Formally, the US midterms are about the Senate and the House of Representatives. But many voters are likely to use the midterms to give President Biden a lesson. But does his adversary Trump inevitably benefit from this?
By Katrin Brand, ARD Studio Washington
President Joe Biden is trying to get a message across to the people these days. This election is not a referendum on his presidency, but a choice between two vastly different ideas about America.
ARD Studio Washington
Biden would certainly like it that way. In fact, however, midterm elections are always a settlement with the president, even if he is not on the ballot paper. Biden’s Democrats still rule in the Senate and House of Representatives, but many voters want to give Biden a lesson. Inflation, for example, is hurting families in particular. And in the big cities, the strongholds of the Democrats, violent crime is a big issue
Dissatisfaction is also high within the Democratic Party. “Democrats are frustrated because they are not seeing the results of the progress they hoped for and were promised,” said Capri Cafaro, an associate professor at American University in Washington, DC.
It doesn’t get any worse, but that’s the only thing. In addition, Biden’s supporters were never really interested in Biden, says Cafaro. It was about stopping Trump and returning to some kind of political normalcy.
But Trump never disappeared completely and many of Biden’s plans failed because of his own party friends. Curbing gun violence, strengthening civil rights, protecting minorities: Not much has remained of Biden’s great promises, also because the Republicans have blocked him where they could. Add to that the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan, the war in Ukraine, inflation. Less than 40 percent of the electorate are happy with Biden. The outcome of the midterms will also decide whether he can compete again in 2024.
Donald Trump is keeping open about what he intends to do. In order to make the United States “successful, safe and glorious,” he will “very, very, very likely do it again,” he recently announced in Iowa. Compete again, win again, that’s what it means. That’s how he put it in each of his recent campaign appearances. Allegedly, it is now becoming concrete: Insiders want to know that Trump intends to announce his candidacy shortly after the election, on November 14th.
The fact that he won the 2020 election, not Biden, and that voter fraud is still widespread, Trump continues to mobilize his supporters. In Wisconsin, for example, Charles Franklin, a pollster at Marquette University, observes that the Republicans who are most skeptical about the election say they are the most excited to vote this time.
As of now, Trump’s hold on Republicans is greater than ever. Of the 10 lawmakers who opposed Trump after the Capitol storm, only two survived the primary.
In many states, candidates are running with his support, spreading his lie about the rigged elections and leaving it open whether they will recognize the results of these elections.
But even if the Republicans win important seats and offices in the midterm elections, that does not mean that Trump will run again as a presidential candidate in two years. Trump’s popularity ratings remain in the 30s: 36 to 38 percent in his favour, 55 to 58 percent against him, says pollster Franklin. That’s not enough to win the next election.
And so Republicans are looking for a candidate who has Trump’s looks but doesn’t bring his baggage. Ron DeSantis could be one. The Florida governor is a good 30 years younger than Trump, but sounds and behaves similarly. And in Arizona, Kerri Lake’s star is rising, a former television journalist who aspires to be governor there. That’s going to be the big question for the Republicans: Do they still need Trump at all when “Trumpism” has long been firmly anchored in their party and has had a fresher face thanks to politicians like DeSantis and Lake?
The situation is similar for the Democrats, says politics lecturer Capri Cafaro: “If the Democrats had an obvious alternative to Joe Biden, they would already push him away.” An Obama 2.0, that would be the dream of the Democrats. The former president is now mobilizing supporters like no one else in the final sprint. But no one can touch him.
So Trump and Biden have one thing in common: their influence in the midterm elections is great. But whether they will run again in two years is far from decided.