GOP seizes momentum in battle for Congress


Republicans are growing more and more optimistic that they will seize majorities in the House and Senate as a series of polls provides momentum for the party, while stubborn inflation numbers hurt President Biden and Democrats.

The GOP has long been confident in taking back control of the House, an outcome forecasted by numerous election analysts.

But Republicans are now feeling better about the size of their potential victory in the chamber — and for their chances in the Senate, which has consistently been seen as a tighter affair.  

“We do have the wind at our backs headed into the election because of environmental movements, where things are looking or like a traditional midterm, and Republican outside spending leveling the playing field,” said one national Republican operative.

A batch of recent polling has put Republicans back over Democrats when voters are asked which party they would prefer on the generic congressional ballot. 

An Oct. 9-12 New York Times-Siena College poll found a new 4-point advantage for Republicans on the generic ballot, with 49 percent of likely voters saying they would pick the Republican candidate for Congress compared to 45 percent for Democrats. That marks a shift from September, when the poll found Democrats had a 1-point advantage. 

A Harvard-Harris poll similarly found an increase for Republicans on a generic congressional ballot question, with a 6-point advantage (53 percent to 47 percent) for likely voters in an Oct. 12-13 poll. Among all registered, Republicans and Democrats were split 50-50, a change from September, when Democrats held a 2-point advantage over Republicans, 51 percent to 49 percent. 

An outlier Fox News poll from Oct. 9-12, however, sees Democrats with a 3-point advantage, 44 percent to 41 percent, among all registered voters, unchanged from September. Among those who “feel certain to vote,” though, Republicans have a 1-point edge. 

“Republicans are closing strong by staying focused on the quality of life issues voters care about and tuning out the noise. Democrats are in a full-blown panic because they spent the election year focused on their base’s pet issues instead of ones affecting the majority of Americans, and they’re going to pay for it in November,” Jack Pandol, communications director for the Senate Leadership Fund super PAC aligned with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), said in a statement. 

A big reason for the GOP optimism and new Democratic pessimism is inflation.  

Data released last week showed that inflation is not slowing down.  

Consumer price index data showed a 0.4 percent rise in September, though the annual inflation rate dropped slightly, to 8.2 percent.  

The issue remains a top issue for voters across various polls, with many finding that Republicans have an edge when it comes to who voters think would handle the issue better. 

President Biden’s approval rating, a traditional national mood indicator for midterm elections, remains underwater, with some recent polls finding a double-digit net disapproval rating. In the New York Times-Siena poll, 39 percent of likely voters approved of his job performance, while 58 percent disapproved. 

Biden’s poor approval ratings, Republicans say, have the potential to help the party score upsets in what would normally be seen as hard-to-reach states like Colorado, Washington or even Connecticut. 

“Biden’s underwater everywhere, and so when that happens, there’s always the potential somebody runs a good race that they could pull off a shocker,” said National Republican Senatorial Committee Communications Director Chris Hartline. 

Democrats contend that they long expected polls to tighten, and that new national polls are not cause for alarm in many key Senate races.  

They take pride in some of their most important Senate incumbents being well-positioned for reelection, after “candidate quality” — as McConnell once put it — led Republicans to downplay expectations. 

Sen. Mark Kelly (D), for instance, has a massive cash advantage in the Senate Arizona race, while Republicans have bickered over outside spending for GOP nominee Blake Masters. National Republican groups slashed millions of dollars in ad reservations there in August. 

And Democrats say personal scandals for Republican candidates are filling headlines.

“In each of these races Republicans are on defense as their candidates’ scandals, personal baggage and unpopular policy positions dominate voters’ attention in the closing weeks of the campaign,” Nora Keefe, spokesperson for Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said in a statement. “We’ve been preparing all cycle long for these races to be tight, and we’re confident voters will reject the flawed GOP candidates in these states on election day.” 

But Republicans at national political groups say they see promising signs in several Senate races.  

In Georgia, Republicans think that Republican Senate nominee Herschel Walker scored points with a strong debate performance against Sen. Raphael Warnock (D) on Friday that exceeded expectations after weeks of negative headlines. News reports that Walker paid for an abortion — which he has denied — do not yet appear to be swaying the race. 

Republicans think that their messaging on crime has been particularly effective in Pennsylvania, where Republican nominee Mehmet Oz has hammered Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman over his record of making pardons and commutations more accessible.  

The Fetterman campaign brushes off those points and says that Republicans have misrepresented Fetterman’s positions — that while he agreed with a statement that a third of the state’s inmates could be released without a threat to public safety, he does not want to release them all. 

“Despite those attacks, John’s not only still standing but winning,” said Fetterman spokesman Emilia Rowland, pointing to a Monmouth University poll last week that found more voters trust Fetterman on crime. 

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) has hovered in the mid-40s in the polls versus Republican Adam Laxalt. She debuted a partly biographical video on Monday, which GOP strategists said indicates warning signs about recognition among voters at this late stage of the campaign. 

Cortez Masto’s campaign also pushed back.  

“Senator Cortez Masto was born and raised in Nevada, she’s lived her whole life here, and she’s been working to lower costs for Nevadans,” press secretary Sigalle Reshef said in a statement. “Adam Laxalt has a record of peddling the Big Lie about election fraud and working to take away a woman’s right to choose.”

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