There are things you cannot predict, and at times, they're pleasant surprises. My New York Football Giants are 6-1 seven weeks into the 2022 NFL season, something that no one could have predicted, even the most die-hard Giants fan like myself. And who said "candidate quality" would be the death knell for Republicans this midterm cycle? That would be Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who uttered those execrable remarks last summer, throwing in the towel due to a combination of Trump-backed candidates running the table in their primary races and Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) putting his task of retaking the Senate on cruise control.
Scott chairs the National Republican Senatorial Committee this year, which he has reportedly used to increase his profile and not that of his party. It's an ongoing criticism that Scott couldn't care less about, though McConnell brought it to his attention as early as last February. One could surmise that McConnell being Eeyore on "candidate quality" is also a swipe at Scott for almost botching this year's elections. The Florida Republican did no favors by vacationing on a luxury yacht last August when GOP Senate candidates were starving for cash.
The dog days of summer had the GOP operative class fretting that this cycle could be about abortion, but the consumer index report that month, which sent Wall Street spinning, lurched everyone's attention back to their bank accounts, a brutal reminder that the economy is in recession and America's working families are being suffocated by inflation.
The spike in crime has become a salient issue with Pennsylvania voters, who are drifting away from Democrat John Fetterman, who seemed poised to run away with that Senate race. Republican Candidate Dr. Mehmet Oz retooled his campaign to go after Fetterman's public safety record. It resonated. Now, Democrats seem on the precipice of losing two Senate seats out West, which again is one of those things one couldn't have predicted but turned out to be much-appreciated bonuses this year.
In Arizona, Republican Blake Masters wasn't supposed to come close to booting incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly. Now, he's within striking distance, though not because McConnell and the Senate Leadership Fund did anything to help. Pro-Trump PACs have finally begun injecting cash into these races, though the pervasive incompetence from the Biden White House has also buoyed Republican chances. Out West, the border issue, which is beyond anarchic, feeds into voter concerns about public safety and crime.
These states are on the front lines of the ongoing fentanyl crisis—they want something done about it. What's also going to help Mr. Masters is the rise of Kari Lake, the Republican gubernatorial candidate, who has surged in the polls due to her on-air persona and talent for working the room. She's also repeatedly hit her Democratic opponent, Katie Hobbs, for dodging her debate invitations. Hobbs is as stale and soporific as they come, while Lake is vivacious and unafraid to take on the press and their attacks, most of which have not been effective in painting the former television journalist as a right-wing loon. She's been in the homes of Arizonians for nearly 20 years delivering the news; there's a sense of familiarity with Lake. I think there's more than a good chance that Lake can help Masters get over the finish line.
As for inflation, it's hit everyone with a sledgehammer, especially in Nevada, where Democratic incumbent Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto can no longer count on a critical voting bloc to save her: Latino voters. They're not happy with how Biden's economic agenda has shredded their paychecks, nor are they optimistic about the job climate. Who knows what happens on Election Day, but there are growing concerns among Nevada Democrats that these folks will stay home.
In Nevada's gubernatorial race, Republican Joe Lombardo must be feeling good after past allies of Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak decided not to endorse him. Clark County's teachers' union decided to play Switzerland this cycle, and the state's police union also handed down a vote of no confidence in the governor.
For most of the year, stories about the path to a Republican Senate majority centered on Georgia and Pennsylvania's races. Democrats and Joe Biden didn't shore up the western flank, which could make things very interesting come election night. Democrats have taken black voters, Hispanic voters, and working-class voters all for granted in recent cycles. Now, they're doing the same for whole swaths of the country to their detriment.