Journalist’s Notebook: Why the 2022 midterms could mirror the 2010 bloodbath for Democrats

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Former President Obama was a toxic commodity heading into the 2010 election.

Obama and his party took over Obamacare 12 years ago. The House also approved a controversial climate policy bill. And as a result, the Commander-in-Chief has mostly sat on the sidelines of House candidates during the midterms this fall. The president has only really campaigned for one sitting Democrat in the House: former Rep. Tom Perriello, D-Va.

We note that Perriello is a “former” lawmaker because he lost in 2010, despite Obama dithering for him. It was a stunner that Perriello won in the first place in 2008. He beat former Rep. Virgil Goode, R-Va., by 727 votes. It would have been difficult for Perriello to hold the seat in 2010 anyway. And, had it been any other midterm year than 2010, Perriello might have succeeded. Especially with the support of the president.


But Perriello lost. Democrats lost 63 seats in one of the bloodiest landslides in American political history.

The 2010 midterm elections were a historically bad year for Democrats. It is believed that Perriello could have faced a better fate had he been in place for another year than 2010.

This year’s midterms mirror the challenges Democrats faced in 2010.

President Biden and congressional Democrats face an uphill battle in the 2022 midterm elections.
(AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

President Biden insists he will be involved in the midterm elections this fall. It is unclear what constitutes “being involved”. Biden’s poll slump could deter some incumbents or Democratic candidates from wanting him anywhere near their same zip code. In other words, “Don’t call us. We’ll call you.” But the president recently made a foray into a vibrant neighborhood that could portend what lies ahead for campaigns this fall.

Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., is a second-term moderate Democrat who represents a battleground district. Spanberger clung to her seat by less than two percentage points in 2020. In fact, Democrats nearly lost control of the House in 2020, a phenomenon few political analysts saw coming. In an election post-mortem, Spanberger blamed party leaders for leaning left with a progressive agenda and spoke of “defunding the police.”

In an audio recording of a Democratic Caucus conference call first obtained by The Washington Post, Spanberger said, “We must never use the word socialist or socialism again.”

New district lines are likely to bolster Spanberger’s re-election chances this fall. It even represents a few plots of what had been the Perriello district in 2010.

Biden walked down to Germanna Community College in Culpeper, Va., last week alongside Spanberger. The MP noted that the event was not a campaign rally. But Spanberger welcomed Mr. Biden to his district.

“I’m just thrilled to have the opportunity to have so many constituents speak with the president, take photos, and tell their stories to the President of the United States,” Spanberger said. “It is, for me, the pinnacle of what performances can and should be.”

U.S. Representative Abigail Spanberger (D-VA)

U.S. Representative Abigail Spanberger (D-VA)

Biden is an unpopular president. But he is the president. Midterm elections are about participation. Above all, lead the base to the polls. So even a weakened president can sometimes excite grassroots voters.

It’s unclear whether the president’s “Virginia” stop represents a model for him this year. But stirring up voters in February doesn’t usually have the same resonance as a campaign visit in September or October. And, for some Democrats, a visit from the president months in advance doesn’t give skeptical voters much connective tissue to tie them to an unpopular chief executive.

Plus, the White House can easily spin a trip like this to show that the president “isn’t afraid to go to swing neighborhoods and that vulnerable Democrats aren’t afraid to be associated with him. “. Even if it’s not true.

But Spanberger may be onto something. Moderate Democrats in swing districts may be more comfortable with the president than with some of their radioactive colleagues on the same side of the aisle.

Moderate Democrats know they are vulnerable to “leftist” ideas. Especially “defunding the police” as crime increases across the country. Which is why Spanberger may have been onto something in the fall of 2020.

Yet Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., a member of the team, continues to promote the “defund the police” narrative. Gunfire recently ripped through Bush’s car in St. Louis. Republicans find Bush’s speech ironic.

Rep.  Cori Bush, D-Mo., is a strong supporter of

Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., is a strong supporter of the “defund the police” movement.
(Photo by Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

“I can assure you that the people who have shouted defund the police will be among the first to call the police when in danger,” said Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan.

Democratic leaders pleaded with Bush and progressives to drop the rhetoric of “defunding the police.”

“They’re out of touch,” said Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill.

Other Democrats go so far as to “blame the media” when journalists bring up the subject.

“If you poll Democratic Caucus members, most people don’t say defund the police. So I hope you don’t make that a bigger issue than it is,” he said. said Rep. Robin Kelly, D-Ill.

But the dice can be rolled. That’s why some Democrats are trying to stifle the “defund the police” mantra.

“We want to defund the police. We don’t want to see less police,” said Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla. Demings is the former police chief of Orlando, Florida, and is now running for the Senate.

So the question is, do Democrats in competitive races feel more comfortable with the president — and perhaps putting real estate between them and some of the party’s more progressive voices? In fact, speaking out against fellow Democrats and their policies can actually help Democrats in competitive campaigns.

And don’t think for a moment that Republicans have the issue of law and order locked away.

Democrats say Republicans are doing nothing to address gun violence. Democrats also accuse the GOP of downplaying the Capitol riot. Democrats say some Republicans pay lip service to US Capitol police and really don’t support the force.

Just last week, Rep. Troy Nehls, R-Texas, the former sheriff of Fort Bend County, Texas, launched a broadside at United States Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger. Nehls accused Capitol police of searching his office. Manger denied the charge. Nehls thundered, saying Manger was telling a “brainless lie.” He accused the USCP of wanting to “destroy me” because he has a “dissenting opinion” about what happened on January 6 and the shooting of Ashli ​​Babbitt in front of the President. Lobby.

However — try as they might — it’s not clear that Democrats can actually use Republicans’ comments about the police and the riot to politically undermine their opponents. Republicans were able to make the case more convincingly that Democrats want to “defund the police.” And that is rattling swing voters.


These midterm elections therefore look very similar to those of 2010. At the time, the key votes on Obamacare and climate change were hanging over the heads of the Democrats. Now, these are leftist policies.

Democrats in peril and an unpopular president. President Obama could do little to help House and Senate Democrats in 2010. President Biden could find himself in a similar position now. But Democrats in districts and swing states cannot run from the president like they did 12 years ago. Instead, those Democrats might just run away from fellow progressives who espouse a controversial agenda.

About Timothy Ball

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