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Democrats’ 2022 Election Outlook More Nuanced Than Apocalyptic

Bloomberg logo Bloomberg 11/10/2021 Mark Niquette
Voters Cast Ballots In Virginia Governor Election © Bloomberg Voters Cast Ballots In Virginia Governor Election

(Bloomberg) -- A week removed from a stinging loss in the Virginia governor’s election and persistent blame for rising inflation, the picture emerging for Democrats ahead of the 2022 midterms is more complicated than it is bleak. 

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While Republican Glenn Youngkin won the Nov. 2 Virginia race over former Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe in a state Republicans hadn’t carried since 2009, it was in line with historical results for the off-year election, which the president’s party typically loses. Meanwhile, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy became the first Democrat in four decades to be re-elected. A key U.S. Senate seat in New Hampshire looks safer after the GOP’s top recruit, Governor Chris Sununu, on Tuesday declined to enter the race. 

Voters Cast Ballots In Virginia Governor Election © Bloomberg Voters Cast Ballots In Virginia Governor Election

And Democrats have almost a year to take action to change the political climate that’s now favoring Republicans -- one shaped in part by factors beyond any party’s control, including the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent impact on the economy. 

Video: Democrats plot winning message ahead of 2022 midterms (MSNBC)


“It is clear that there are strong headwinds for Democrats, but the only way to guarantee political Armageddon is to believe that there will be political Armageddon,” said Mo Elleithee, a former Democratic Party strategist who’s executive director of Georgetown University’s Institute of Politics and Public Service. “Nothing is pre-determined in politics.”

Democrats also registered some historic wins last week, particularly among minority candidates. Boston voters chose Michelle Wu as mayor, making her the first woman and person of color elected to run the city.. In New York, Eric Adams was elected to become the city’s second Black mayor. Ed Gainey was elected as Pittsburgh’s first Black mayor. Republican Winsome Sears, was elected as Lieutenant Governor in Virginia, the first Black and first woman to hold that office. 

Republicans appear poised to dominate 2022 elections that will determine control of Congress and the fate of the remainder of President Joe Biden’s first-term agenda. A Monmouth University Poll released Wednesday showed that 62% of voters don’t think Biden has been able to deliver on his promise to get Washington working.

“The American people want an end to the chaos this administration has created,” House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy said in a statement responding to an inflation report released Wednesday.

But the political climate could look much different a year from now, especially if the pandemic recedes. Congressional Democrats enacted a sweeping infrastructure bill last week that former President Donald Trump promised and never delivered, and they’re pushing a $1.75 trillion social-spending bill that addresses child-care costs and prescription drug prices.

And Republicans will be hard-pressed to maintain momentum for the next 12 months that wasn’t generated by any strategy on their part. It will also be challenging to replicate Youngkin’s playbook of embracing Trump at points during the campaign, while also maintaining enough distance to woo independent voters who had abandoned the GOP for disdain of Trump. 

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