Tightening Races in Democrat Strongholds Oregon, NY Suggest Big Victory for GOP in Midterms: Analysts

News Analysis

Democrat hopes to blunt a possible midterm wave of GOP victories look dimmer after recent polling showed Democrats facing toss-up races in what was regarded as safe congressional districts in liberal Oregon, according to experts.

Meanwhile, the once safely-liberal New York governor’s race is also rushing to a tipping point, falling away from Democrats,

Prior to re-districting this year, Democrats held the edge in Oregon, four seats to one in the northwestern liberal safe haven, an area that saw rioters take over downtown Portland in the summer of 2020 in the name of racial justice.

After this year’s gerrymander based on the 2020 census, the Democrats expected to pick up an additional seat in Oregon, making five safe congressional districts for the Democrats to one GOP district.

But the Cook Political Report last week rated Oregon’s 6th congressional district a toss-up at +4 percent for the Democrats, joining Oregon’s 5th congressional district which has a +2 percent Democrat lean.

According to experts, democrats are being weighed down by unpopular decisions made on crime and racial justice issues, including support for the George Floyd protests in 2020 that sees Oregon’s Democrat Governor Kate Brown with a lower approval rating than President Joe Biden.

Is 2022 the Democrats’ ‘Little Bighorn’?

“It’s a sign of how desperate Oregon Democrats are when they have to call the most unpopular president in history to rally the troops and energize their vote,” Tony Marsh, a GOP political consultant at Savanna Communications, told the Epoch Times.

“Biden looks a lot more like George Custer than he does Barack Obama. Oregon could be the Democrats’ Little Bighorn in 2022,” said Marsh, referring to the Lakota tribe’s famous defeat of the U.S. cavalry led by Colonel Custer in 1876.

A Morning Consult poll of the job approval of governors by state show Brown with a 40 percent job approval rating, while a Real Clear Politics average for President Biden’s approval rating is at 43.3 percent. But two recent polls recorded by Real Clear Politics have Biden both under a 40 percent job approval rating.

“When you’re looking at the overall state of play in Oregon, you have a little bit of a microcosm and intensifies of what’s going on in the rest of the country,” Amanda Iovino of polling firm WPA told The Epoch Times.

Biden’s and Brown’s unpopularity is causing a down-ticket drag on the rest of the party in Oregon, even though Brown is term-limited and not running for reelection, said Iovino.

Virginia and New York Signaled Trouble

Iovino compared the Democratic Party’s prospects in Oregon to last year’s race in Virginia, which saw Republican Glenn Youngkin capture the governor’s mansion.

“Two things we learned from Virginia last year is that voters see politicians who pursue purely ideological agendas generally as corrupt, and progressive Democrats specifically as incompetent,” said Marsh, who worked on the Youngkin race in 2021.

“Republicans who address concerns about corruption and incompetence—especially on the economy, crime, and education; the issues voters care about most—will put themselves in a position to score upsets,” he added.

Iovino said that something similar happened with the elections in New York last year.

“If you look at what happened on Long Island last year, Long Island went red and it probably will go red again this year,” said Iovino, who believes that the crime crisis created by bail reform laws in New York turned the electorate against Democrats.

“And you can even look at what happened in the New York City Mayor’s race, where you had a pro-cop Democrat win the primary,” said Iovino.

That could carry over to the 2022 midterms as an advantage for the GOP.

Lee Zeldin

On cue, a Marist poll over the weekend showed that the race for governor In New York has suddenly tightened to the mid-single digits amongst those likely to vote, a sharp contrast to the leads in the high teens reported for incumbent Democrat Governor Kathy Hochul as late as last month.

Lee Zedlin, the GOP challenger for the governor’s mansion in New York and Republican congressman, enjoys higher marks for his positions on crime, taxes and spending, according to results of a poll released to the New York Post by a former pollster for Bill Clinton and Mike Bloomberg, Schoen Cooperman Research.

“We are definitely seeing a movement toward Zeldin but he’s still behind. He’s down between 5-to-8 [percent] on four different polls. He’s moving in right direction but this would be the upset of the night if he were to win,” professional pollster Jim Ellis of Ellis Insights told the Epoch Times.

Democrat Gamble on Abortion Backfired

What’s happened in these races, and nationally, is that Democrats have over-estimated the turnout that abortion would create for the party against the GOP, while liberals ignored the kitchen table issues that decide elections, according to Alfredo Rodriguez, a Republican media strategist.

“Abortion is a passionate issue, but it is passionate on both sides of the aisle. Democrats are simply more angry, more loud, and more focused on it, so the perception is the importance of abortion will determine the outcome of races,” Rodriguez told The Epoch Times.

“It is not [that important], and it won’t,” decide many races, he added.

In Oregon, the Democrat running to replace Brown as governor is being challenged by an independent liberal who used to be a moderate Democrat, but changed affiliations to make a gubernatorial run.

A recent poll by Emerson College showed that Republican candidate Christine Drazan has a slight lead over both the independent candidate, Betsy Johnson, and Democratic nominee Tina Kotek, with 36 percent for Drazan, 34 percent for Kotek, and 19 percent for Johnson.

Kotek was Democrat Speaker of the House in the state legislature of Oregon when the George Floyd riots took place in Portland.

Epoch Times Photo

GOP Could Pick Up Two Seats in Oregon

All told, the result has been more down-ticket drag for Democrats in Oregon, including in the Congressional races, experts say.

Ellis said that while he’s a little skeptical of the polling in Oregon’s 6th congressional district, he thinks the GOP has a real chance to win the 5th congressional district, although he doesn’t discount the possibility that the 6th could fall to the GOP too.

“That race looks tight and the Dems must be worried. OR-6 is different because of the Portland situation, so I’m not sure it’s a good indicator as to how the rest of the country might come down,” said Ellis of the 6th congressional race.

“OR-5, next door, might be the better one to look at. The Republican there has a good chance to win. If both go to the Republicans, that would be significant,” Ellis added.

Either way, the fact that Democrats have to defend what used to be safe seats in Oregon, improves the odds that the GOP will pick up seats elsewhere.

“Even if they win in Oregon, the fact they had to pour time and resources into Portland-based congressional districts means they’re taking resources away from other competitive seats,” said Marsh

“That’s going to cost them in November. My guess is Democrats are going to lose 25 seats this year and maybe more,” added Marsh.

Adding to the Democrats’ woes in Oregon, longtime Democrat Rep. Pete DeFazio, who represented Oregon’s 4th Congressional District, decided to retire after this session, which would have changed Democrat calculus on redistricting if they had known of the retirement.

“They also would have drawn the seats differently if they knew DeFazio would retire,” Ellis said.

GOP May Be Poised for Big Victory

Altogether 38 Democrats are retiring, seeking another office, or lost their primary races nationally, compared to 28 Republicans, according to data provided by the U.S. House of Representatives, This data includes the retirement and primary loss of two Republicans who both sided with Democrats on divisive issues such as the impeachment of former President Donald Trump: Reps. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, and Liz Cheney of Wyoming, respectively.

Sensing victory with these latest polling numbers, a spokesman for the National Republican Campaign Committee (NRCC) issued a statement this week showing the GOP enjoying leads on generic congressional balloting on five separate polls, including the New York Times/Siena, Trafalgar, CBS/YouGov, Rasmussen and Harvard/Harris.

“Voters are rejecting Democrats’ failed agenda that has made everything more expensive and communities less safe,” said NRCC spokesman Mike Berg.

It’s a message that GOP is amplifying for the election, while Democrats have pinned their hopes on a pro-abortion turnout, a bet that appears to have backfired.

“Pocketbook and safety issues are far more important and more salient across all demographics,” said Rodriguez.

“Families across all spectrums are feeling the pinch of higher gas prices, food prices, and price of school supplies. Families are more concerned with the rise of violent crime in our inner cities, neighborhoods, and communities,” he said.

The results of the polling indicate that the GOP could be in for a big victory on election night, which is largely the expectation of the GOP experts who spoke to the Epoch Times.

“The same thumbsuckers who say Republicans can’t win in Oregon, said Republicans couldn’t win in Virginia in 2021—but Democrats did what Democrats always do, they over-reached and moved to the radical far left—telling parents they had no role in their children’s schools, making transgender rights a higher priority than the state’s economy, insisting on climate solutions that are worse than the problem, and sticking their thumbs in the eye of law enforcement,” said Marsh.

“In other words, the same thing Democrats are doing in Oregon this year,” he added.

The Epoch Times has reached out to the Democratic National Committee, the Oregon Democratic Party, the Democratic nominees in Oregon’s 5th and 6th congressional district races, and Gov. Hochul’s office for comment.

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John Ransom is a freelance reporter covering U.S. news for The Epoch Times with offices in Washington, D.C., and Asia.

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