Opinion | Trump is turning Republicans’ midterm wave into a ripple

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Suddenly, the 2022 midterms are looking much better for Democrats, and there’s a simple explanation: Donald Trump is back on the ballot, metaphorically speaking.

In the last few days, a historical anomaly has emerged, a glitch in the electoral matrix: For the first time in the modern era, momentum has shifted toward an incumbent president’s party at this point in a midterm election year.

Democrats just gained a small (0.5 percentage points) advantage over Republicans in what’s known as the “generic ballot” — when voters are asked which party’s candidate they will support for Congress. Earlier this year, Democrats had trailed by as many as 2.7 points, according to the political website FiveThirtyEight. Michael Podhorzer, the former political director for the AFL-CIO, ran the numbers and found that, going back a quarter-century, the incumbent president’s party almost always found its position deteriorating at this point. (The lone exception was 2018, when Republicans did poorly all year.)

Also, polls show Democratic voter “enthusiasm” pulling even in recent weeks with Republican levels, erasing an earlier gap. And the data are supported by anecdotal evidence: high Democratic turnout in contested primaries, a lopsided rejection of an antiabortion measure in Kansas, and Democratic candidates’ dramatic outperformance of Joe Biden’s 2020 showing in recent special elections in Minnesota and Nebraska.

E.J. Dionne Jr.: In a normal year, the GOP should sweep. But 2022 isn’t normal.

Let’s pause for the usual caveats here. This is just a snapshot in time, and things could change. Democrats are still likely to lose the House; their four-seat advantage is nearly impossible to defend. A GOP spending barrage is coming.

But, 84 days from the election, the big red wave looks to be more of a ripple. This is because voters are receiving repeated reminders of what made them so unhappy about the Trump era.

Republican lawmakers and candidates, and their Fox News echo chamber, have again wrapped themselves around the former president with their hysterical reaction to the court-ordered search of Mar-a-Lago. Their violent talk (followed by threats and actual violence), their attacks on the rule of law (“destroy the FBI”), their conspiracy theories (the FBI planted evidence?) and their reckless defense of the indefensible (possibly pilfering nuclear secrets) are all reruns of the Trump presidency. Republican officials did much the same when faced with the damning revelations of the Jan. 6 committee.

Extremist candidates — some with ties to QAnon, the Oath Keepers or the events of Jan. 6 — are dominating Republican primaries. Scores of election deniers have become GOP nominees for governor, secretaries of state and other positions. The few truth-tellers have been banished; with Tuesday’s likely defeat of Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), eight of 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Trump will be leaving Congress.

Henry Olsen: Democrats are focusing the midterms on the GOP. Republicans should welcome it.

The Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade, enabled by three…

Read More: Opinion | Trump is turning Republicans’ midterm wave into a ripple

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