Democrats did well in the 2022 midterms, despite economic headwinds

During the 1992 presidential election, Democratic analyst James Carville was sometimes asked what Bill Clinton’s campaign was all about.

“It’s a stupid economy,” he replied — a sentiment echoed by his fellow politicians, after the tyrannical governor of Arkansas pitted Republican George HW Bush and independent businessman Ross Perot in that year’s race for the White House.

Thirty years later, it seems Carville’s advice needed a star.

Heading into this year’s midterm elections, Republicans across the country were confident about their prospects. History shows that the incumbent party tends to do well in the middle years following the election of a new president. The new president, in this case, is Joe Biden—a Democrat whose approval rating has dropped below 40 percent as Election Day approaches.

And Mr. Biden has met with clear headwinds, as he has toured the country to support various Democratic candidates. Inflation is still close to 40 years old, for one thing. Many economists expect a recession next year, as the Federal Reserve continues its efforts to reduce the economy.

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The “fundamentals” of this year’s election favored Republicans, experts argued, even as some of the GOP frontrunners in key races are drawing more attention to their mistakes than they thought.

“I think this will not only be a red wave, but a red tsunami,” said US Senator Ted Cruz of Texas before the election, after completing a bus tour of 17 states to support various Republican candidates.

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Political forecasters – and prediction markets – saw the same thing, predicting that Republicans would take back control of the United States House and possibly the Senate, to start again.

Well, they didn’t. As a result of this year’s elections, the Democrats will continue to control the Senate. Although a few hotly contested House races have yet to be announced, it appears that Republicans will have a large majority in the chamber. Democrats also saw several big contests in statewide races in Arizona, Pennsylvania, and Michigan, although Republicans cruised to wins in Florida and Texas.

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What happened? It may be that the economy is not as bad, from the perspective of American workers, as inflation and other metrics would suggest.

Gas prices, for example, rose to about $5 a gallon in June, before falling more than 20 percent by October. During the same months, a growing number of Americans expressed confidence in the economy, and believed that the country was on the right track.

The labor market has remained strong. Jobs are growing and wages are rising – despite the Fed’s six rate hikes this year.

As of midday, the unemployment rate was 3.7 percent nationally, and 4 percent in Texas. It’s all work. Numbers like that mean that if you want a job, you probably have one. You may also be able to negotiate better pay or benefits, including the option to continue working remotely.

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CONCLUSIONS: Inflation has peaked, but it continues to hurt families

“One word that’s not been used much is ‘jobless recovery,'” said Greg McBride, chief economist, earlier this month. “These words were as much a part of the American vocabulary after the financial crisis as they are now.”

Former leader. Donald J. Trump, for his part, said the American people “still haven’t figured out” the state of affairs in the country during the two years of Biden’s presidency, in his Nov. 15 announced that they will take another run for the office of President.

“All the consequences of this suffering are just beginning,” Trump said. “I have no doubt that by 2024, it will be much worse.”

Maybe. But politicians probably shouldn’t bet the farm on such a prospect.

The state of the economy matters to voters, obviously. But it seems that’s not the only issue that mattered this year.


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