The New York Times Tries to Help Democrats Whistle Past the Signs of a Blowout Election in 2022

AP Photo/Lynne Sladky

We’re rapidly approaching the 2022 mid-term election. Generally, the party holding the White House, no matter how illegitimately, loses seats in off years. Right now, the Democrats hold a ten-seat majority in the House; a loss of only six seats means Nancy Pelosi will have more time to grow closer to her husband over a few dozen drinks. A net win of one seat makes Mitch McConnell the Senate Majority Leader. Inflation is pushing through the 9% (June Inflation Numbers Smash Expectations, Drawing Obscenities and Proclamations of Doom) level, gas prices are flirting with $5/gallon, Joey SoftServe’s approval rating is on a glide path to drop below 30%, and only 13% of voters thinking the nation is on the right track. All in all, the Democrats seem primed for an ass-whipping.


Where there is despair, there is a need for cheerleaders. And this is where Nate Cohn and the New York Times come in.

With President Biden’s approval rating mired in the 30s and with nearly 80 percent of voters saying the country is heading in the wrong direction, all the ingredients seem to be in place for a Republican sweep in the November midterm elections.

But Democrats and Republicans begin the campaign in a surprisingly close race for control of Congress, according to the first New York Times/Siena College survey of the cycle.

The results show Democrats leading by one point with registered voters and Republicans leading by one point with likely voters, so, naturally, the focus is on the registered voter number.

In an open-ended question, those who volunteered that issues related to guns, abortion or the Supreme Court were the most important problem facing the country represented about one in six registered voters combined. Those voters preferred Democratic control of Congress, 68 percent to 8 percent.

Some of the hot-button social issues thought to work to the advantage of Republicans at the beginning of the cycle, like critical race theory, have faded from the spotlight. Only 4 percent of voters combined said education, crime or immigration was the most important issue facing the country.

The Times/Siena survey is not the first to suggest that the national political environment has improved for Democrats since the Supreme Court overturned Roe. On average, Democrats have gained about three points on the generic congressional ballot compared with surveys taken beforehand.

In the wake of the court’s ruling, the poll finds greater public support for legal abortion than previous Times/Siena surveys. Sixty-five percent of registered voters said abortion should be mostly or always legal, up from 60 percent of registered voters in September 2020.

The proportion of voters who opposed the court’s decision — 61 percent — was similar to the share who said they supported Roe v. Wade two years ago.

Democrats are maintaining the loyalty of a crucial sliver of predominantly liberal and highly educated voters who disapprove of Mr. Biden’s performance but care more about debates over guns, democracy and the shrinking of abortion rights than the state of the economy.


This, in my opinion, is patent nonsense.

First and most important, representatives are elected on the basis of congressional districts. A national poll is a clumsy instrument in the best of times. When literally every political metric in the book goes against the Democrats, glomming onto minor issues as being a bellwether of better times is silly.

The major issues for Democrats are abortion (67%), guns (67%), or “threats to democracy” (64%–lolol). Those issues draw 15%, 5%, and 21%, respectively, interest from Republicans.

Gallup’s polling of top issues finds this poll and the New York Times’ treatment of their importance out of step. Below are how these issues rate with voters on an extremely/very/moderately important scale.

Economy: 53/32/14

Gun Policy: 52/28/13

Abortion: 42/24/19

Immigration: 35/30/24

Taxes: 34/22/26

Relations with Russia: 30/27/28

Climate Change: 20/23/19

I think that the appearance of Gun Policy and Abortion reflects current events and whether those issues will still be significant in November remains to be seen. I also believe that a lot of Republicans may not be “concerned” about Gun Policy or Abortion because they rightly feel they have won some major battles. However, I doubt this translates into them not caring.

The same Gallup report finds Republicans leading Democrats in enthusiasm about the 2022 elections by 10 points and overall voter enthusiasm where it was in 2010.

It is also helpful to look at how predictive the July generic congressional ballot is of elections. The table below shows the spread and direction of the mid-July generic ballot going back to 2008 and what the final RCP average was for the generic ballot. I have some issues with the RCP average as a measure, but it is widely used and provides the best documentation. The next column shows the election result expressed in the number of House seats picked up by the winning party. The final column shows the partisan makeup of the House.


The most obvious takeaway is that there doesn’t appear to be any correlation between the July generic ballot and much of anything. There is arguably a stronger relationship between the final RCP average and the election outcome, but it can’t claim to be predictive as two of the seven elections went opposite of the generic ballot. If there is a predictive element, it is that if the GOP leads the generic ballot in July, the Democrats get beaten like a rented mule in November. In 2010, an R+2.3 lead yielded 64 seats. A two-point Democrat lead in July has produced results in the band of R+13 to D+8.

Nate Silver’s does a district-by-district analysis and concludes that the next House will have at least 226 Republicans.

Unless Joe Biden’s brain trust can a) fix the economy, b) fix the “right track/wrong track” number, and get Biden’s approval rating out of the 30s, no number of New York Times stories laced with “copium” will change the mauling the Democrats are thundering towards.


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