These 5 'X-factors' could ‘scramble’ the 2022 midterms: journalist

These 5 'X-factors' could ‘scramble’ the 2022 midterms: journalist

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) will not like Politico reporter Steven Shepard’s forecast for the 2022 midterms. Analyzing U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives races in an article published on April 19, Shepard — with the help of his colleagues — reports that Republicans are “likely” to retake the House and also have a good shot at retaking the Senate. But in a separate piece, a listicle published the same day, Shepard stresses that the forecast isn’t written in stone — listing “five X-factors that could scramble the Politico Election Forecast between now and November.”

“The 2022 election was always going to be a bear for Democrats,” Shepard explains. “The only question was how bad it might get. At the moment, it appears, really bad: President Joe Biden’s cratering approval rating has his party scrambling to avoid losses so deep that it can’t dig out of the hole in 2024.”

Shepard continues, “That backdrop is the basis of the initial 2022 Politico Election Forecast: We’re rating the outcome of the battle for the House majority as ‘Likely Republican’ and the Senate as ‘Lean Republican.’ Translation: The House is about as good as gone for Democrats, but holding the Senate is still within reach if things break their way. Republicans are also poised to make gains in governor’s races.”

Shepard adds, however, that “a lot could change in the political environment between now and Election Day — factors that we’re certain will keep our ratings anything but static over the next six-plus months.” And he goes on to list the five “X-factors.”

They are: (1) “primary problems,” (2) “blurred lines,” (3) “past the peak,” (4) “economic recession,” and (5) “abortion politics.”

By “primary problems,” Shepard is referring to Republican primary candidates who could be easier for Democrats to defeat in the general election.

“With the wind at their backs,” Shepard explains, “Republicans have their share of primary headaches. Chief among them is former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, who resigned in disgrace in 2019 and now faces allegations of domestic violence and child abuse. If Greitens — who says the claims leveled by his ex-wife are false — wins the nomination for an open Senate seat in reliably-red Missouri, most Republicans think he’ll lose the general election…. Less tested or more extreme candidates, like Arizona governor hopeful Kari Lake or North Carolina House candidate Bo Hines, could jeopardize the GOP’s chances in swing states and districts come November.”

The “blurred lines” that Shepard is referring to in X-Factor #2 are maps for House districts.

“We’re still waiting for new congressional lines in three GOP-controlled states: Florida, Missouri and New Hampshire,” Shepard notes. “After a months-long standoff with state legislative Republicans, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis last week proposed a brutal gerrymander that could flip as many as four Democratic seats into the red column. If that map passes judicial muster — despite the state constitution’s prohibition against partisan redistricting — it could doom Democrats’ chances to hold open seats around Orlando and St. Petersburg, and result in the defeat of Democratic Rep. Al Lawson, whose Tallahassee-to-Jacksonville district was dismembered in DeSantis’ map.”

Inflation could be terrible for Democrats in the 2022 midterms, but Shepard, in #3, argues that if recession has peaked, that could be advantageous for Democrats.

“Some economists believe inflation has peaked, and the growth rate in prices will slow in the coming months,” Shepard writes. “And the Biden White House is plotting a new focus on the scourge of rising prices. That could help stop the bleeding, but voters may not buy it in time for the midterms.”

The bad news about the U.S. economy is that inflation is the worst it has been in 40 years; the good news about the economy is that unemployment is the lowest it has been in over 50 years.

But Shepard argues, “Voters could actually sour even further on the economy if efforts to curb inflation slow the nation’s growth or increase jobless rates. Greater pessimism could lead to further losses for Democrats.”

This summer, the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization — a case that could result in Roe v. Wade being overturned. And in some states, Shepard writes, abortion could be a good issue for Democrats.

“While a decision that reverses the 1973 Roe v. Wade precedent entirely would send a shock wave through the political landscape, it’s not clear how it would affect the midterms,” Shepard writes. “Few voters currently say that abortion is their most important issue. But it would bring greater attention to state races.”

Shepard adds, “Term-limited Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf’s replacement, for example, could either approve a GOP legislature’s bill to restrict abortions, or be a bulwark against it, depending on who wins. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers have promised to protect abortion rights in their states, but both face stiff challenges from Republicans…. The Republican candidates who could be most harmed by a sweeping ruling from the High Court are in blue states where laws exist to protect abortion rights, even if Roe is struck down — incumbents like Reps. Young Kim (R-Calif.) and Michelle Steel (R-Calif.).”

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