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The Hill: Democrats Have 'Optimism,' Are 'Competitive' for the House

AP Photo/Susan Walsh

We've covered for the past few weeks how The Hill has been among those mainstream media outlets carrying water for the Democrats ahead of the midterms. In previous weeks it's been headlines such as how "Republicans pounce" and "GOP seizes" on important issues, such as the stock market and President Joe Biden's mental decline. In this case, it's promoting how Democrats are hopeful about their party's chances come the midterms, now just four weeks away.


"Democratic optimism grows in battle for House," read Mike Lillis' headline for Tuesday morning. 

It's not merely Democrats themselves who are saying as much, but the text of Lillis's piece. Here's how his piece begins:

With a month remaining before the midterm elections, House Democrats are in a position where few expected them to be even just a few months ago: competitive.

While the nation’s top political handicappers remain confident that Republicans will win control of the lower chamber in November, the expected margins have shrunk considerably heading into the home stretch.

Democratic leadership, such as Biden himself and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) have been keeping the faith. They've also been aided by the likes of Nate Silver with FiveThirtyEight and Robert Reich in columns for The Guardian.

Pollsters have also sought to downplay Republican chances, as was the case with the CBS News Battleground Tracker poll from late August. 

Lillis is thus a bit late to the game with such a piece, unless the timing is purposeful so as to boost Democratic enthusiasm and that "optimism" he speaks of in his headline. 

That being said, Lillis does acknowledge that it would defy historical precedent for Democrats to gain seats. With the exception of 2002 during President George W. Bush's first midterm election, after the rally around the flag effect from September 11, 2001, the president's party tends to lose seats during his first midterm election. 


The experts that Lillis refers to, including from prognosticators such as Cook Political Report and Sabato's Crystal Ball, have shifted race ratings and/or are tempering their predictions when it comes to just how big a red wave will be, or if they even think one will happen at all.

Democrats have only a narrow majority in both the House, which is still considered to favor Republicans, as well as in the Senate, which is more of a toss-up but is still doable. 

And then there's the territory of how a thinner majority could supposedly raise problems for Republicans, as Lillis gins up:

Republicans need to net only four seats to win back control of the House. But the margins could prove crucial for McCarthy and other GOP leaders when it comes to managing a restive right flank that’s already clamoring to impeach Biden, slash federal spending and take on the Washington establishment — even its own leadership. The larger the cushion, the more insulated GOP leaders will be from the conservative forces that had nudged the two previous Republican Speakers into early retirements.

Democratic members such as Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) are also quoted for their optimism, with Hoyer being quoted as saying "I think we’re going to hold the majority, [and] we may pick up a number of seats." House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), though, who is likely to become the next speaker, is given a smaller mention. 


While the piece acknowledges that Democrats could still lose, Lillis, like the Democratic Party, as well as the mainstream media and even some pollsters, prioritize the importance of abortion. 

As he writes:

A wildcard in the election debate is the Supreme Court’s decision, passed down in June, to eliminate abortion rights. The ruling has energized female voters around the country, and it was thought to play a major role in the Democrats’ special election win in New York. Lawmakers say the effects of the decision are tangible on the campaign trail, where they’re seeing a boost in enthusiasm among women and other Democratic voters. 


In the eyes of some election experts, though, the deciding factor may be the simple question of which party more successfully dictates the flavor of the national dialogue in the final weeks. 

“If it’s economy, inflation, gas prices, crime, etc., that’s where Republicans want to be,” [Kyle Kondik, managing editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball] said. “If it’s abortion, Republican foibles, Trump, etc., that’s what Democrats want.”

It likely will come down to what issues voters care about when casting their ballot, and poll after poll has shown that to be economic issues, like inflation. Polls also show that Republicans enjoy a healthy edge over Democrats on those and other major issues. Even when abortion does rank as a top issue, it's often a distant second behind those economic issues. 


Lillis also fails to mention how polling shows Republicans are more enthusiastic when it comes to voting, which includes Republican women over Democratic women.

Another aspect missing from Lillis' piece, which Spencer covered last week, is that Democrats have been forced to abandon House races. So much for that "optimism."

Election forecasters such as RealClearPolitics, FiveThirtyEight, and POLITICO, still consider the map to at least likely favor Republicans when it comes to winning the House. 

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