We need your help now

Support from readers like you keeps The Journal open.

You are visiting us because we have something you value. Independent, unbiased news that tells the truth. Advertising revenue goes some way to support our mission, but this year it has not been enough.

If you've seen value in our reporting, please contribute what you can, so we can continue to produce accurate and meaningful journalism. For everyone who needs it.

Former US president Donald Trump at an event in South Carolina. Alamy Stock Photo
two more years

Analysis: Reemergence of Trump could be the Democrats' biggest weapon ahead of the midterms

The former president has placed himself at the forefront of the upcoming ballots.

IT’S LESS THAN two months until the US midterm elections, a hugely important day in US politics in its own right but also the traditional midpoint of a presidency. 

President Joe Biden was elected almost two years ago in the teeth of a deadly pandemic but, as we move into the second half of this term, his predecessor is again central to the discussion. 

Former president Donald Trump has placed himself at the forefront of the upcoming ballots, a fact that may be great fuel for his ego but could yet prove to be a roadblock to the wider Republican party. 

The midterms are elections held every four years across all levels of US government including both houses of the US Congress, state governorships and other local legislatures.

In this year’s midterms, all 435 seats in the House of Representatives are up for grabs, as are 34 of the 100 seats in the Senate.

Currently, Democrats have the narrowest of majorities in the Senate and a healthier majority in the House. The Senate is tied 50-50 but the casting vote of Vice President Kamala Harris gives the Democrats the edge. 

Both sides are targeting control of the Senate and it’s difficult to predict what the outcome will be. 

Midterm elections are traditionally tricky for incumbent presidents and 2022 may prove no different, but the question of exactly how difficult is what’s at stake.

During Trump’s presidency in 2018 Democrats won back control of the House but Republicans managed to maintain increase their lead in the Senate (a lead they subsequently lost in 2020). 

Similarly, Republicans made huge gains in the 2010 midterm elections, winning back control of the House from the Democrats during Barack Obama’s first term. 

Both past instances show that presidents during their first term are often facing an uphill battle.

Biden has been facing a particularly steep climb. Like much of the western world, the US is facing inflation that is the highest it’s been for decades. 

The main driver of this is energy costs and there is a particular symbolism in the US about the cost of ‘filling a tank of gas’.

After petrol prices continued rising for months after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, they peaked in June at a new national high

Americans are unforgiving when it comes to gas prices and Biden’s poll ratings suffered, hitting a fresh low in July when his approval rating dipped to just 37.7%, according to tracker FiveThirtyEight.

Such anaemic approval ratings had Democrats worrying about a potential meltdown this November and Biden even went to Saudi Arabia on a controversial visit as part of efforts to get more oil flowing and keep prices down. 

While the result of that trip was inconclusive and Biden did not get the promises he wanted from the Saudis, the president’s fortunes have improved since. 

Last month, Biden signed a climate change and healthcare bill into law, the Inflation Reduction Act, which has been hailed as the biggest victory for Democrats during Biden’s term. 

The title of the Act is a reference to controls it places on some prescription drugs and it also extends health insurance subsidies that were provided during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Democrats also received a boost last month when the Republican-controlled state of Kansas voted to maintain the right to abortion in a significant post-Roe v Wade referendum. 

The decision pointed to voter unease at the Supreme Court’s decision and suggested that Democrats’ hopes that it could galvinse their support has some merit. 

Petrol prices even began to fall again last month and a combination of each of these factors has perhaps contributed to Biden’s poll numbers improving, which have climbed to 42.5% as of this week

Another factor could well be at play, however, namely the re-emergence of Trump on the national stage following the FBI raid on his Mar-a-Lago home

The way in which Republicans have rallied around Trump following the raid has ratcheted up partisan tensions in the US and allowed Biden to again place himself as the bulwark to the MAGA Americans. 

This was essentially Biden’s pitch ahead of the 2020 election and last week he delivered the most strident anti-Trump speech of his presidency, claiming that  “equality and democracy are under assault” by his predecessor. 

There are still two months of campaigning remaining in the midterms and local factors will certainly play their part but between Biden and Trump it’s clear that the battlelines have been drawn once more.

Readers like you are keeping these stories free for everyone...
A mix of advertising and supporting contributions helps keep paywalls away from valuable information like this article. Over 5,000 readers like you have already stepped up and support us with a monthly payment or a once-off donation.

Your Voice
Readers Comments
This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
Leave a Comment
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.

    Leave a commentcancel