Change of mood | Bake the political report

After months of “Democrats are doomed” chatter, there has been a distinct shift in mood and momentum toward the ruling party. Republicans openly worry about their flawed and underfunded Senate candidates, while Democrats, who not too long ago lamented the escapes of the White House and Democratic leaders in Congress, now share memes ” Darth Brandon” and polling data showing the Democrats in the lead. Senate Competition.

But is all this just a change of mood? Or was there a real movement towards the Democrats?

The first place to look for significant movement in fundamentals is in President Biden’s views. According to tracker FiveThirtyEight, President Biden’s jobs approval rating is up nearly 3 points from the end of July (which was also an all-time low). Even so, that only brings his job approval rating to 40.4%. That’s still a really, really low number.

The next thing we would expect to see if we were talking about something more substantial than a “change of mood” is heightened optimism about the state of the economy. The most recent Michigan Consumer Index saw a slight improvement in economic optimism in August. “Consumer sentiment has edged up this month to about five index points above the all-time low reached in June,” wrote Joanne Hsu, director of consumer surveys. “All components of the Expectations Index have improved this month, especially among low- and middle-income consumers for whom inflation is particularly important. Even so, consumer sentiment is still 15 points lower than it was at this point a year ago.

Moreover, voters aren’t giving Biden — or his party — high marks on their handling of the economy. The most recent Navigator Research Poll found Biden’s jobs approval ratings on the economy deep under water at 38% approval to 60% disapproval (-22). And, when asked who they trusted most to handle major issues like inflation and rebuilding the economy, Republicans had an eight- and six-point advantage over Biden and Democrats, respectively.

To succeed midterm, Democrats don’t necessarily need voters to think the economy is great, but they need voters to believe it’s improving.

“I think voters are unlikely to suddenly turn to a penny and think the economy is doing well in the next two months,” said Jay Campbell, partner at Democratic polling firm Hart Research and director of CNBC’s All-America Economic Survey. , a quarterly survey that has tracked Americans’ views on the state of the economy for 14 years. “In mid-2008, 63% said the economy was ‘bad’, and in September 2012, 53% still felt that way. It takes a long time and a LOT of improvement for positive public sentiment to catches up.

The challenge for Democrats this year, as opposed to the mid-2000s, Campbell told me, was “that for much of this period from mid-2008 to mid-2012, people were more likely to say that the economy would improve over the next 12 months than to say it would get worse – the ‘worst’ number was only higher once Comparatively, the ‘worst’ number was higher than the ‘best’ in each of our five polls from July 21 to July 22 – and in the last poll there was a 30-point gap and the first time in the CNBC poll that a majority (52%) said things were okay to get worse.”

In other words, it’s not just that people feel the economy is doing badly, it’s that they’re more pessimistic than ever that it can or will improve anytime soon. .

So if Biden isn’t getting that much more popular and opinions on the economy aren’t much more positive, why are downside Democrats so far ahead of Biden in recent polls?

One of the main reasons is that over the past six weeks or so, the media spotlight has shifted away from Biden and instead focused on issues that put Republicans on the defensive, like abortion, on January 6. and Donald Trump. That helped erode the Republicans’ previous advantage as the party most in tune with voters’ day-to-day concerns.

“With each passing week, more and more people see the GOP as more and more focused on the wrong things,” veteran Democratic strategist Jesse Ferguson told me. “They focus on what ignites right-wing social media and what appeals to the former president, not what matters to the American people. It’s like a CEO promising to rehabilitate a company by focusing on the renovation of executive car parks.”

For example, in May, the Navigator Research survey found that only 43% of voters thought Democrats were “mostly” or “somewhat” focused on the “good stuff,” while 49% said Democrats were mostly or somewhat focused on the “bad stuff”. things.” Republicans, however, were seen as slightly more in touch: 47% said Republicans focused on the right things, while 44% thought they focused on the wrong things.

By August, however, that GOP advantage had evaporated. Only 42% of voters thought the GOP was focusing on the right things, compared with 51% who said it was focusing on the wrong things; a 12-point shift in the wrong direction. Even so, the Democrats did not gain ground. A majority (52%) think Democrats haven’t focused on the right things, while only 43% think they have; a three-point change in the wrong direction since May.

In other words, it’s not that voters think Democrats are doing better; it’s that they think Republicans are as out of touch as Democrats.

Will the drop in gasoline prices, the favorable media coverage of the recently passed Inflation Reduction Act, and the laser-like focus on sell most popular items of this new law, convince enough voters that the Democrats are indeed “on their side”? Or, will Republican ads that associate consistently high prices at the grocery store and at the gas pump with Democratic policy decisions be more effective?

Earlier this week, I got to see how this message match could play out with voters this fall. During a focus group of white male voters, the moderator presented a list of Democratic accomplishments, including things like the infrastructure bill, the Recovery Act and, of course, the new Reduction Act of inflation. There is also a low unemployment rate and strong employment growth. When asked to respond, a Georgia man replied, “I don’t disagree with anything here. But I pay double for lumber and groceries than I did three years ago.”

About Alma Ackerman

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