The midterm elections are fast becoming a tragedy of lost opportunity for Republicans in a year that was ripe for huge gains.
Inflation is raging, the southern border is more porous than a sieve, crime is poisoning America’s cities, and school children have lagged terribly in math and reading thanks to teachers’ unions forcing schools to close too long during the pandemic.
Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia Center for Policy rates 215 House seats as safe, likely, or inclined Republicans and only 196 go to Democrats. Barring a political earthquake, any change that occurs should equate or favor the GOP.
Of the remaining 24 seats, Republicans should be able to win at least three. But in a midterm election with the conditions mentioned above, they should do better.
The Senate went from Republicans likely to take control to a code red draw. Mr. Sabato and his colleagues put 49 in each party’s column and consider Georgia and Nevada to be draws.
In the Peach State, Herschel Walker was gaffe-prone and struggled to raise enough money. In the latest polls, incumbent Raphael Warnock opened up a small lead.
Overall, money is a big deal for the GOP. In six of the eight races likely to determine the balance in the Senate, the Democrats are considerably bigger spender Republican rivals.
In Nevada, Adam Laxalt is doing better. He overcame Catherine Cortez Masto’s early lead, but is on the defensive on what has become the defining issue nationally: abortion rights.
The GOP, as with so many issues like student loans, doesn’t seem to recognize that ideology should be tempered on matters of conscience or judgment by what most voters believe is fair, just, or simply necessary.
When Roe v. Wade was the law of the land, it was easier for Republican House or Senate candidates to be pro-life to attract conservative Christian voters. Indeed, the matter was not in the hands of Congress and could be ignored by swing voters when choosing among candidates for Congress.
Since Dobbs, Democrats have portrayed Republicans as abortion extremists. And on the campaign trail, they raise the specter of GOP majorities in the House and Senate imposing a nationwide abortion ban, perhaps with exceptions for rape, incest, and maternal life.
It’s absurd. The GOP is unlikely to reach 60 votes in the Senate in future cycles. This means that Dobbs puts abortion regulation firmly in the hands of state legislatures.
Yet the Conservatives misinterpreted the content of the day.
The Kansas referendum that would have excluded abortion rights from the state constitution seriously damaged the GOP’s image.
During the August special election for the House seat in New York’s 19th District, signs reading “The choice is on the ballot” were ubiquitous. And Democrat Pat Ryan won in what should have been a good opportunity for a Republican pickup.
The Arizona Senate seat held by Mark Kelly should be a good target for a Republican gain, but at the time of this writing, Blake Masters is trailing the incumbent by about 6 points. Overcoming this advantage by Election Day will be difficult.
Mr Masters erased “I am 100% pro-life” from his website, now claims to be somewhere in the middle and ran an advertisement to that effect.
GOP candidates should hammer the economy, inflation, gas prices, the border crisis and the like, not play defense on the issue from the Democrats’ corner. When you do that, you lose.
Republican woes go far beyond abortion rights. The GOP has no consistent platform other than against Democrats, and in the absence of a clear identity, President Biden has been content to assign one.
Mr Biden portrays Donald Trump supporters as semi-fascists. And without a clear GOP rejection of Mr. Trump’s voter fraud allegations, all Republican politicians become Trumpsters to those who don’t know them well.
While the GOP offers no solution to inflation, Mr. Biden pursues a “buy votes now, pay with more inflation later” strategy.
Before it’s all over, his student loan forgiveness will cost the Treasury $1 trillion — the Federal Reserve’s printing presses could explode, allowing this kind of reckless spending.
Mr. Biden is dumping huge amounts of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve into markets and has driven down gasoline prices since June.
Of course, what we do when the SPR is needed for a real crisis is another matter. And his virtual shutdown of new oil leases on federal lands will become quite significant next year as small independents run out of places to drill on private lands.
To hell with the future, our president has an election to win.
• Peter Morici is an economist and professor of business emeritus at the University of Maryland, and a national columnist.