A new Yahoo News/YouGov poll released this week shows that Democrats are heading into the homestretch of the 2022 midterm campaign with a lead over Republicans among registered voters — including those who say they “definitely will vote” this year. These new findings and recent legislative victories give hopes to the Democrats that they may be able to hold on to the House come November after the midterm polls.
Despite the fact that the president’s party almost always loses seats in midterm contests — and the fact that high inflation numbers continue to fuel discontent with President Biden — Democrats have gone from trailing by an average of nearly 3 points as recently as May to leading by roughly 1 point, according to FiveThirtyEight.
In all, Republicans need to net only five seats to win the gavel. And while Democrats may be poised to mitigate some losses, Republicans say there’s still little chance the party’s summertime surge can overcome the stacked map.
A collection of internal Democratic polls conducted in August in a dozen battleground seats, which were reviewed by POLITICO, showed Democratic candidates running, on average, more than 6 percentage points above Biden’s favorability rating in those districts.
According to the survey by Yahoo News/YouGov of 1,634 U.S. adults, which was conducted from Sept. 2 to Sept. 6, 45% of registered voters now say they would cast their ballot for the Democratic congressional candidate in their district if the election were held today; 40% say they would choose the Republican candidate instead. Among registered voters who say they will “definitely” vote on Nov. 8, Democrats lead 48% to 45%.
The new Yahoo News/YouGov results — some of the first national numbers to emerge after the long Labor Day weekend that traditionally marks the beginning of the fall election season — align with a shift that has been underway for weeks now in congressional polling averages. (The previous Yahoo News/YouGov poll, conducted in late August, showed Democrats ahead by a similar margin among registered voters.)
Democrats had a summer they never thought possible. It still may not be enough to keep the House. A month of special election upsets and improved standing in generic ballot polling have narrowed a House battlefield that seemed to be expanding for the GOP into some heavily blue districts. The shift has lifted some Democratic incumbents out of immediate peril and made some Republican members squirm after feeling safe earlier this year.
The battle over abortion rights upended the political landscape, juicing up the Democratic base and giving them an opening with independents — datapoints that are now reflected in private and public polling. In a couple dozen of the most competitive swing seats, Democratic operatives are more optimistic than ever that their members will run far ahead of President Joe Biden, whose approval rating hovered in the low 40s, or sometimes lower, throughout much of 2022 but has ticked up recently.
Still, House Democrats face this sobering fact: Republicans may not need to flip any districts that Biden carried in 2020 to reclaim the majority. Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her caucus are also staring down a coming wave of outside spending, which could swamp them in TV ads in the critical final weeks of the midterms. And historical precedence is not in their favor.
“I think we probably had a little bit of irrational exuberance during the course of the summer. No question that the president’s numbers, while bad, are better,” said Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), a former House GOP campaign chief, who pegged his party’s gains around 20 to 25 seats, rather than the 60 that his party’s leader once predicted at the height of Democrats’ struggles.
Their improved standing has shifted the House battlefield in two ways: A collection of Democratic districts Biden carried by more than 10 points in 2020 look far safer than they did two months ago, when private polling from both parties showed a slew of deep-blue districts could be in play. And a handful of Republican incumbents holding districts Biden carried in 2020 now look much more vulnerable, raising the possibility that Democrats can go on offense.
Democratic operatives are most hopeful about flipping the Michigan district where GOP Rep. Peter Meijer lost his primary, which Biden won by 9 points two years ago, and ones held by Reps. David Valadao (R-Calif.), Mike Garcia (R-Calif.) and Don Bacon (R-Neb.).
Others will be more difficult and some are not truly in play, thanks to strong and well-funded incumbents such as Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.). But Democrats in those blue-leaning districts are campaigning heavily on abortion rights.
“It’s the top issue that I’m hearing about with a close second being the economy,” said North Carolina state Sen. Wiley Nickel, a Democrat running in a newly redrawn — and fiercely competitive — seat around Raleigh against former college football player Bo Hines. “It’s at the top of many voters’ minds, because we had these constitutional rights for 50 years and now the Republicans have taken them away.”