Analysis: The 2022 midterm elections were 3 elections in 1

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CNN

Elections are not linear. They move forward in spurts, constantly evolving as they go.

This is the story of the 2022 midterm election, which can be broken down into three separate acts.

This part of the election ran from January 2021 to June 2022. The defining quality of this stage of the election was Joe Biden’s declining popularity – weighed down by the disastrous withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, the rise inflation and gasoline prices. Biden began his term with a 57% jobs approval rating, according to Gallup. By January 2022, it had dropped to 40% – and it’s generally stayed there all summer.

It was, in many ways, the blueprint for a typical midterm election cycle. Presidents in their first midterms tend to suffer considerable losses in Congress as the country seeks ways to check its power. At the same time, the majority party is struggling to motivate its camp and to make its voters understand the issues.

This part of the election ran from June 24, 2022 to mid-September 2022. The Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade had a massive impact on the electorate. It helped erase lethargy within the Democratic base – raising the stakes for their camp.

Biden’s poll numbers also began to improve during this period as gasoline prices began to decline. By late August, Biden’s Jobs approval rating had rebounded to 44% in the Gallup poll, and there were plenty of Democrats (and a few Republicans) who thought ending the constitutional right to abortion was in the works. to fundamentally reorient the 2022 race. It was no longer a referendum on Biden’s presidency. Now it was a choice between Biden’s image for America and that of the Republicans, which largely included restricting abortion rights for women.

Democrats began spending heavily on TV ads focusing on abortion rights and what Republicans would do about it if given power. Republicans, meanwhile, continued to focus their message on taxes, inflation and, increasingly, crime.

This stage of the election began in mid-September and continues until today. And it looks a lot like Act I.

While abortion remains a critical issue for part of the Democratic base, it does not seem to have the prominence among the electorate that Democrats might have hoped for a few months ago. And the economy remained the key issue for most voters. In a CNN poll released earlier this week, 51% of likely voters named the economy the most important issue for their vote for Congress, while only 15% named abortion.

And crime has also become a central issue for many voters. In a recent Gallup poll, about 7 in 10 registered voters said crime was either “extremely” or “very” important to their vote – putting the issue behind the economy alone.

Nonpartisan campaign handicappers have begun to raise their predictions of Republican gains in this final act, with some saying the GOP could win a net 30 House seats next Tuesday.

The past two years have been a wild ride. Not too long ago, Democrats thought they might be able to reverse the historic precedent that pointed to big gains for Republicans in the House. And, even now, there remains hope in Democratic circles that they could hold a majority in the Senate, which would be a major achievement given what we know about the electorate at the moment.

But, overall, this election today looks a lot like what we thought it might look like less than two years ago. Biden’s numbers are poor. Concerns about inflation and a possible recession are commonplace. Crime is a dark horse issue working in favor of Republicans. And abortion, while still an important issue for some, seems to have slipped into the background of many voters.

Add it all up and it looks like Tuesday will be a pretty good election for Republicans. That’s what we thought when this whole play started.

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