Mitch McConnell is feeling pretty good right about now.
During an appearance at the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday, the Senate minority leader said that the “atmosphere for Republicans is better than it was in 1994,” when the party won control of both the House and Senate in a wave election. “From an atmospheric point of view, it’s a perfect storm of problems for Democrats because it’s an entirely Democratic government,” added McConnell.
Which is saying something!
Back in 1994, Republicans won a net of 54 House seats and eight Senate seats, marking a monumental shift in the country’s politics. Republicans need far less than that in 2022 to win majorities – a net gain of five seats in the House and a one-seat switch in the Senate would do the trick.
The signs of a major wave election for Republicans this year are there. Consider:
* President Joe Biden’s approval rating is stuck in the lows 40s. And if history is any guide, that is very bad news for Democrats in Congress. As of 2018, the average loss for the president’s party when his approval rating was under 50% was 37 House seats. (The average seat loss in a midterm for a president with an approval rating over 50% was 14.)
* Democratic retirements are through the roof. There are currently 29 House Democrats either retiring or running for other offices this fall, 11 more than for the Republicans. And a number of those Democratic retirements are in vulnerable districts.
* Inflation continues to run rampant, with the Consumer Price Index jumping 8.5% between March 2021 and March 2022. Gas prices are driving that surge, but food prices are also up. In short: People are feeling the pinch in their everyday lives.
* Democrats are, as McConnell noted, in charge of the White House and both chambers of Congress. Again, if past is prologue, that means voters will largely blame them for the problems facing the country.
Now, nothing in politics is a sure thing, especially with roughly seven months to go before the election. That’s especially true in the Senate, where races tend to be less buffeted by national winds than on the House side.
And McConnell is mindful that his party can still screw it up. “You can’t nominate somebody who is just sort of unacceptable to a broader group of people and win,” he said Tuesday. “We had that experience in 2010 and 2012.” In those elections, McConnell added, Republican voters nominated “bizarre people … who couldn’t win in November.”
He didn’t mention any specific races that he was worried about this year, but the situation in Missouri – where controversy-laden former Gov. Eric Greitens is running for Senate – is clearly one of those cases.
“So far, I’m optimistic that in the places that are going to determine who the next majority leader is we are going to have fully electable nominees,” McConnell said. “Having a fully electable nominee is critical for the Senate.”