WASHINGTON. For many Democrats in the House of Representatives, 2021 is very similar to 2009, when a Republican-elected governor of Virginia foreshadowed a terrible flop in next year’s midterm elections.
Republican Glenn Youngkin’s success in winning Virginia struck the first blow, and then New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy was nearly defeated by an obscure Republican, two outcomes leading to the same conclusion: Democrats are in grave danger of losing control of Congress.
“Is it ’09 over and over again? This is exactly what happened in 2009, and it really portended disaster in 2010, ”said Democratic Party member Jerry Connolly. He represents the safe Democratic neighborhood of northern Virginia outside of Washington, but recalled that Republicans won his state governor’s race a year after President Barack Obama took over the White House, and a year before the Republican-led GOP wave took over. under the control of the House.
House Democrats in swinging constituencies are arguably the party’s first line of defense against such an exodus, and they are the most vulnerable incumbents.
Mostly moderates, they helped secure party control of the House in 2018 and keep it very low last year. However, they are now beginning to strongly resemble the same former Republicans whom many were defeated four years ago.
Their president, Joe Biden, is not popular, and their control of Congress is viewed by voters as divisive and counterproductive. Securing seats could also mean ignoring historical trends dictating that the winning party in the White House will lose ground in Congress in the next election – the traditional political headwinds that are now almost certainly intensifying for Democrats after Tuesday’s election results.
Biden’s approval ratings began to plummet with the chaotic US withdrawal from Afghanistan and fell amid an economy still clouded by the coronavirus pandemic, inflation, and a White House legislative agenda that’s largely bogged down in Congress.
Biden traveled to Virginia but was unable to back up Democratic governor candidate Terry McAuliffe – he previously held that office from 2014 to 2018 – in an attempt to link Yangkin to former President Donald Trump.
“What worked when President Trump was on the ballot or in office clearly had no effect when he didn’t,” said former Rep. Scott Taylor, a Virginia Republican who represented one of the most competitive districts of the country. “This is true for anyone. Republicans tying their opponents to President Obama didn’t really last longer than his terms. “
Youngkin has avoided campaigning with Trump or supporting the increasingly Trump-dominated national Republican Party. Jack Ciatarelli, the former Republican State Assemblyman who nearly toppled Murphy in New Jersey, has largely done the same.
Meanwhile, Virginia Democrats have lost ground in the suburbs, where moderate voters who punished the GOP during the Trump administration have returned to the party enough to influence the race.
Taylor lost his seat – it included the city of Norfolk and the world’s largest naval base – to Virginia’s moderate Democratic Representative Elaine Luria in 2018, then was defeated in a rematch last year. He noted that Yangkin’s pledges that parents have more voice on school COVID-19 safety protocols and what their children are being taught resonated with suburban voters.
“We’ve lost support from a key group of educated women in the suburbs,” Taylor said. “They care most about education. And they have seen how their children over the past couple of years at home, at the computer, lag behind, and in some cases even regress. “
Nonetheless, Democratic strategists hoped Trump would help change the political environment by getting more active in key elections ahead of the 2024 presidential campaign. Candidates in the GOP Senate’s competitive primaries from Arizona to North Carolina and Pennsylvania are fighting each other for Trump’s support, which means they can’t follow the lead of Yangkin or Chiatarelli.
“The dynamics that happened last night will not be the dynamics that will exist next November,” David Bergstein, a spokesman for the Democratic Senate division, said Wednesday. “Trump is taking the lead in every Senate race right now.”
In the meantime, Frontline House Democrats have been pushing for months the law they find most appealing to hesitant voters. This includes insisting that the democratically controlled Congress consider a bipartisan public works bill while it works to promote a massive spending plan backed by the more progressive wing of the party.
In-party squabbles over both proposals helped ensure that neither was approved prior to Tuesday’s elections. Rep. Colin Allred, Texas, said Wednesday that “what we saw last night was a very strong protest against the incumbent.”
“For me, it also has to do with the feeling that the government is not working,” Allred said. whose Dallas County was selected by the National Republican Congressional Committee as a potential opportunity to pick it up. “We must show that we can govern.”
Senator Tim Kane, Democratic Republic of Virginia, was even more blunt: “I hope my colleagues understand this idea that when you are in the majority, being a Democrat should mean a doer, not postpone, hesitate, do nothing, division. … ”
Part of this division is between more moderate Democrats like Luria and the more active, progressive wing of her party. The progressives had limited success on Tuesday.
Michelle Wu became the first woman of color to be elected mayor of Boston. But the left saw the failure of an electoral initiative that would change the police system in Minneapolis – the assassination of George Floyd there last year sparked demonstrations against police brutality and institutional racism sweeping the country.
In Buffalo, New York, Mayor Byron Brown, who served four terms in office, announced Walton’s victory over democratic socialist India, although the Associated Press does not name the race.
Nonetheless, these findings can help bolster the position of moderates in swing house counties who can claim to be a stronghold of sorts. They can promise that Democrats’ legislative priorities will be based on proposals that stand a chance of actual approval, rather than on the more ambitious goals championed by their progressive counterparts.
“Now is not the time to blame,” said moderate Rep. Stephanie Murphy, a Florida Democrat. “This is the moment for action. And this is the moment to try and do something for the American people. “
Democrats now have a year to pass the law they believe is likely to resonate with voters. Even this is not a guarantee that it will improve their election chances in 2022.
“Voters don’t go to the polls and say, ‘I vote against you because you didn’t pass this bill,” Connolly said. “Maybe a voter. But not the voters collectively. ”
Associated Press author Alexandra Jaffe of McLean, Virginia contributed to this report.