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No matter the ultimate outcome in the fights for the House and Senate majorities, one thing is clear: Democrats will not suffer the broadscale losses that are typical for a president’s party in a midterm election.
Which raises a simple question: Why?
Some of that answer – as I noted here – is that independents went narrowly for Democrats, a sea change from the double-digit margins that the winning side enjoyed in the previous four midterm elections.
Another element is Democratic over-performance with voters who said they “somewhat” disapproved of President Joe Biden.
Among this group of voters, which made up 10% of the overall electorate, 49% supported Democratic candidates for House, while 45% backed Republicans, according to exit polling.
Yes, you read that right. Among people who mildly disapproved of Biden, Democrats narrowly won. At first glance, it might seem like some sort of mistake. But Amy Walter, editor of the Cook Political Report, actually identified these voters (and their seemingly odd behavior) way back in early September.
Walter wrote at the time:
“Those who are ‘meh’ about Biden are voting for Democrats. This is not something that we’ve seen before. In the last five midterm elections for which Pew [Research Center] had data, ‘somewhat disapprovers’ of the sitting president have never been this supportive of his party in the upcoming election.”
The “meh” voter!
Who are these voters? Walter noted that they tended to be overwhelmingly Democratic and skewed younger.
Let’s assume that analysis is right. Exit polling from Tuesday’s election would seem to back that up. Democrats’ two best age groups in the midterms were 18-24 (61% went for Democrats) and 25-29 (65% went for Democrats).
It’s no secret to anyone paying close attention to American politics that Biden has had considerable trouble with young voters.
What appears to have happened is exactly what Walter suggested in her original article. The “meh” voter may never have warmed up to Biden, but that didn’t necessarily keep them from voting for a Democrat at the House or Senate level. They didn’t love, Biden but the alternative to him (and his party) was worse.
The Point: What does the “meh” voter mean for the 2024 election? Can Biden convince people who aren’t his biggest fans – but may be, at root, Democrats – to vote for him? The results on Tuesday suggests it’s at least possible.