There was a chance that President Joe Biden would end a streak dating back to Bill Clinton of new presidents losing control of Congress in their first two years.
But his crummy polling after a long honeymoon now suggests that he will lose as many House seats as former President Donald Trump in 2018 and for the same reason: Voters don’t like what he’s doing on key issues.
Public Opinion Strategies pollster Glen Bolger said it’s easy to track election outcomes to presidential polling, and with Biden’s sinking approval, Democrats are likely to lose about the 41 seats Trump lost, 34 more than the GOP needs to take control. And that’s before House district lines are redrawn to conform to new Census Bureau data.
“As baseball great Yogi Berra famously said, it’s deja vu all over again,” Bolger said in unveiling his cache of new polling data.
It’s well known that Biden’s approval ratings have been tanking, especially since the bungled withdrawal of troops and diplomats from Afghanistan. But what Bolger has found is that the GOP has made “significant inroads” with all groups except younger voters, but these voters have a poor record of turning out on Election Day.
Notably, he said the generic congressional ballot is tied for the first time since 2015.
“Joe Biden’s overall disapproval rating and, more challenging for him, his strong disapproval ratings are right where Donald Trump’s were just prior to the November 2018 midterm elections, when the party in power lost the House and numerous gubernatorial seats,” he said. “I would hate to be in charge of candidate recruitment for Democrats because no Democrat in their right mind and a competitive seat would want to run in this political environment.”
GOP pollsters John McLaughlin and Jim McLaughlin said, “In terms of what to expect for the 2022 midterms, our polling of likely voters suggests that Republicans lead the Democrats in the generic vote for Congress 47%-46% with 7% undecided. This means likely voters are more willing to support a generic group of Republicans rather than a generic group of Democratic candidates for Congress.”
Meanwhile, as Democrats become deflated over Biden, Republicans are psyching up for a battle that is in part led by Trump. Pollster Scott Rasmussen said his numbers show that Trump voters are especially enthusiastic. He said 75% is “very motivated.”
Democrats still hold out hope of a turnaround in Biden’s support, and Jonathan Zogby, of Zogby Analytics, said voters might change their tune if the president’s big-spending social welfare and infrastructure bills deliver projects back home.
“The big problem Republicans face is can Biden and the Democrats get their monstrous infrastructure bill passed, which for them can buy enough time to provide more stimulus and pork to keep the economic balloon inflated. That would give Democrats the edge to retain majorities,” Zogby said.
“If for some reason they cannot pass a big infrastructure bill, Republicans can focus on a not-so-great economy and Biden's vaccine mandates, which threaten freedoms and hurt small businesses,” he added.
Then, of course, there is the 50-50 Senate, and if Biden’s polling trend continues, it should also turn Republican, creating a unified GOP hurdle to the president’s agenda.
“Overall, it's close, and I see Republicans with more of an advantage right now to win both chambers — but not by huge amounts,” Zogby said.