Axios Sneak Peek
November 04, 2022
Welcome back to Sneak. Smart Brevity™ count: 943 words ... 3.5 minutes.
1 big thing: The contrarian case for Dem optimism
Relentless media coverage, polling and election forecasts have solidified the narrative heading into Tuesday's midterms:
- Republicans are on pace for a "red wave" in the House, with fresh momentum giving them a serious shot to take the Senate as well, Axios' Zachary Basu and Alexi McCammond write.
Yes, but: Conventional wisdom isn't always correct. Every election carries surprises — it was just two years ago that Republicans defied expectations to gain seats in the House — and there are at least a few bright spots to consider before Democrats commit themselves to the political wilderness.
4 reasons for optimism
1. The Senate remains very much in play.
- Democrats in key Senate battlegrounds are running significantly ahead of Biden's approval rating, according to the latest NYT/Siena poll: Arizona Sen. Mark Kelly (+15); Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock (+10); Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (+9); and Pennsylvania nominee John Fetterman (+7).
- Republicans' nomination of flawed Senate candidates like Don Bolduc in New Hampshire and Herschel Walker in Georgia, meanwhile, threatens a 2012 redux for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
2. Governor's races are a surprise bright spot.
- The dynamics in red states like Kansas and Oklahoma — where polls indicate Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt is facing a surprisingly close contest — have been heartening for Dems banking on abortion rights as a turnout motivator.
- Several strategists Axios spoke to cited Wes Moore in Maryland and Josh Shapiro in Pennsylvania as two candidates with the potential for a national profile and bigger role in the party, with both set to cruise to victory in Tuesday.
3. The bogeyman is still there.
- Former President Trump likely cost Republicans the Senate in 2020 with his baseless claims that Georgia's election system was corrupt, dragging down GOP base turnout in the two January runoffs. His intra-party flame-throwing hasn't stopped.
- Democrats' favorite foil is handing them one last gift with a risky, last-minute ally in Pennsylvania on Saturday with Republican Senate nominee Mehmet Oz.
4. Polling is never perfect.
- Pre-election opinion polls for the 2020 election were the most inaccurate in 40 years, according to a Vanderbilt study cited in a Bloomberg analysis today about the credibility of polling.
- Liberal commentators and Democratic operatives have recently accused Republicans of "flooding the zone" with partisan polls that skew the average on the generic congressional ballot — and create a misleading "red wave" narrative.
The bottom line: "Broadly speaking, I think we’ll outperform any reasonable expectations for the party in power during 8.5% inflation. Republicans should be cleaning our clocks, not praying to eke out a Senate majority and pick up a handful of House seats," Third Way founder Matt Bennett told Axios.
2. 🔎 Scoop: GOP's 1,000-page road map
Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee will release a 1,000-page document tomorrow detailing allegations of politicization of the FBI and Justice Department under the Biden administration, Axios' Alayna Treene has learned.
Why it matters: The report will serve as the basis for one of House Republicans' top oversight investigations if they win the majority back in next week's election.
- It's an eleventh-hour political move by the minority members of the Judiciary Committee to stir up former President Trump’s base days before the election.
- Trump's grievances against the FBI — reignited by federal agents' search of Mar-a-Lago in August — have long been an obsession on the right.
Reality check: Trump himself sought to exert pressure on his own Justice Department throughout his presidency, beginning with his demands for "loyalty" from former FBI director James Comey and culminating in his attempts to use the agency to remain in power after the 2020 election.
Between the lines: Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) — who will likely become chairman of the powerful House Judiciary Committee next year should Republicans control the chamber — is the leading member behind the report, which relies heavily on reports from FBI whistleblowers.
- Jordan has made clear he will use the committee to make the next two years of Biden's presidency as painful as possible for Democrats.
- The report's table of contents — which includes references to Hunter Biden, school boards, pro-life facilities and churches, and Facebook — underscores the highly political nature of the investigation.
⚡ Breaking: CNN reports DOJ officials have discussed appointing a special counsel to oversee the Mar-a-Lago documents and Jan. 6 investigations if Trump runs for president in 2024.
3. 🇺🇦 Surging Ukraine skepticism
A new Wall Street Journal poll found that 48% of Republicans now say the U.S. is doing too much to support Ukraine, amid signals that a GOP-controlled House could put an end to the billion-dollar aid packages that Congress has consistently passed on a bipartisan basis.
By the numbers: The Washington Post's Aaron Blake tracked the surge in Republicans who hold this skeptical view compared to the start of the war, based on WSJ and Pew surveys that asked the same question:
- March (WSJ): 6%
- March (Pew): 9%
- May (Pew): 17%
- September (Pew): 32%
- Today (WSJ): 48%
What they're saying: "The only border they care about is Ukraine, not America's southern border. Under Republicans, not another penny will go to Ukraine," Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) declared at a Trump rally in Iowa this afternoon.
4. 👫 Charted: Voting and dating
5. 👀 Hochul's closers
In a sign of just how nervous Democrats have become about the state of the New York governor's race, Gov. Kathy Hochul rallied today with two of the party's biggest names: Vice President Kamala Harris and Hillary Clinton.
📬 Thanks for reading this week. This newsletter was edited by Zachary Basu and copy edited by Kathie Bozanich.