For Democrats, 2022 U.S. Midterm Initial Returns Scant Evidence of Backlash to Biden’s Dismal Approval

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Democrat incumbents held their own in grueling seats sought by the GOP for pickups, including Virginia’s 7th congressional district south of Alexandria and New Hampshire’s Senate race.

Pro-abortion rights protesters march in front of the Basilica of St.Patrick’s Old Cathedral in downtown Manhattan on November 5, 2022 in New York City. A small number of anti-abortion activists worship at the church. [Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images]

Democrats avoid Biden backlash to hold their own in 2022 races

Preliminary outcomes reveal that Biden’s low job approval ratings and the agony of inflation did not have the desired effect on Republicans. Republicans billed the election as a red wave, while Democrats outperformed many expectations in House and Senate races.

Despite Democrats entering the election with razor-thin majorities, the results are not definitive, and the House and Senate control remains in play. However, expectations of widespread Republican wins have not been met, even though the party still has a chance to capture the Senate and possibly regain the House.

Donald Trump faced a backlash. So did Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. It became the norm. But Joe Biden? It appears not.

For Democrats, the results show no evidence of a backlash against Biden’s low job approval ratings and the pain of inflation, which some said would kill a swath of Democratic incumbents and candidates in what is typically a difficult election for the party in power. Biden may have defied that tendency.

The 44% of voters who approve of Biden largely supported Democratic candidates. According to the NBC News exit poll, voters who disapprove of Biden “somewhat” supported Democrats over Republicans by a margin of 49% to 45%.

Only 30% want Biden to run for President in 2024. Among the 67% who said they did not want him to run for re-election, 31% supported Democratic candidates.

Democratic incumbents held their own in a swath of brutal seats that the GOP had targeted for pickups, including Virginia’s 7th congressional district south of Alexandria and New Hampshire’s Senate race. In tight races like Pennsylvania’s Senate election and Ohio’s 1st congressional district in the Cincinnati suburbs, several candidates “flipped” Republican-held seats.

Most voters stated Biden was “not a factor” in their vote, and Democrats won by a 60% to 37% margin.

Former U.S. President Donald Trump mingles with supporters during an election night event at Mar-a-Lago on November 08, 2022 in Palm Beach, Florida. Trump addressed his supporters as the nation awaits the results of the midterm elections. [Joe Raedle/Getty Images]

Red-to-blue suburbs stay blue post-Trump

With Trump out of office for two years, one of the notable issues for the 2022 election is if the well-educated suburbs that ditched the GOP and backed Democratic candidates in recent elections would continue with Democrats or flip back. Instead, they appear to be holding put.

Whether in the burgeoning Atlanta metropolitan region, the Philadelphia suburbs, the D.C. suburbs, or northern Virginia, red-to-blue tendencies persist, with college-educated voters showing little inclination to return to the Republican tent. (This tendency helped Democrats like Pennsylvania’s John Fetterman win his Senate election and House members like Jennifer Wexton and Abigail Spanberger win competitive battles in Virginia.)

According to NBC News national exit surveys, Democrats will win white college grads in the 2022 election, a GOP stronghold.

Furthermore, 28% of voters claimed they voted in House elections “to oppose Trump,” and 90% supported Democrats.

Los Angeles Police chief, Michael Moore, announced on October 31, 2022, at LAPD Headquarters in downtown Los Angeles partnership with LA Crime Stoppers where rewards will be given in connection with tips related to ghost guns. The Chief, and other officers, showed off confiscated ghost guns as part of the press conference. [Barbara Davidson/Getty Images]

Roe v. Wade, Inflation, and Gun Control

Inflation boosted the GOP, but only somewhat. Rising cost of living, long viewed by Republicans as the issue on which they could ride to a massive victory, appear to have given only minor gains to the party.

According to an NBC News exit survey, 31% of voters cited inflation as their main issue, while 71% voted Republican. Other voters, though, questioned whether the GOP would be better at addressing inflation – the party had only a 12-point advantage over Democrats when asked whom they trusted more to handle inflation, far from the runaway gains that the issue was supposed to be capable of delivering.

The consequences of Roe v. Wade are real. According to the NBC News exit poll, 61% are unsatisfied or upset about the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, while 37% are thrilled or satisfied.

A staggering 71% of that 61% voted for Democratic candidates, while 27% voted for Republican candidates, illustrating the salience of the GOP’s conservative Supreme Court majority eliminating the constitutional right to abortion.

Gun control is now a Democratic-winning issue. According to the NBC News exit poll, 56% of 2022 voters support stricter gun control legislation, while 40% reject them.

76% of supporters of harsher restrictions supported Democratic candidates, while 22% supported Republicans, illustrating the salience of the subject of stricter gun laws. It is a far cry from a decade ago when Democrats worried that single-issue pro-gun voters would overwhelm gun control supporters and penalize them at the polls for pushing for firmer gun legislation.

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