Memo: 3 Reasons Why 2022 Won’t Be 2010

3 Reasons Why 2022 Won’t Be 2010 - In a recent sit down with Joe Trippi for his “That Trippi Show” pod, I talked about how when it came to the 2022 mid-terms, I’d rather be us than them.  Here are 3 reasons why:

1. Democrats Will Have So Much To Run On – With the passage of the infrastructure and reconciliation bill imminent, in 2022 Democrats will be able to argue, forcefully, that they have taken extraordinary steps to get America and the world through COVID, secured the recovery, tackled climate change and advanced a broad agenda which will make America better able to compete and win in a more challenging 21st century global economy. 

To us 2010’s big lesson is that it will not be enough for Democrats to enter next summer with COVID on the run and the economy in recovery.  Voters will have to understand that things are better because of things Democrats did (ARP + Infrastructure + reconciliation); and thus it would be wise for Democrats to focus for the next six months not on the promises of the two new bills, but on making sure the investments from the ARP in defeating COVID, securing the recovery and getting us back to normal – investments made with no GOP support – are understood to be the things responsible for returning our life to normal.  Democrats have to establish this firm link now or they may never get credit for it next year, just as Obama never really got credit for the recovery when it came. 

Using new Navigator Research polling, NDN created a model for what the voters who will vote Democratic in a typical swing district are most concerned about now (voters:


Econ/Jobs 60%

Climate/Extreme Weather 40%

Health Care 39%

Social Sec/Medicare 32%

As you can see, for these voters by far and away the most important issues are COVID and the recovery.  It is where Democrats must be these next few months, where our focus must lie.  We thought the President did a good job speaking to this frame in this short clip from the G20 yesterday – defeating COVID, securing the recovery/Build Back Better, tackling climate. 

If by the spring the President and his party have been given credit for having gotten us through COVID and restarting the economy, the President’s approval rating should return to a place where the mid-terms are competitive next fall.  We agree with what Ron Brownstein argues in his new Atlantic piece – the election is much more likely to revolve around how people feel things are going in their lives, rather than be about rewarding Democrats for newly enacted legislation which will not yet have had time to make an impact. 

The power of the President’s complete agenda will only be unlocked in 2022 if we are seen as if having succeeded first on the two issues which matter most to voters, and the central reason Biden was elected – defeating COVID, securing the recovery, getting life back to normal.  If COVID is truly defeated by next fall, there is likely to be a far greater sense of "this is behind us" than there was at comparable point in 2010.  We are likely to be, and for people to feel, that we are further along.     

2. The GOP’s extremism will be easy for Dems to exploit – Many of us believed that if Trump was defeated in 2020 his brand of extremist politics would fade from the national scene.  But over the past year we’ve seen this extremism spread far beyond Trump, and become now the dominant ideology of GOP.  On issue after issue – COVID barbarism, climate denialism, refusing to support prudent investments in the future, eliminating Roe vs Wade and embracing vigilantism, attempting to crash the US economy, advancing measures to weaken our democracy and protecting white supremacists and insurrectionists – Republicans have made it very hard for those who may not to want Democratic in 2022 to choose them. 

There is data to back this up. Despite Biden’s 20 point fall in recent months, the Congressional Generic hasn’t moved that much and still favors the Democrats. In last week’s Navigator poll party ID remained 47D-41R.  In both of these polls Rs are at 41-42 – meaning while Dems have lost ground things have not yet moved to the Rs.  41-42 is not a competitive place to be.   

Congressional Republicans remain much more unpopular than Biden and the Democrats across many measures.  Returning to Navigator, Congressional GOP job approval is 37-56 (-19), and 14-67 (-42) with independents.  GOP Party fav/unfavs is -11, and McCarthy (-17 fav/unfav) and McConnell (-30 fav/unfav) remain remarkably unpopular.  And they trail Democrats badly on many of the issues which matter most to voters – COVID, climate, health care (and possibly women’s right to choose next year). 

The GOP’s path to becoming an acceptable alternative to Democrats next year is just very very hard to see, particularly if the economy has improved by the spring.  Younkin may have created some distance from himself and MAGA but it will be far harder for Republicans to do this in federal races, where voting R is literally a vote to put insurrectionists back into power. 

3. Democrats Have Been Turning Out in Very Large Numbers – In every election since 2016, Democrats have seen turnout hit the very top of what many thought achievable – in 2018, 2020 and it has continued in 2021 with very high performances in the GA runoff and the CA recall, two ‘special elections” where Democrats often underperform.  Early turnout in Virginia has also exceeded expectations, and we learn tomorrow if that will be enough to help give Dems the edge.

Some of this heightened turnout is due to fear of MAGA, but some of it is also due to how Democratic campaigns are evolving.  With far more money than before, Democrats can build much more sophisticated campaigns to target and reach their episodic and new voters.  The extra time early voting and vote by mail provides helps with this too, as does recent innovations in distributed texting and phone technologies that allow a race like McAuliffe’s to draw on volunteers from across the country for voter contact.  In essence the Democratic turnout machine is just bigger and better than ever before.  This means that Democrats are more likely to hit the upper end of what is possible in turnout far more often, as we did this year in GA and CA, and seem to be doing so far in Virginia.  For more on how this is all playing out in Virginia see this new thread.  '

The turnout burden of proof may in fact be on the Republicans in 2022, for if anyone has been suffering from turnout problems in recent elections it has been the GOP without Trump on the ballot. 

So, optimism for 2022 - So, regardless of what happens in Virginia tomorrow we are optimistic about the mid-terms next year.  We think very little of what Youngkin has done can be easily replicated in federal races, and it is very likely that this election is coming at the nadir of Biden’s 2021-2022 approval.  So to us Virginia is more likely to be an outlier than a harbinger, and if Republicans want to base their national campaign in 2022 on banning books, we say bring it on.  

But a few areas of concern which we are tracking, and will address in future memos – Dem underperformance on two important issues, the economy and immigration; and a worrisome drop off among younger voters in the Virginia early vote.  More on these issues after Virginia.

  • Simon Rosenberg, 11/1/21