Football and the Midterms



The midterm political football continues to bounce.


If I had asked you last November, “what will be the dominant issue driving midterm voters?” you might have said “crime.”


Remember all the images of smash and grabs in Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York City? There was also the related issue of the soft-on-crime, soros-backed district attorneys — Larry Krasner in Philadelphia, George Gascon in Los Angeles — San Francisco’s Chesa Boudin ended up being recalled in June.


Crime remains a very important issue in the Republican arsenal. For a while I thought it would dominate the cycle. However, in January, the football bounced again. . .to baby formula. That month began an ever-worsening supply shortage of formula, after a recall, plant shutdown, and supply chain issues.


But then in February, Putin surprised the world with the invasion of Ukraine and around the globe, and in America, many united to help.


So, would that war affect voters in November? Or would it be a domestic cultural war?


In March, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law the “Parental Rights in Education” bill, forbidding instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity in the grades ranging from kindergarten through third grade. And when Disney’s CEO, Bob Chapek, denounced the law, the company became a lightning rod, and DeSantis revoked its special tax status.


So maybe parental rights would mobilize voters as it had in the 2021 Virginia Governor’s race?


But then in May, there was yet another mass shooting, at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. The gun issue became potent — until it faded yet again.


In June came the first primetime January 6 Committee hearing, which drew 19 million viewers. Would the insurrection be a midterm motivator?


Nevertheless, that month also brought a new high in national average gas prices — five dollars a gallon, and six dollars in California. Surely that was going to shape how people voted.


Then inflation hit 9.1 percent in June, reaching a 40-year high.


But wait, there’s more.


On June 24 came the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs, and the overturning of Roe v. Wade. Though it had been anticipated since the alito draft was leaked, we now saw it for real. In its wake, Kansas voters resoundingly decided against removing the right to abortion from the state constitution. Even more, a special election in August between two quality candidates in New York’s 19th Congressional District was won by the democrat, Pat Ryan, who made the race about a woman’s right to choose. One democratic pollster wrote that abortion had become the most potent issue he’d seen in his 28 years in the business.


Yet in July, President Biden suffered his lowest approval rating ever. So did that mean democrats were doomed?


In August, Biden signed the “Inflation Reduction Act” with energy security, climate change, and health care provisions — a surprising win. Then he announced his long-promised student loan forgiveness, which became another hot-button issue. That is, until September, when the border came back into the forefront, with the shipping of migrants to sanctuary cities and Martha’s Vineyard by Governors Ron DeSantis, Greg Abbott, and Doug Ducey.


Yes, using them as pawns, but shining a light on what’s happening — two million migrants have already been arrested trying to cross the border this year, and who knows how many others got through.


But the football is still bouncing.


This week, Russia aired Putin’s video address to the nation calling for partial mobilization of people with military experience — roughly 300k reservists. He accused the US and Europe of using “nuclear blackmail,” and warned, “If the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, we will certainly use all the means at our disposal to protect Russia and our people.” He said he’s not bluffing.


Of course throughout this entire timeline looms ex-President Trump.


He’s the focus of the ongoing January 6 hearings, the target of the DOJ raid at Mar-a-Lago, and the kingmaker of election-denying candidates, still making speeches, social media posts, and TV appearances.


And, don’t forget: the roller-coaster stock market, which this week plunged to its lowest level since 2020, which impacts retirement plans and the economy.


We’ve had so many last-minute factors in past elections: the 2008 economic crash and Barack Obama, Anthony Weiner’s laptop and 2016 — or Hunter Biden’s laptop — or even the timing of the release of the Covid vaccines. We still have no idea what last minute bounce the ball could still take in the 44 days between now and November 8th.


Michael Smerconish

Using the perfect blend of analysis and humor, Michael Smerconish delivers engaging, thought-provoking, and balanced dialogue on today’s political arena and the long-term implications of the polarization in politics. In addition to his acclaimed work as nationally syndicated Sirius XM Radio talk show host, newspaper columnist, and New York Times best-selling author, Michael Smerconish hosts CNN’s Smerconish, which airs live on Saturday at 9:00 am ET.


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