House Democrats are beginning to sound the alarm to their party’s donors and operatives that even long-held seats in blue states might not be safe this year amid a looming GOP wave.
Rep. Jahana Hayes, a two-term Connecticut Democrat, recently told supporters that if they did not take races like hers seriously, they would be in for a rude wake-up call in November.
“There’s this misperception that because we’re in Connecticut, everything is okay, and the challenge is everyone is focusing their attention on the bright red states except for Republicans,” said Mrs. Hayes. “This is a reminder — if we lose seats in Connecticut, which everyone looks at as a blue state, we’re in trouble around the country.”
Mrs. Hayes is only one of the dozens of House Democrats being targeted by the National Republican Congressional Campaign Committee this cycle. Her district, which has changed little due to redistricting, went for President Biden in 2020 by nine percentage points.
That same year, Mrs. Hayes secured reelection by nearly 12 points. The victory, in part, was made possible by her fundraising advantage. Overall, Mrs. Hayes spent $1.5 million to her GOP opponent’s mere $397,000.
But Mrs. Hayes’ built-in advantages might not be enough this time, given national trends.
On President Biden’s watch, inflation has soared to nearly 8% in the past year, eating away at the paychecks of Americans, while crime has skyrocketed across urban and suburban communities alike.
Abroad, meanwhile, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has scrambled global energy markets, pushing prices in the U.S. ever higher. Coupled with the lingering fallout from the collapse of Afghanistan, the outbreak of war in Eastern Europe has Americans increasingly uncomfortable with Mr. Biden’s stewardship of the country.
In a new Reuters/Ipsos poll released Wednesday, the president’s approval rating has dropped to an all-time low. Overall, 40% of Americans say they approve of the job Mr. Biden is doing, while 54% disapprove.
Similarly, Republicans have continuously led Democrats on the generic congressional ballot since last November.
“Biden is a burden to every Democrat, who will be forced to own all of his failures at the ballot box in November,” said Will O’Grady, deputy press secretary at the Republican National Committee. “Voters will soundly reject the party responsible for skyrocketing gas prices and harmful inflation, and turn to Republicans and our proven agenda.”
As they slide in the polls, Democrats are flummoxed on how to respond. Some hope the GOP’s focus on culture war issues will backfire with voters, especially suburbanites.
Rep. Elaine Luria, Virginia Democrat, has cautioned that might not be enough. Her district, based in Hampton Roads, voted for Mr. Biden in 2020 by four points. Last year, in the governor’s race, it backed Republican Glenn Youngkin by eight points.
“You know it’s a tough uphill battle,” said Mrs. Luria. “I think the Republicans are going to try and really focus on these culture war-related issues, [like] critical race theory. It’s kind of how they started in the governor’s race, but that came to be sort of expand[ed] more into a dissatisfaction [among] mothers with everything to do with schools during COVID.”
Complicating matters for Democrats in blue states is that their go-to attacks on Republicans, namely being the party of old white men, are beginning to crumble. Since 2016, the slate of GOP candidates running for office has significantly diversified.
In 2022 alone, a record number of 81 African Americans Republicans have filed to run for Congress. That figure is up from 27 in 2020.
“For those of you who haven’t paid attention over the last couple cycles, in 2020, every seat that the Republicans won or flipped was with a female or minority,” said Mrs. Hayes, who is Black. “There’s this idea that the only reason I got elected is because White liberals felt super sorry and guilty and voted for me, so just give them any other African American and they’ll vote for this person all the same.”
Mrs. Hayes’ most high-profile GOP challenger, former state Sen. George Logan, is the son of Guatemalan immigrants of Jamaican descent.