The midterm elections in the US could massively weaken Joe Biden as president. The economic crisis is causing enormous damage to his party, and the Republicans are angling for votes. In the end, an old acquaintance could decide the election – Donald Trump.
For a long time, the American midterm elections didn’t have such big issues up for debate as this year’s “midterms”. Rising prices are a problem for many citizens in a country with less extensive social safety nets than European countries. At the same time, the midterm elections are about nothing less than the dispute over fundamental rights: will abortion remain legal in the USA? And then there’s Donald Trump, who could massively influence the midterm elections – although he is not on the ballot in this election and has not announced that he will ever run for president again.
Reading tip: What you need to know about the US midterm elections in the US
The forecasts recently gave the conservatives a head start: while the Democrats were still just ahead in September, in a recent survey 49 percent of voters said they wanted to vote for a Republican – only 45 percent wanted to give their vote to a Democrat.
An overview of the most important issues that will decide the US midterm elections:
Democrats and Republicans disagree on a lot – but they agree on one thing: The most important issue for most voters will be current inflation. As in Europe, many Americans are struggling with the rising costs of basic daily needs, the prices for food and fuel have risen massively.
Republicans see inflation as an advantage because voters have traditionally tended to trust conservatives to improve their finances. Numbers confirm this: According to a new survey by “ABC News/Ipsos”, a third of Americans believe that the Republicans will be better able to overcome the economic crisis.
This hits the Democrats twice as hard because they are generally held responsible for the current economic problems. Historically, the party that currently holds the presidency often does worse in midterm elections anyway.
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Leading Democrats have realized that their party’s economy could cost them the current slim majority in Congress. They are therefore urging their fellow candidates to focus on economic issues during the election campaign and to refrain from focusing on the abortion debate and Donald Trump. “If you ask the average American what’s on his mind, he’ll say it’s the economy, inflation. I can’t imagine them running away from these issues,” Senator Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent, said at a campaign rally.
On another issue that will move the midterms, most Americans tend to trust the Democrats. It’s about abortion rights. In a historic decision in 1973, the US Supreme Court ruled that the right to an abortion is a fundamental right. Now, nearly 50 years after that landmark ruling, the Supreme Court reversed that. Instead, the US states should now decide for themselves whether to allow abortion. Numerous conservative-led states have already issued a ban or are in the process of doing so.
However, various polls have shown that a bipartisan majority of Americans support free access to abortion. The Democrats, who have long defended the right, are now trying to win votes out of the citizens’ anger. With success so far: Since the Supreme Court ruling in June 2022, the Democrats have won every special election for the House of Representatives and campaign donations for Democratic candidates have skyrocketed.
Most Democratic candidates have since placed abortion rights at the top of their campaign agenda. However, polls also show that the importance of this issue to voters decreases the more serious the economic situation becomes.
No US election without the topic of immigration: The Republicans in particular like to use it to win votes. In 2016 it was Trump’s wall to Mexico, this year it’s governors from the southern states who are transporting immigrants north by bus and plane. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis caused the sensation he wanted with his migrant transport from Florida to wealthy Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts, Texas Governor Greg Abbot brought bus deliveries with people from Venezuela, Colombia and Cuba directly to Washington D.C. to the home of Vice President Kamala Harris.
The bigger the Republicans can inflate the issue of immigration, the better for them: Because the majority of Americans clearly see the powers of immigration and crime in the hands of the conservatives. As recently as October, a poll showed that 40 percent of potential voters believe Republicans handle immigration issues better than Democrats.
This is particularly dangerous for the Democrats because the issue has the potential to steal important key voter groups from them. Independent and moderate voters, as well as suburban women, could switch sides on immigration and strengthen Republicans.
He is not even up for election and could still be a big vote magnet: Ex-President Donald Trump. One in five registered voters said their vote will be related to Donald Trump.
However, Trump is likely to cause headaches for both parties: because who will he actually bring votes to? Will there be more voters who want to boost him for a potential 2024 presidential bid – or more voters who want to prevent a comeback at all costs?
Many Republicans running in the midterms have publicly committed themselves to Trump. Trump still has a strong influence on the base – and provides the necessary donations in the election campaign. Trump was actually able to push through many of his candidates in the primaries – to the delight of some Democrats. Because they are convinced that an openly far-right Republican who adheres to conspiracy theories will be easier to beat than a moderate Republican.
Even US President Joe Biden seems to think Trump could do more harm than good to Republicans. In several speeches he gave the GOP the label “Ultra MAGA Republican”. “MAGA” stands for Trump’s slogan “Make America Great Again,” and Biden is trying to cast an extremist light on the party, which is controlled by Trump’s far right.
Trump, meanwhile, is embroiled in his own political problems. He faces a spate of ongoing investigations into his finances, constant negative publicity, a run-in with the Justice Department and an FBI raid on his Mar-a-Lago, Florida residence. It is still unclear at the moment whether he will be on the ballot or in court in 2024.
Foreign policy usually plays a minor role in midterm elections. Not so this year. Because as a weapons supplier and historical antithesis to Russia, the Ukraine conflict also has an impact on the midterms. Indirectly, the consequences of the Russian war of aggression and the resulting sanctions are already being felt by the Americans: record inflation and rising gas prices are eating away at people’s wallets.
Ohio Republican Senate nominees Josh Mandel and J.D. Vance, have therefore publicly questioned during the election campaign why the US is focusing on a foreign policy conflict while domestic problems are mounting.
But there are significant groups of voters in the USA with Eastern European origins. Ohio Republican Vance may have hurt himself by saying he “doesn’t care what happens to Ukraine.” Ohio is a major swing state with the fifth highest population of Ukrainian residents in the country.
For Biden’s party, however, the foreign policy conflict could become a test in the midterm elections. Because after the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan last year, the president has had to prove his military leadership qualities without being served. Biden’s approval ratings are mediocre at 40 percent. That could harm his party on November 8th.
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