Thursday, 02 December 2021 14:35

OPINION: The 'Who knows?' point of the election cycle

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For the past few months, Republicans have been giddy over Biden’s falling approving ratings. Bad headlines that began with an August COVID spike and the Afghan withdrawal continued with rising gas prices and inflation. The GOP could taste the defeat they believe is coming next November. Pundits are already asking how bad it’s going to be. 


But politics isn’t linear. What’s happening today doesn’t always continue until an election changes the public’s mood. In fact, news on the economic front often isn’t reflected in public sentiment for months. And that may change Democrats’ fortunes considerably. 

Republicans are clearly cheering for inflation. They want to justify their warnings about the COVID stimulus programs and they want higher prices to drive a wedge between voters and Democrats. Maybe they will get their wish, but I’m not so sure. 

Last week, Biden announced he’s tapping into strategic oil reserves. Several headlines ominously warned that the results won’t be felt for months and that higher heating bills this winter may be inevitable. While higher heating bills this winter may suck, falling gas prices this spring may prove to be a boon. From a political standpoint, Democrats would rather see cheaper oil in the run up to midterms than cheaper oil right now. 

The new COVID variant also seems to be threatening Biden. Another spike that leads to school shutdowns and more mask mandates could leave a pandemic weary public angry at the party in power. However, early statistics indicate that most hospitalizations in South Africa are among the unvaccinated, much like the Delta variant. A smaller spike that lasts less time and largely affects only those listening to right wing propaganda or left-wing anti-vaxxer nonsense could actually help Biden. The public might give him credit for getting the country back to normal. It’s all about managing expectations. If the public fears a large spike that never happens because of the successful vaccine program, then maybe the president gets credit instead of blame. 

Finally, the economic news is actually very good despite polls that show people are not optimistic. If the low unemployment numbers keep rolling in and wages continue to grow, inflation worries may prove to be overblown. The pessimism today may turn out to be forgotten by next fall. 

As I’ve said before, I don’t believe Democrats can hold the House because of redistricting. I do believe they can hold the Senate if the economy holds, COVID is less of a worry, and we stay out of international conflicts. A lot could also happen over the next 11 months that changes the political environment. So, really, we’re at a “Who knows?” point in the election cycle. I suspect Biden’s numbers will get considerably better over the next few months, but that doesn’t mean they won’t get worse again before the midterm election.

Thomas Mills is the founder and publisher of PoliticsNC.com. Before beginning PoliticsNC, Mills spent 20 years as a political and public affairs consultant.