Democrats on Sunday raced to rally their voters in a bid to avoid sweeping defeats in Tuesday’s midterm elections, with Republicans holding a slim advantage in polling heading into the last two days of campaigning.
Early voting data pointed to high turnout across the country and massive spending on political advertising as both parties made their final pitches to Americans, who will cast their verdict on Biden’s agenda as well as the appeal of a Republican party that is still in thrall to former president Donald Trump.
According to the latest polling averages, Republicans have a narrow edge against their Democratic opponents, which should be sufficient for them to regain control of the House of Representatives after four years. However, the majority in the Senate remains in the balance and will come down to a handful of hotly contested races, including in Pennsylvania, Nevada and Georgia.
During a series of rallies at the weekend, top Democrats including Biden and former president Barack Obama made appearances in states that voted for their party in the last presidential election, a sign of their political vulnerability. Biden campaigned on Saturday in Pennsylvania — the state where he grew up — after a visit to Illinois, then travelled to New York on Sunday for an event with governor Kathy Hochul, who is facing an unexpectedly tough challenge from Republican Lee Zeldin.
The party in power at the White House typically loses seats in Congress during its first midterm election. In addition, this year Biden and the Democrats are facing brutally negative ratings on issues ranging from inflation to crime and immigration.
“This election is about the Biden agenda. People don’t like high inflation, high crime, open borders, fentanyl, that’s what we’re talking about,” Rick Scott, the Florida senator and chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, told NBC. Scott was campaigning with Trump on Sunday on behalf of Florida senator Marco Rubio.
Democrats have invoked the extremism of Republicans still beholden to Trump and outrage over the loss of the constitutional right to an abortion. They have defended their economic record by touting job creation and efforts to revive domestic manufacturing, fight climate change and lower drug costs for seniors.
“We’re going to defend our mainstream democratic values against the threats to our democracy,” Sean Patrick Maloney, chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, who is in a tough race to keep his own seat in New York’s Hudson Valley, told NBC.
“We’re going to protect women’s reproductive freedom and voting rights. We’re going to give you cheaper prices for gas and groceries, healthcare and housing, and we’re going to give you safer streets.”
Democrats are hoping that a late surge in turnout, particularly among young voters on election day, could give them a final boost to protect their most vulnerable lawmakers. They were buoyed by an NBC News poll released on Sunday showing that Democrats were just as enthusiastic as Republicans to vote.
Meanwhile, both parties were flooding the airwaves with advertising to support their candidates and attacking the other side across the battleground states and districts.
Steven Pierce, a former director at Priorities USA — the biggest super Pac supporting Biden, said the volume of this year’s political ads was extreme — a sign of how much money political groups were investing in a select handful of races in the final days before the vote.
He had recently been travelling in Nevada where Republicans and Democrats are locked in tight races to be the state’s next governor, senator and secretary of state. “I didn’t see a single non-political ad,” Pierce said. “It’s wall to wall.”
“I do this for a living. I have more of a motivation to be interested in this [than] anyone else on earth and even I found it overwhelming.”
But Eric Wilson, a veteran GOP strategist who led Marco Rubio’s digital team for his 2016 presidential run, said Republican groups were feeling especially bullish on the back of new polling and an influx of GOP cash from donors and Pacs in the final weeks that had allowed them to close the gap with Democrats in the money race.
“We are seeing spending shift into newer places where we didn’t think we were going to be competitive,” he said.