We are now about 15 months away from the 2022 general election, and six months into President Joe Biden’s term.
The top 2022 political prizes in North Carolina include:
- The open U.S. Senate seat
- A 14th House seat plus likely one or two competitive U.S. House seats created by a new district map and population growth
- Two North Carolina Supreme Court seats that will determine partisan control of the state’s top court until 2027
- Control of the North Carolina General Assembly, with the GOP having veto-proof supermajorities within reach
While Republicans have historical advantages being the opposition party in the first mid-term of a new administration, as John Hood wrote recently, electoral outcomes aren’t inevitable.
The party of the sitting U.S. president has almost always suffered losses in midterm elections, in both chambers of in the legislature, governorships, and other state offices.
“Since 1970, the president’s party has lost an average of 13 seats in the North Carolina General Assembly in the midterms,” Hood wrote. “If something like that happened in 2022, the Republicans would likely reclaim supermajorities in both legislative chambers.”
The June Civitas Poll, conducted by Cygnal on behalf of the John Locke Foundation, found a narrow majority of likely voters disapprove of the job President Joe Biden is doing, with 46% approval and 48% disapproval.
It’s important to note that while President Donald Trump’s margin of victory in N.C. dropped from 3.7% in 2016 to 1.3% 2022, he managed to win because he grew the base of base Republican voters because of new registrations and first-time voters.
From December of 2016 to December of 2022, Republican registrations increased by 154,680 while Democrat party registration in North Carolina dropped by 107,954, for a net GOP gain of 262,634 as compared to Democrats.
Those gains were needed to offset a huge drop in support of Trump from unaffiliated voters, who favored Trump by 16% in 2016 but favored Biden by 4% in 2022, for a massive swing of 20%.
A natural messaging advantage for the opposition party, in this case Republicans.
The number one job of the opposition political party is to oppose. Democrats control Congress and the White House, so the national Republican message will be pretty simple:
The Biden administration and Democratic-controlled Congress need to be checked.
Inflation: Republicans will pointedly blame large Democratic spending proposals, extended unemployment benefits as being responsible for the dramatic 1970s surge in prices for consumer goods. Inflation is a scourge to middle-class families, and if it continues to be a factor, it will be difficult for Democrats to explain and counter.
The lawlessness of the Biden administration: The Supreme Court was clear that extending the eviction moratorium was unconstitutional. President Biden has acknowledged this. However, working with the CDC, he extended it anyway under pressure from the far left of the Democratic party. This blatant disregard for constitutional law, will anger base Republicans and will help motivate the GOP to turn out. Stories like tenants not paying rent, and instead buying boats are likely to inflame this issue.
Republicans will continue to attack the Biden Administration over Coronavirus restrictions and inconsistent messaging. Millions of Americans were told if they got vaccinated, they could return to normal life. Now the Biden Administration and the CDC are forcing masks back on vaccinated individuals along with growing demands for proof of vaccination for Americans to engage in daily life. This will be too much for some citizens in key areas of the U.S.
Biden’s words will be used against him. On May 13, Biden stood in the Rose Garden and claimed a major breakthrough in the fight against coronavirus “made possible by the extraordinary success we’ve had in vaccinating so many Americans so quickly.”
Calling it a “great milestone” and “a great day,” he promised the American people, “If you’ve been fully vaccinated, you no longer need to wear a mask. Let me repeat: If you are fully vaccinated, you no longer need to wear a mask.”
Monday’s new Gallup poll says “American’s Optimism About COVID-19 Dashed as Cases Surge.” In what it called a “dramatic shift from last month,” Gallup found that Americans, by 45 percent to 40 percent, believed the coronavirus situation in the U.S. is getting worse. Only a month ago, a “record” 89 percent said the situation was getting better, while only 3 percent said it was getting worse. https://www.rollcall.com/2021/08/04/bidens-summer-of-joy-turns-into-frustration/
Growing crime concerns: Democrats are going to be made to own the growing crime issues across the nation. They have tried to run away from last years defund the place efforts. However, it is too late. There are examples all across the nation of liberals supporting policies that don’t assist with containing crime including: putting violent criminals back on the street in lieu of requiring cash bail, not holding rioters accountable for considerable property destruction across the country, and real-life examples of defunding the police.
Biden immigration mess: President Biden has made a point of dismantling Trump-era border enforcement measures. Biden’s hard-core left has cheered the move. However, the border issue connected to coronavirus highlights a major contradiction for Biden and Democrats. They are in the process of putting more and more restrictions on law-abiding vaccinated U.S. Citizens while dumping unvaccinated illegal immigrants in communities across the U.S. It’s impossible to explain to middle-class voters already tired of having freedoms restricted.
These messages will be heard often by the GOP nominee for U.S. Senate in NC.
For state Democrats, the national message for their party is key in North Carolina, as the eventual U.S. Senate Democratic nominee will have no choice to adopt it. The 2008 presidential campaign changed everything for both parties in our state. Before 2008, Democrats Jim Hunt and Mike Easley drew sharp distinctions between themselves and “Washington Democrats.” They were pro-death penalty and pro-Second Amendment. State Senate Democrats have a long history of being business-friendly.
North Carolina Democrats’ successful 2008 embrace of Barack Obama changed everything. For good or bad, State Democrats now embrace the national Democratic agenda. This will be key in 2022.
Nationally Democrats have a tough election cycle in front of them. Having a 50/50 U.S. Senate (With V.P. Harris breaking ties for Democrats), and control of the U.S. House by just a handful of Democrats, it would not take a huge Republican midterm wave for the GOP to capture both chambers. Capturing the U.S. House for the GOP is more likely than not, based on advantages through redistricting alone.
As noted by Politico, Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.) “advised the party to course-correct ahead of 2022 by doing more to promote President Joe Biden’s agenda, which remains popular with swing voters.”
As the White House communications war room gears up for a messaging blitz later this month, Biden’s cabinet members will be dispatched to key swing states later this month with a statistically popular rebranding message: infrastructure and jobs. https://www.politico.com/newsletters/playbook-pm/2021/08/02/the-coming-biden-pr-blitz-493810
Meanwhile, Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer are working to spend their way out of an election jam with a massive appropriations package.
Trump: Democrats need to keep the focus on the former president, according to political analyst Stuart Rothenberg:
“Democrats’ best chance of holding the House and the Senate next year is by keeping the focus on Trump — by exposing what he did as president to undermine the rule of law and to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the 2020 election,” says Rothenberg. “Democrats need to give Trump enough rope so that he can hang himself. That means they still need him to get plenty of attention between now and next November.”
N.C. General Assembly races:
State legislative Republicans will already have the wind at their backs having survived a massive onslaught of Democrat money in 2020 to hold both chambers of the legislature and even expand their numbers in the N.C. House.
Republicans will contrast the big-spending efforts in Congress with their more measured approach of less spending and cutting taxes. Republicans can also highlight Gov. Cooper and Democrats as blocking any voting security measures.
Legislative Democrats and candidates will try and make the argument that N.C. Republicans are not meeting the needs of the state. This will be a tough sell. Swing voters will have a hard time believing that the government is not spending enough money.
That leaves North Carolina Democrats with two obvious courses of action, localized and personal. Democrats will deploy the best of their opposition research on a local race by race basis. Republican candidates will have to survive a character fight every place they run.
North Carolina Democrats will also attempt to bait Republicans into refighting the 2020 election and force Republicans into defending Trump and his behavior, the behavior that sent unaffiliated voters running from Trump in NC in 2020.
Analyst John Hood thinks the GOP is vulnerable on Trump if they take the bait and look backward.
“ If Democrats continue their flirtation with extreme positions on policing, public disorder, and a “woke” curriculum for public schools, their candidates will pay for it,” wrote Hood. “Similarly, if Republicans recruit candidates more interested in “owning the libs” and indulging conspiracy theories about the 2020 elections than governing the state, that will limit their potential gains.”
As these races and messages take shape, 15 months to go is not a lot of time. However, with control of the N.C. General Assembly, the balance of Congress and the state Supreme Court at stake, every day, every message, and every vote counts.