News Politics: Scott Simon of NPR speaks with political analyst and editor Amy Walter on voter sentiment and the races she’s paying attention to two months before the midterm elections. The president’s performance has always been viewed as being up for debate in midterm elections. That can make the White House administration feel exposed. For the majority of this year, it was predicted that President Biden’s low support ratings—which were exacerbated by the hurried withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan, high gas costs, and persistent inflation—would result in heavy losses for Democrats. However, with only two months till Election Day, perhaps things have changed. We are joined by Cook Political Report editor-in-chief Amy Walter. Thank you so much for being here, Amy.
Well, if you ask Republicans what their top issues are, it looks very different from what Democrats say their top issues are. For Republicans – the economy, inflation, immigration. For Democrats – abortion, climate change and guns. Independent voters, though – and these are the key group of voters that I’m paying attention to – they do put the economy and inflation much higher than they do abortion. And that’s why Republicans still feel pretty confident that they are going to have a successful midterm though it may not be as successful as it was looking to be before we had the Dobbs decision on the Supreme Court and before we had a focus, an almost singular focus, on Donald Trump and Donald Trump’s legal troubles and his influence on what happened on Jan. 6.
The president remains unpopular among registered voters, according to polls. Yet voters also say they’re still likely to vote for a Democrat in the midterms. What accounts for this I think it reflects a couple of things. The first is that this is a president who was elected, for many people, more as a vote against Donald Trump than a vote for Joe Biden. The other is that, you know, you have a lot of voters right now, as you pointed out, who are frustrated with the state of the economy, who maybe think that this president hasn’t gone far enough on certain issues they would have liked him to tackle. But they also know that they do not want to see a Republican. Now, the big question is, No. 1, do these voters stay as committed to Democrats as they say they are? And No. 2, do these voters actually show up? What we know about these kinds of voters is that they tend to be younger. Right now, they’re very much undecided. So when I’m talking about saying they’re more likely to vote for Democrats, it’s still a pretty low number. And for the next two and a half months, will a focus on President Biden and the economy by Republicans push these voters who already don’t feel great about Biden into the arms of Republican candidates?
Absolutely. Actually, we’re going to get a pretty good idea this next week about one race in particular that I’m watching. And that’s the New Hampshire Senate race. Now, New Hampshire is a state that, at least at the presidential level, has been going blue for some time. But it has a Republican governor. But this is the kind of place where Republicans had felt very optimistic about their chances. But as we’ve seen in so many other primaries, the candidate who many sort of traditional-establishment Republicans say is too far out, too far on the extreme, is ahead in the polling. If that candidate wins the primary, that’s going to make it a lot harder for Republicans to pick up a seat that they had very high on their list. So that’s one to watch.