How well have the Democrats’ attempts to shift focus in the midterms from inflation and crime to abortion, Donald Trump, and climate change succeeded? Follow the money, as Politico does this morning. With less than four weeks to go before Election Day, House Democrats and their allies are “retrench[ing]” and cutting back their expenditures.

Republicans, on the other hand, have expanded their ambitions in the electoral map of the midterms:

As Republicans’ biggest House super PAC floods the election with hundreds of millions of dollars, their Democratic counterparts have lagged far behind. Some members of the California Democratic delegation were alarmed by the decision to leave Garcia’s district untouched — and they have urged their party’s campaign arm in recent weeks not to abandon a seat that President Joe Biden won by double digits, according to multiple people familiar with the discussions.

Similar pleas are coming from Texas, Pennsylvania and elsewhere, as frustrated Democrats bemoan that their party’s outside groups are unable — or, some say privately, unwilling — to devote precious funds toward what they see as winnable seats.

The result is a shrinking battlefield for Democrats that has seen leadership and rank-and-file members alike pressuring the rest of their party, including Biden, to pony up more support in a bid to save the House majority. …

Altogether, national Democratic groups aren’t airing TV ads in six of the 14 Republican-held districts that went for Biden in 2020 — seats that are among the most important to contest.

Democrats have resource issues? Who knew? Supposedly, the Dobbs decision and the end of Roe touched off a massive uprising against the patriarchy in the American electorate — or so Democrats and the media claimed, especially over the summer.  The abortion wave was always a mirage, even in competitive districts, but more recent polling shows just how much of a mirage it is.

Chris Cillizza breaks down the somewhat-outlier CNN poll on the generic ballot to note just how well Republicans are doing in competitive House districts. The question here, of course, is just what constitutes competitive in this cycle (via Grabien):

KEILAR: “With less than a month to go until the midterm elections, new CNN polling finds that Americans are closely divided in their vote for Congress. CNN Politics Reporter and Editor-at-Large Chris Cillizza is with us now. So the choice for Congress, Chris, which party has the advantage?”

CILLIZZA: “OK, so Brianna, I want to start. This is the generic ballot. The reason we call it that because it’s basically the question is asked which party do — which candidate do you favor, a Democrat or a Republican, no names? OK, this is interesting. Nationwide when we asked this question, we get this, D plus three, 50 for Democrats, 47 for Republicans. But when we ask it in competitive districts where this is going to be fought out, in — you know not every district of this country is competitive. I come from a district in Connecticut, not competitive at all — In competitive districts, look at this, look how this changes, R plus five. That number right here, this is good news if you are a Republican, because it suggests in the places where this election is going to be decided, Republicans have an edge. So this number — look, you’re not upset if you’re a Democrat with this number, but this is the number that really matters because remember, 435 districts vote, but probably only 35 to 50 are the ones that are deciding the majority. And in those, R plus five.”

KEILAR: “And so what are the issues that are motivating voters?”

CILLIZZA: “OK. I was totally struck by this when looking at the poll.”

CNN’s poll really shows Democrats up by three in the generic ballot? Yeah, that’s “interesting,” all right. Almost every likely-voter poll has the GOP up and the RCP average has Republicans edging into the lead by 0.6%. That includes two LV polls with Dems up within the margin of error, from YouGov and Marist, both of which have been outliers to the left on a regular basis. (NPR was the poll that declared a State of the Union bounce for Joe Biden back in March that never materialized, you’ll recall). Don’t forget too that the structural issues around the generic-ballot question generally require Democrats to lead among LVs by four or five points just to hold serve, too.

The “retrenching” tells us just how much House Democrats buy that overall result from CNN, too. They’re getting clobbered, and now they are desperately trying to shore up as many seats as they can hold.

Democrats have very good reason to worry, too — because their distraction campaigns are failing, and failing miserably. On the issues that matter, Harry Enten added, Republicans are far more popular. And by far, the most important issue in this election cycle is not abortion, not climate change, not January 6 or Donald Trump. It’s inflation, and on that issue Republicans have an almost twenty-point lead in CNN’s polling:

With their support growing as well as their resources, the GOP has started targeting bluer districts, forcing Democrats into abandoning some of their candidates elsewhere:

On top of that, Republican outside spending is forcing Democrats to divert precious resources to what should be safe blue districts. Democrats’ top super PAC this week slashed a planned TV blitz in Los Angeles, which could have targeted Garcia, and Tucson, where Engel is running, to redeploy the money elsewhere.

The moral of the story is: If you want to know how this cycle is progressing, you can look the polls, but you’re better off following the money.

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