noted.
“There are also several California districts that overwhelmingly supported President Biden while electing Republican representatives by small margins in 2020. We can make up ground there.”
Another factor hurting Democrats, according to Club for Growth Chairman David McIntosh, himself a former Republican representative, is the strong policy push to the far left, led by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
“Conor Lamb is a surprise to me because he’s a very strong, capable moderate Democrat who could hold on to a swing district, but he made the calculation that he’s leaving the House. Same thing with Ron Kind,” McIntosh told The Epoch Times on Aug. 23.
“What it shows is the voters are rejecting the far-left policies that Pelosi is driving through the House,” McIntosh said. “There’s a big chunk of Democratic voters who are dissatisfied with what they see coming out of Congress on the economic agenda.”
He pointed to a recent Club for Growth survey that found 61 percent of the Democrats interviewed think taxes are too high and shouldn’t be increased.
Further complicating the Democrats’ prospects are upcoming votes in the lower chamber on Biden’s top legislative priority.
Nine House Democrats who have expressed concerns about Biden’s $3.5 trillion spending plan that is to be voted on this week reportedly are being pressured not to oppose the White House measure. These Democrats worry that the Biden proposal will result in more inflation and higher taxes for which constituents will hold them responsible.
Several of the worried Democrats said they suspected an unstated threat of reduced help from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), prompting National Republican Campaign Committee (NRCC) spokesman Mike Berg’s wry observation:
“The NRCC wholeheartedly endorses DCCC Chair Sean Patrick Maloney’s [D-N.Y.] plan to cut off vulnerable Democrats’ funding. Let’s crush these guys together!”