Democrats have high hopes as midterms campaign kicks off with first mail-in ballots sent to voters

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·3 min read

The midterm congressional campaign officially began Friday with Democrats facing a much-improved electoral environment amid a string of political wins, a strengthening economy and widespread anger over loss of abortion rights.

North Carolina became the first state in the nation to send out mail-in ballots to voters, meaning the first votes for the closely divided House of Representatives and Senate will be cast in the coming days.

With generic ballot polling suggesting Democrats have a narrow edge among voters, President Joe Biden’s party has a solid chance of holding the Senate and limiting its losses in the House.

That’s a huge change from just a few months ago when most political insiders were predicting a massive #RedWave for Republicans.

“They were on track to get wiped in the House ... and faced a very tall order to keep a Senate majority,” said Lakshya Jain of Split Ticket, a nonpartisan polling analysis group. “That’s no longer the case.”

Poll ratings say Democrats have about a 2 in 3 chance of holding the Senate.

With Democrat John Fetterman leading Mehmet Oz by a healthy margin for an open GOP-held seat in Pennsylvania, Republicans would have to topple two Democratic incumbents to retake the upper chamber.

They look more likely to take none as hopes dim for former football star Herschel Walker’s race against Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., in Georgia and far-right Blake Masters effort to defeat Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly in Arizona.

In the House, Republicans still hold about a 3 in 4 chance of overturning the narrow Democratic majority, albeit with a smaller majority than initially expected.

Earlier in the year, most analysts expected a 2010-style Republican landslide to deliver control of both houses of Congress to the GOP by healthy margins.

Political analysts credit the resurgence to tamer inflation, lower gas prices and a string of major political victories for Biden and his Democratic allies.

It hasn’t hurt that former President Donald Trump’s name is in the news every day, energizing the Democratic base.

But many believe the single biggest factor by far is the conservative Supreme Court’s ruling overturning the landmark Roe v. Wade decision that 50 years ago legalized abortion nationwide.

Since the ruling, Democrats have enjoyed a remarkable resurgence, winning a string of congressional special elections and erasing a significant GOP lead in the generic ballot.

Biden has also seen a modest uptick in his approval numbers.

Jain calls the decision a “Black Swan-type of event,” meaning an unpredictable event that can turn conventional wisdom on its head.

In New York, Democratic Rep.-elect Pat Ryan stressed support for abortion rights in his upset win to hold Lt. Gov. Antonio Delgado’s old Hudson Valley seat.

Democrats are cautiously optimistic about holding a rejiggered version of that NY-19 district in the fall, along with the neighboring NY-18 where Ryan will run.

But if Democrats are to have a realistic chance of holding the House they would need to win GOP-leaning seats like the Staten Island-based district held by Rep. Nicole Malliotakis, R-N.Y., or the eastern Long Island district Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., gave up to run for governor.