It’s now less than half a year until the U.S. midterm elections. Taking place at the half-way point of the president’s four-year term, when all 435 Members of Congress and 34 of the 100 Senators’ seats are up for election, the midterms are typically a bellwether of voters’ perception of the incumbent president’s performance.
According to FiveThirtyEight, a politically neutral website that aggregates publicly available polling data, President Joe Biden’s approval rating of roughly 40% breaks the record low held by predecessor Donald Trump when compared against the same point in every presidency since 1945.
Biden’s sinking numbers have roused optimism among Republicans, while Democrats are suffering heartache.
Ken Setter, a Virginia Democratic activist, acknowledged that recent polling painted a “bleak picture for Democratic prospects in 2022”. This, he feels, was partially caused by many swing voters concerned about inflation and high energy costs who blame Biden and the Democrats, rather than voters attributing blame to the shockwaves of Russia’s war against Ukraine.
Professor Larry Sabato, who heads the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, does not see Ukraine becoming a central issue of the 2022 race. He notes that “campaigns are about policy differences, not similarities,” and since Ukraine “was one of the few big issues on which Democrats and Republicans are united,” it was not considered a useful issue to campaign on.
Moreover, Sabato cited the recent U.S. delegations of congressional leaders to Ukraine, including [Democratic Speaker of the House] Nancy Pelosi and then [Republican Senate Minority Leader] Mitch McConnell, who offer “the same strong message of support for Ukraine.”
According to Sabato: “Ukraine will only become a leading campaign issue if U.S. troops get involved. Ukraine as a campaign issue would then rise to the top and exactly what the debate would be, I can’t say. If – God forbid – [Russian President] Vladimir Putin chose to use nuclear weapons, then obviously Ukraine would be Topic A, along with inflation and abortion.”
“Democrats have done a good job on Ukraine,” said Republican political analyst for left-wing MSNBC and author of “Still Right”, Rick Tyler. But the polling numbers are going against an impending Democratic victory.
He added that even if the House and Senate become majority Republican, there would be little policy change as Ukraine has “been able to unite Democrats and Republicans more than any U.S. leader has been able to.”
Congress embracing a more pro-Russian position is nearly impossible according to Tyler, who stated: “Politicians will follow wherever the voters take them. Putin committed atrocities – who wants to be on that side? Most Americans think Putin committed war crimes and there is still tremendous support for Ukraine in the United States.”
Biden deserves “high marks for the brilliant way he has brought NATO and the free world together against Russia’s aggression” said Massachusetts resident Tim Hooks, owner of the leading Democratic Twitter pages and The Lincoln Watchman, though he conceded that it will not be a leading issue for most voters during the election.
Hooks, an independent voter until Trump’s 2016 election drove him to become a Democratic activist, said “most Americans vote consider the state of their finances as being the most important issue. If they’re not doing well financially, they will often vote to punish the party that is in charge; and with record high gas prices and the worst inflation in 40 years, the political climate has been a decidedly difficult one for the Democratic Party in 2022.”
Republican Brian Mefford, a long-time Kyiv resident who founded Help Ukraine 22 – Operation Palyanytsya to help Ukrainians during the war, is confident that “there is strong bi-partisan support for Ukraine in Washington, although there is sometimes disagreement on the most effective ways to help.” He adds that “support for Ukraine will continue even if control of Congress likely changes to the Republicans this fall.”
Even after the elections, no matter what the outcome, Sabato does not see U.S. policy towards Ukraine changing since “both parties are standing with Ukraine.”
When asked if Ukraine’s fight against Russia’s unharnessed brutality would be forgotten by Americans, Tennessean Kenley Lynn, who served in the U.S. military during its 2003 invasion of Iraq and later as a contractor during the Afghanistan war, believes that “Ukraine’s battle for existence will continue to be important to Americans,” as “Americans fought to free ourselves from oppression when we formed our nation.”
Lynn adds: “Today, I think Americans feel a kindredness with the Ukrainians as they fight to maintain their country’s sovereignty and identity.”
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