The political cliches about commenting on and predicting
future elections which are many months away don’t always
hold up in all circumstances — and this might be the case
in the current national mid-term cycle.
The reason for this is the fact that major races for
governor, senator and congressperson now require so
much money that individuals must make their decisions
to run and begin fundraising earlier than in the past. This
is true for incumbents as well as challengers, although
incumbents are perhaps more concerned about likely
defeat if their districts are likely to be unfavorably
redrawn or specific issues endanger their re-election.
Both parties now face such an unconventional cycle more
than a year before election day.
For Democrats, foreign and domestic crises have seen a
sudden and precipitous drop in President Joe Biden’s
popularity because of his mishandling the U.S. military
withdrawal from Afghanistan. Even before Afghanistan,
the Mexican border crisis was causing serious problems
for Democratic incumbents in southeastern states (Texas,
Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Nevada) with some
already announcing their retirements. Perhaps most
significantly, potentially strong challengers to vulnerable
Republican incumbents are feeling the current negative
environment — and with the resulting uncertainty about
next year, possibly deciding not to run. The retirement of
a 13-term Democratic congressman in Wisconsin indicates
the negatives are occurring nationally, especially in
suburban districts and battleground northern states
where progressive policies of defunding the police,
politicizing the schools, packing the U.S. supreme court,
etc., are very unpopular outside inner cities.
The political environment might improve for the
Democrats next year, but candidates must, in most
cases. make up their minds now when their prospects
For different reasons, Republican incumbents and
challengers might face negative circumstances, and
might decide not to run in 2022. In fact, four sitting
U.S. GOP senators have already announced their
retirement. The dilemma for Republicans next year is
the activity of former President Donald Trump in
some gubernatorial, senate and house races — some
involving GOP incumbents — where his preferred
and endorsed candidate might not be the strongest
candidate for the office. This might be the case in
Arizona, for example. In a competitive 2022 race,
a Republican nominee without Mr. Trumps’s
support would be at a distinct disadvantage. All
polls show that Trump supporters still dominate
the GOP voter base.
The two leaders of their parties are thus key to the
eventual outcome of the 2022 elections, and as well
are key in many cases to the critical period now
taking place when candidates are making their
decisions about next year.
One political commonplace is axiomatic, i.e., that
candidates matter. Wave elections and local
circumstances might allow weaker nominees
occasionally to win, but generally only quality
candidates, especially challengers to incumbents,
prevail with voters.
When the strongest candidates decide not to run
because of gloomy prospects well before election
day, opportunities are sometimes lost. A case in
point, was the contest for the 1992 Democratic
presidential nomination. President George H.W.
Bush was so popular following the 1991 Gulf War
victory that many strong Democratic candidates
decided not to run, and allowed an unknown and
controversial Bill Clinton to win the nomination.
By mid-1992, the economy had tanked, Ross
Perot was running as a third party candidate,
and in November, Clinton won.
It is true that a political environment can change
dramatically in a matter of months, but it is also
true that the critical period when candidates
decide whether to run or not has irreversible
consequences long before election day.
We are in such a period now — a year before
voters go to the polls.
Copyright (c) 2021 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.