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Democrats’ Last-Ditch Effort to Rally Base Unlikely to Turn Tide in Their Favor as Midterms Approach: Strategists

News Analysis

As polls continue to tighten and the Nov. 8 midterm elections draw ever closer, Democrats are upping their campaign to disparage GOP candidates and sound the alarm on the potential consequences of a GOP takeover of Congress, but political analysts say this strategy is unlikely to work.

The extraordinary steps that some Democrats have taken in recent days, namely President Joe Biden’s Oct. 20 visit to Pennsylvania, during which Biden made a number of pointed remarks about GOP Senate candidate Mehmet Oz, who has the endorsement of former President Donald Trump, are a sign of how narrow the margins have gotten and how concerned Democrats are about the races, one strategist told The Epoch Times.

During his Pennsylvania visit, Biden made an impassioned case for Democrat Senate candidate John Fetterman, the current lieutenant governor, whose continuing health and cognitive problems since a stroke in the spring, along with his stated support for more lenient criminal justice policies and an end to fracking, have prompted many to question his viability.

Biden made the unusual claim that the outcome of the race is of concern not just to Pennsylvania voters or even to Americans in general, but to the world.

“The rest of the world is looking at this election as well. Both the good guys and the bad guys out there—to see what’s going to happen. We’ve got to win. John’s got to win,” Biden said.

Biden characterized Oz as one of the “MAGA Republicans” who, as the president previously stated allegedly pose a threat to the stability of the country and the world, and whose extremism undermines America’s standing in the eyes of geopolitical friends and foes alike.

The president further claimed that “these guys,” meaning Oz and the other MAGA Republicans, “they want to get rid of or fundamentally change social security and Medicare” and further charged, with respect to the Ukraine crisis, that “They have no sense of American foreign policy” and are uncommitted to the defense of Ukraine.

“This is not your father’s Republican Party, as I said. This is a different group of people,” Biden said.

Races Tighten

Democrats’ concerns have risen in tandem with polls that show increasingly competitive races in states deemed critical for continued Democrat control of the House and Senate, including a number of contests where their preferred candidates enjoyed cozy leads as recently as the summer.

FiveThirtyEight’s most recent polling has Fetterman commanding the support of 47.2 percent of voters, compared to 43.6 percent for Oz, with the difference well within the margin of error. The gap has shrunk markedly since the beginning of August, when Fetterman led Oz 47.6 percent to 39.4 percent.

In another intensely followed race, the Georgia Senate contest between incumbent Raphael Warnock and challenger Hershel Walker, the gap has also narrowed considerably, and Warnock now enjoys only a 3.7 point lead with 47.8 percent to Walker’s 44.1 percent.

And in yet another closely watched contest, Trump-endorsed Blake Masters, who trailed his Democrat rival Mark Kelly by more than ten points in the summer, has narrowed the gap to a somewhat lesser but still considerable extent, with current polling giving Kelly 48.9 percent to 42.3 percent for Masters.

The Economic Albatross

The dismal economic performance of the Biden administration, and the inflation afflicting millions of voters, are fueling many of the attacks on candidates challenging Democrat incumbents, observers believe. This phenomenon is partly a reflection of the historical reality that a party presiding over a downturn will pay a steep price at the midpoint of a president’s term.

“It is unusual for adverse economic circumstances not to result in changes in midterms, and two adverse circumstances have materialized this year, inflation and a bear market,” Brian Domitrovic, a professor of history at Sam Houston State University, told The Epoch Times.

This pattern has held up regardless of whether the leaders deemed responsible for the downturn are Democrat or Republican, Domitrovic said, pointing to the midterm elections of 1974, in which voters unhappy with a bear market and double-digit inflation under Republican President Gerald Ford handed Democrats a massive victory, giving them four new Senate seats and 49 seats in the House. The pattern was also observable in November 1982, when Republicans suffered heavy losses, he noted.

“I expect this year to follow the normal pattern: inflation and a bear market mean good returns for the party out of power,” Domitrovic said.

Nowhere Left to Turn

The dialed-up attacks on GOP challengers have largely to do with their lack of substantive answers to the problems facing voters, which happen to be the issues on which those challengers have campaigned, suggested Keith Naughton, head of the Maryland-based consultancy Silent Majority Strategies.

“I think the Democrats are struggling because they have no answers for the two big issues Republicans are running on: inflation and crime. Taming inflation is a long-term project, and they cannot withdraw the stimulus they passed or admit it was too much. The Democrats cannot get tough on crime as it would infuriate the progressive activists in the party. They are stuck with running on abortion, the alleged ‘threat to democracy,’ and Trump,” Naughton told The Epoch Times.

Politically speaking, this is not a position of strength, given that abortion is an issue of concern to some voters while inflation has an impact on virtually everyone, Naughton said. Moreover, the other social issues on which Democrats often try to build appeal—voting requirements and immigration—can be a double-edged sword, he noted.

“Plenty of voters think Democrats’ inaction on immigration and unwillingness to enhance vote security is as much of a threat to democracy as Trump. Trump is unpopular, but he is not president and his legal problems make him less of a threat” in the eyes of some voters, Naughton continued.

Even the much tighter polling results of the last few days may not capture just how much the dynamic has shifted, or how much of a shock Democrats may be in for on Nov. 8, he suggested.

“I don’t think the major polling organizations have fixed their sampling problems, and are likely underestimating Republican strength. The momentum toward GOP candidates should be very troubling for Democrats, and I think it is likely they will lose the Senate and suffer a bigger defeat in the House than expected,” Naughton added.

Inevitable Shift

David Carlucci, a former member of the New York State Senate who now works as a political consultant, said that shifts in strategy are to be expected because relatively few voters are undecided at this point in the game, and the question is more one of turnout than of which candidates can frame issues in a way that will woo the highest number of voters. Carlucci sees attempts underway by both sides to mobilize people with longstanding party affiliations and convey to them that nothing is assured if voters stay home.

“I think the Democrats knew this was going to be a tough midterm election. Historically, the president’s party does poorly in the midterms. A year ago, everyone was talking about the red tsunami, and I think what we’re seeing now is what the politicos expected, that this was going to be a good year for Republicans,” Carlucci told The Epoch Times.

The negative comments, and ads, targeting candidates come from both sides, and are only likely to increase as leaders of either party try to mobilize their base.

“I think we’ll see an increase in political advertising, but I think it will be overly negative because at this point, people are trying to suppress or demotivate their opposition’s support, because that is the best way to move the needle, if you will,” Carlucci said.

In the gubernatorial race in New York, where GOP challenger Lee Zeldin seeks to unseat incumbent Kathy Hochul amid widespread concern over crime, Carlucci believes it is important to keep recent Quinnipiac polling, showing Hochul leading Zeldin by only four points, in perspective. Hochul still commands far more support than Zeldin in New York City, the Quinnipiac poll shows, and Carlucci believes the real question is whether voters will be motivated to come to the polls in a state where many elections are a shoo-in for the Democrat candidate. If they do turn out in numbers reflective of their share of the electorate, then Hochul is likely to win, he said. The question of turnout is also paramount in other races, he said.

“If you look at Fetterman versus Oz, or Hochul versus Zeldin, people know the candidates by now, there have been tens of millions of dollars spent to identify the politicians, and now it’s about who comes out to vote. So now it might be time to come into a district and rally the base,” Carlucci added.

The Epoch Times has reached out to the DNC for comment.


Michael Washburn is a New York-based reporter who covers U.S. and China-related topics. He has a background in legal and financial journalism, and also writes about arts and culture. Additionally, he is the host of the weekly podcast Reading the Globe. His books include “The Uprooted and Other Stories,” “When We’re Grownups,” and “Stranger, Stranger.”

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