Welcome to Yahoo News' Politics Briefing: Midterms Edition. Every week between now and Election Day, Yahoo News' team of political journalists will pull together everything you need to know about the November midterm elections. And it will all be in one place: your inbox.
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THE BIG IDEA: Inflation shifts midterm momentum back to GOP
The Supreme Court’s unpopular decision to repeal Roe v. Wade in June, combined with a string of legislative victories for President Biden and a steady decline in the price of gas, left Democrats hopeful going into the fall that they could have a better-than-expected November.
But the new Yahoo News/YouGov poll shows that Americans are increasingly fed up with inflation, and give Biden and his party low marks for how they’ve handled it, Yahoo News National Correspondent Andrew Romano reports:
“In mid-August, 51% of Americans said U.S. inflation was getting worse; today, that number is 60%. Among independents, 69% now say inflation is getting worse — a pronounced 15-point jump over the last month and a half.
“If that trend continues, it will not help the president’s party. A full 92% of Americans say inflation is a ‘very’ or ‘somewhat’ important issue ‘when thinking about this year’s election,’ and the number who say it’s very important (73%) is up 4 points since early September. In comparison, just 51% of Americans say abortion is very important.
Likewise, a third of U.S. adults (33%) select inflation as ‘the most important issue’ this fall. ‘Democracy’ (13%) is the only other issue that cracks double digits. Crime — the subject of recent GOP attack ads — is at 4%.”
The poll found that just 11% “approve of Biden's performance on inflation, while 72% disapprove (including 49% who ‘strongly’ disapprove).”
POLLS, POLLS, POLLS
The Yahoo News/YouGov poll also indicated that many Americans remain deeply skeptical about the legitimacy of U.S. elections.
“Among Trump voters, just 44% say they agree with the proposition that the candidate with fewer votes should concede the election — a basic rule that has defined U.S. democracy for centuries. Nearly as many Trump voters (38%) say candidates with fewer votes at the end of the process should continue to challenge the results. Another 18% report that they are unsure,” Romano writes.
The poll also found that “just a third of Americans (33%) think this year's election will be ‘free and fair,’ 28% do not and 39% are unsure.”
Yahoo News Senior Writer Chris Wilson rounds up some key state surveys out this week: “A Suffolk University poll of Arizona this week found Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly leading his GOP opponent, Blake Masters, by 7 points, with a Marist poll showing the lead at 4. The state’s race for an open governor’s seat is looking tighter, with Suffolk showing Democratic nominee Katie Hobbs up 1 and Marist showing Republican Kari Lake up 3.”
“Continue to keep an eye on Washington state, where Democratic Sen. Patty Murray has served since first winning her seat in 1992,” Wilson says. “Trafalgar, a Republican firm, showed Murray leading her Republican challenger, Tiffany Smiley, by just 2 points, but the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling had Murray up 12.”
SOUND LIKE A NERD
An “October surprise” is an unexpected event that disrupts an election at the last minute, like Trump’s “Access Hollywood” tape (released on Oct. 7, 2016) or then-FBI Director James Comey’s decision to reopen the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email server a few weeks later.
But this October marks the 60th anniversary of the most terrifying pre-election curveball: the Cuban Missile Crisis. On Oct. 14, 1962, an American spy plane photographed Soviet missile bases under construction in Cuba, which when activated would place vast swaths of the U.S. in range of Moscow’s nuclear arsenal. On Oct. 22, President John F. Kennedy informed the nation about the Soviet plot and announced a blockade of Cuba to prevent weapons from reaching the country.
The world braced for nuclear war between the two superpowers. But in the end, Kennedy prevailed, striking an Oct. 28 deal with Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, who agreed to remove the missiles from Cuba.
The 1962 midterms occurred just over a week later, and JFK’s Democrats triumphed. They retained control of Congress and added to their already massive Senate majority. The crop of new Democratic senators riding in on Kennedy’s coattails included future liberal icons George McGovern, who scored an upset victory over a Republican incumbent, and Ted Kennedy, the president’s younger brother.
New York Times reporter Tom Wicker called it “a remarkable midterm success” that “demonstrated support for President Kennedy’s Cuban policies and warded off a Republican threat to his legislative strength.” Kennedy was already popular, but the first Gallup poll after the crisis saw his approval rating shoot up 13 points, to 74%.
The moral of this story: When we’re this close to an election, there is a tendency to believe that everything is in place, that the trenches have been dug and won’t be moving.
And that could, of course, turn out to be the case this year. But it very well might not. Get ready for a long October.
AD OF THE WEEK
John Fetterman is pushing back on Republican attacks that say he’s soft on crime, Wilson reports. And to help make the point, Fetterman’s campaign has a new TV spot featuring a Philadelphia-area sheriff.
“Here’s the truth,” Montgomery County Sheriff Sean Kilkenny says in the ad. “John gave a second chance to those who deserved it. Nonviolent offenders, marijuana users. He voted with law enforcement experts nearly 90% of the time. He reunited families and protected our freedom.”
SLEEPER RACE ALERT
The battle for control of the Senate could well be decided in Nevada, where Republican Adam Laxalt is running neck-and-neck with Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto.
“Nevada might secretly be the most important Senate race of 2022. Why? Nearly every other marquee clash is some sort of colorful outlier where the GOP’s well-publicized ‘candidate quality’ problems are threatening the party’s hopes of flipping the Senate. But the Silver State is the rare place where two evenly matched professional pols are facing off amid a confluence of crucial trends: the impact of inflation, the abortion rights backlash, the rise of independents and the rightward drift of Hispanics,” Romano writes.
“As such, Nevada has the potential to be November’s truest bellwether — as well as ‘the single best pickup opportunity for Republicans in the country,’ as Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas put it over the summer.”
NEWS YOU CAN UTILIZE
Yahoo News Chief National Correspondent Jon Ward has a handy guide to voting and registration laws in all 50 states.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“The truth is that the middle class in this country is falling further and further behind. Wages are not keeping up with inflation,” Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said this week on NBC’s “Late Night with Seth Meyers.
“You’ve got over 70 million people who have no health insurance or they're underinsured. You've got 600,000 people who are homeless. You got people who can't afford prescription drugs. Kids can't afford to go to college. … We have got to be honest with the American people and say, ‘Look, we’re in rough shape right now. This is the reality. And this is what we have to do to get out of it.’”