What if the midterms don’t “make peace” with Biden and the White House? Because that’s the likeliest outcome from today’s national vote, in which Democrats will certainly lose the House and may lose the Senate as well.
“Make peace” in Politico’s usage doesn’t mean “accept the results,” however. It means, oddly, that the White House has prepared a spin that whatever red wave shows up, it could have been red-wavier, or something. And they are preparing to point their fingers outward no matter what:
So how is Bidenworld facing this moment of reckoning? By essentially arguing that, whatever happens, it could have been much worse.
The overwhelming sense of confidencefrom the summer has given way to expectations management, with Biden advisers telling Playbook they are feeling cautiously optimistic (about the Senate) while preparing for the worst (in the House).
For all the Democratic fretting about a lack of a cohesive midterm message, they argue that the White House did its job: They executed a policy agenda that gave candidates more than enough to campaign on, giving them a fighting chance in what was destined to be an uphill battle.
As one Biden campaign alum told us last night: “Usually the president’s party gets absolutely destroyed. It’s usually catastrophic. Often they are avoiding the president’s agenda. If you look at what Dems are running on — it’s the president’s agenda. They’re all embracing it.”
Are they, though? They may be in the progressive precincts where Democrats remain safest and Biden’s agenda matches their own most closely. Everywhere else, however, Democrats have sought to distance themselves from Biden, his policies, and in some cases the Democrat brand altogether. And why? Because Biden and his team “executed a policy agenda” that has resulted in a disastrous inflationary wave, supply-chain crises, a border catastrophe that finally began showing up in non-border Democrat-run cities, and crime on a scale not seen in a generation or more.
As for the framing that midterms are usually “catastrophic,” that’s spin too. Usually the president’s party takes losses (although there are exceptions to that as well), but the wave-election outcome is avoidable. The reason that Bill Clinton and Barack Obama had massive wave elections in 1994 and 2010 is because both presidents misread their mandates and overshot, and in both cases on quasi-socialized expansion of federal authority in health care. Both corrected, but Obama misread his re-election again and ended up getting scorched a second time in 2014 in losing eight Senate seats. In 1998, by contrast, Clinton didn’t lose any seats in the Senate and picked up six seats in the House, even though the GOP actually won the popular vote.
So no, midterms don’t have to be “catastrophic,” not unless the presidency itself is catastrophic and disconnected from the electorate. Team Biden might want to get that spin out there ahead of the catastrophe, but any red wave tonight will relate much more to the current state of the economy and cultural disconnects with Biden and his administration than historical trends.
What does this tell us? First off, it shows that “catastrophic” midterms are not inevitable, and indeed used to be somewhat rarer. The 1974 result was a direct consequence of Watergate, a staggering national scandal, and yet the GOP only lost three more seats in that election than in 2018.
What else does this show? It lays out the political environment Biden and Democrats have set up to create their own catastrophe. Biden is the least-popular first-term president in a midterm and second-least overall. He’s governing in the worst economic conditions since Gallup began polling on that measure, economic conditions that Biden himself created. Voter satisfaction is at its lowest ebb in 40 years, and Congress’ approval rating is just one point off its historical nadir.
What’s coming isn’t history — it’s accountability. And Biden’s team is already spinning to avoid it.
What about Democrats in general? They’re getting ready to blame … the media:
→ Progressives: They complained Democrats didn’t go big enough when they had the chance – on ARP, infrastructure or the Inflation Reduction Act. Ask many on the party’s left flank and they’ll say too many Democrats are afraid to embrace the big, bold policies that voters crave and more concerned with Republican attacks than anything else. Yet this is also true – a Democratic defeat today could set their cause back years.
→ Moderates: For moderates, their progressive colleagues were more concerned with party purity and picked fights at every turn. Not just over the major pieces of legislation – although they fought there too. House moderates maintain progressives refused to even allow them small wins on the floor, particularly when it came to immigration or crime and safety. These were victories mods said they desperately needed to fend off Republican attacks in their districts. Now the whole party will be in the minority.
→ Media: The one thing that will probably unite Democrats is blaming the media if the party suffers major losses tonight. The media holds Democrats to a different, often higher, standard than Republicans, they say. The media is too focused on intra-party Democratic fights and not a potentially crumbling U.S. democracy, they add.
Are they kidding? The mainstream media’s been pounding that drum for the last two years, while trying to pass off every lame spin on inflation and crime the White House has offered.
One thing we can presume from all of this pre-spin: Biden and Democrats know a catastrophe is looming. The finger-pointing alone suggests that the GOP will ride a red wave in these midterms, even if its size and scope has yet to emerge.
Be sure to stick with Hot Air today, as we go wall-to-wall on Election Day coverage. We will be live-blogging later this evening as results come in from key races around the country, likely into the wee hours of the morning in some cases — and then back the next morning to pick up where we left off! We’ll have all hands on deck tonight, with commentary from all of the regular writers as well as Beege Wellborn.