Some signs indicate a Republican sweep of Congress might not be inevitable

St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial board (TNS)
U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks at an event to celebrate the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act on the South Lawn of the White House on July 11, 2022, in Washington, DC.  (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images/TNS)

A new national poll suggests the midterm elections could end up being a lot tighter than Republicans are hoping for, and not the blowout that Democrats are fearing.

Of course, the devil is in the details, and there’s nothing predictable regarding voter sentiments in a midterm election that pits urban against rural, abortion-rights versus forced birth, and pro-Trump versus pro-democracy, along with a heavy dose of unpleasant economic news.

A New York Times/Siena College poll from July 5-7 found that barely a percentage point divides the two parties when it comes to preferences on congressional races, and when independents and undecideds are added to the mix, the results suggest that a Republican sweep might not be inevitable.

The poll results need to be taken with a huge dose of skepticism, however, largely because the survey only reflects moods at a national and regional level, not at the granular level of congressional districts where the balance of Congress ultimately will be decided.

Still, Republicans may have been too quick to assume that inflation, gasoline prices and President Joe Biden’s low public-approval ratings are the only things driving voter preferences. That said, among Democrats, sentiments are strong for Biden not to seek reelection. Only 24% of Democrats surveyed said their party should renominate Biden.

More:GOP officials endorse Shapiro over Mastriano in governor's race

More:Vote as if your daughters' lives depend on it

More:How Americans angry over abortion rights, guns can turn rage into action

Only 13% of Democrats say the country is on the right track. But the vagueness of the question could mean voters are worried not about Biden’s performance but rather about rising extremism and racial intolerance as well as concerns that ex-President Donald Trump could return to power. And that’s what might be giving Democrats reason to believe the midterms won’t turn into a complete debacle.

Enough Americans — Democrats, independents and disaffected Republicans — may believe that concerns over the Capitol insurrection, gun massacres and the erasure of abortion rights outweigh concerns over inflation, product shortages and gasoline prices. On that score, the poll found that voters still would prefer Biden over Trump by three percentage points (44% for Biden versus 41% for Trump).

Nearly half of Republican primary voters in the survey said they would prefer someone other than Trump represent their party. Most respondents said that Trump’s actions after the 2020 election threatened democracy.

In order of importance, respondents listed inflation, the state of democracy, guns and abortion as the nation’s biggest problems. Inflation, protecting democracy and guns outpaced abortion as a serious concern — even among women.

Midwesterners and northeasterners indicated the greatest likelihood of voting in November, while far fewer people in the West and heavily Republican South plan to vote.

Of course, a lot can change between now and November. But with gasoline prices heading lower and fears of recession possibly waning, voters might be inclined to focus attention where it needs to be: on defeating a democracy-destroying ex-president and his enablers in Congress.

— From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial board (TNS).