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Tipsheet

Cook Political Report Offers Warning to Democrats Ahead of 2022 Midterms

AP Photo/Susan Walsh

Without a doubt, some within Democratic Party circles thought abortion, the August spending bill, and lowering gas prices could save them ahead of the November elections. Okay, total salvation was never possible—Democrats only have a small single-digit majority in the house—but a wipeout could have been blunted. Republicans made a critical error over the summer. No, it wasn’t about the quality of candidates per se—though that did apply to the Republican leadership picked to guide the party to victory. Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) chairs the National Republican Senatorial Committee this cycle. He decided to siphon funds to boost his profile, tweaking how the proceeds from fundraising were allocated and absconded to Italy on a luxury yacht vacation in the dog days of summer. 

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Scott’s quarterbacking has allowed a host of GOP Senate candidates to be marooned on an island with no funds. That’s starting to change now, but for weeks—the GOP went into cruise control mode. 

Yes, the economy is in recession. Wall Street took another brutal beating today, with stocks closing at their lowest levels since 2020. Joe Biden might be half brain dead, but you still need to drive home that Biden and the Democrats are to blame for the current economic conditions. The month of August might have sparked some flicker of hope in the eyes of Democrats, but Charlie Cook just hurled some cold water, saying that liberals cannot and should not bank on any more good news that benefits them politically (via Cook Report):

  ...legislative accomplishments for this Congress are now in the rearview mirror; at this point they need to keep the government’s lights on. With an Oct. 1 deadline looming to pass a continuing resolution to keep the government fully open and just a handful of legislative days remaining until then, keeping the government funded becomes a real lift, and few Republicans are inclined to lend a hand.

Providing help for Puerto Rico in the wake of this week’s hurricane, continued funding for support of embattled Ukraine, and money for coronavirus and monkeypox vaccines all put twists on this perennial challenge. In the end, Democrats are likely to get something done and avoid a government shutdown, but this is all downside risk with no real chance for upside benefit.

Another major development that benefited Democrats was an improved economic picture, particularly the price of gasoline, which dropped by about a dollar per gallon starting in mid-summer. Even for those without cars, the price of gasoline is the only product with a price that is posted out front wherever it’s sold, giving it outsized importance psychologically. It is doubtful that prices will decline much more than they already have. The upside is behind them, with only status-quo or negative developments ahead.

More broadly, the June data showed inflation at a 39-year high and growing at an annualized rate of 9.1 percent. The July numbers, however, suggested that inflation had stabilized, again fueling Democratic hopes. Since then, the numbers for August reported last week indicated that our unwelcome friend inflation was still here. Key new inflation reports will come out on Sept. 30 and Oct. 13, very likely influencing the narrative for this election one way or the other. Interest rates will take a bite out of anyone with a variable-rate mortgage, car loan, or credit card, probably for months or years to come.

Harold Macmillan, prime minister of the U.K. in the late 1950s and early 1960s, was asked by a reporter what worried him most. His reply: “Events, dear boy, events.”

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One issue Cook highlighted as a bright spot for Democrats, though I still think is overblown, is the abortion issue. The GOP has not been smooth in messaging their pro-life action items. Democrats dominate the media bastions, so we must respond to the infanticide hysterics, and thus far, we’ve been more concerned about not angering feminazis with dyed armpit hair than saying killing babies up to the moment of birth is murder and unpopular.  

The longtime political analyst goes down the line, noting that inflation reared its ugly head again, with the added component of a potential government shutdown. He mentions funding in continuing to address the public health crisis over COVID. Still, I think monkeypox presents a more significant issue for Democrats and the Biden White House since it’s a crisis for which they got caught flat-footed. Biden couldn’t shut down COVID, a lofty promise with zero chance of succeeding. He could have locked monkeypox down with a coordinated messaging, prevention, and vaccine push—none of which materialized. It all brings in the systemic incompetence that plagues this administration.

The illegal alien invasion of white and wealthy Martha’s Vineyard, with the latest development that we experienced at least 2 million illegal alien encounters, which is a gross underestimate, could bring the southern border back into the limelight. A host of issues could supplant the abortion mania that Democrats are banking on to save them at the ballot box. There’s a lot of time for new and old crises to either appear or reemerge, and if there’s one thing we do know about this White House, they’re incapable of solving anything. 

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In the words of Barack Obama, never underestimate Joe’s ability to “f**k things up.”

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