Friday, October 21, 2022

2022 May Come Down to Last Gust of Political Wind

From Charlie Cook, at the Cook Political Report:

One thing on which strategists in both parties agree is that next month’s elections will feature a very high turnout level, a continuation of the last two cycles: 2018 featured the largest midterm turnout in 104 years, 2020 the biggest presidential turnout in 120 years. In recent elections it’s become a cliché for partisans to talk about the importance of mobilizing their base, yet in neither of the past two elections have they had much to worry about. This midterm doesn’t figure to end the high-turnout trend.

A hallmark of midterm elections is that those in or leaning toward the party of a sitting president are lethargic, complacent, or at least a little disappointed, and less likely to vote in the general election. True to form, that is the situation Democrats had going into this past summer. Republicans were just more motivated. That gap closed during the second half of the summer and into September. Indeed, the Fox News poll released this week shows Democrats now just as motivated as Republicans.

The extreme partisan polarization in recent years has yielded fewer “true independents,” ones who do not identify with or even lean toward either party, and fewer people voting split tickets. Indeed, few Democrats will now even consider voting for a Republican for anything, nor Republicans cast a ballot for a Democrat. With the party lines so rigorously followed, we now have higher floors and lower ceilings, meaning that in most competitive states and districts, the margins are rarely more than low- to mid-single digits and the trailing candidate usually remains within striking distance of the leader, hoping that circumstances or a key event will enable them to close the gap and surge or just edge ahead.

But just because there are fewer true independents or undecided voters in key races doesn’t mean they are any less important. Indeed, with both parties’ bases so thoroughly motivated, any meaningful growth in support has to come from those non-aligned voters in the middle.

The two closest Senate races in the country are in Nevada and Ohio...