By WILL WEISSERT Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — Moments after winning a Republican congressional seat in 2018, Iowa Democrat Cindy Axne declared that “Washington is not behind us and we deserve so much more.”
Now seeking a third term in one of the House’s most competitive races, Axne strikes a similar note, telling voters he delivered for Iowans “while Washington politicians argue.”
But Axne and other Democrats from the class of 2018 are campaigning in a very different political environment this year. The anxiety about Donald Trump’s presidency that his party took advantage of to win more than 40 seats and regain a majority in the House has diminished. In its place is frustration with the economy under President Joe Biden.
And many once-competitive districts have been redrawn by Republican-dominated state legislatures to become more GOP-friendly.
“It was a very different world,” pollster John Zogby said of 2018. “Inflation is now where we haven’t seen it in 40 years and it affects everyone. And this is the party in power. say, ‘But it could have been’ or ‘But look what the other guy did.
Many swing-district Democrats elected four years ago were buoyed by college-educated, female and young suburban voters who shunned Trump. That means many second-term House Democrat losses could be read as opposition to Trump no longer motivating voters in the same way, even though the former president could seek the White House again in 2024. .
Trump also continues to shape politics in a much more current sense. He has dominated the national Republican Party despite spreading lies about the free and fair 2020 presidential election and now faces a House summons for helping incite the mob that attacked the US Capitol last year.
Tom Perez, who headed the Democratic National Committee from 2017 to 2021, noted that midterm cycles are historically difficult for the president’s party and that, in addition to the grim economic news from the US.
Instead, Pérez believes many of the toughest congressional races remain close because of the strength of Democrats elected four years ago.
“All of these people from the Class of 2018, what they have in common is that they are really incredibly competent, accomplished, and have earned the trust of voters in their districts across the ideological spectrum,” said Perez, co-chair of the super PAC. American Bridge 21st Century. “That, to me, is the reason we have a chance here, despite the headwinds at the moment, is that incredible combination of quality of candidate contrasted with the extreme views of the people who are run against them.”
In all, 66 new Democrats won House elections in 2018, winning 41 Republican seats. His party returned many of those gains in 2020, with Republicans taking 14 new seats. Those Republican victories included defeating a dozen Democrats elected to the House for the first time in the previous cycle.
Democratic losses in the House were overshadowed by Biden’s victory over Trump. But this time around, the ranks of the 2018 House Democratic class may thin even further and may draw more attention, especially if it helps the GOP win the five net seats it needs to regain a majority in the House.
In addition to Axne, Democrats who may be vulnerable include Representatives Elissa Slotkin of Michigan, Tom Malinowski of New Jersey and Elaine Luria of Virginia. Another Democrat from Virginia, Rep. Abigail Spanberger, as well as Reps. Jared Golden of Maine, Angie Craig of Minnesota and Sharice Davids of Kansas may also face tough re-elections.
“The question is whether or not it will have similarities to 2018 in terms of democracy being on the ballot and being a reaction to Trump,” said former California Democratic Rep. Harley Rouda, who was elected in 2018 but narrowly lost. his re-election. offer, he told him of next month’s election. “Based on the polls and the primaries, it doesn’t appear that the voting public is holding Republicans accountable for the Big Lie.”
Pérez is more optimistic: “The midterm elections are supposed to be a referendum on the president, but Donald Trump continues to inject himself” into the nation’s politics.
The rotation of the house is common between both parties. By early 2018, nearly half of the 87 House Republicans newly elected when their party took control of the chamber during the 2010 Tea Party surge had left. More lost that November.
Still, the class of 2018 was notable as the largest influx of freshman House Democrats in more than four decades, and the youngest and most diverse in the chamber.
Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for Women and American Politics at Rutgers University, said 2018 was also the largest class of new women elected to the House since 1992, with 35 Democrats and one Republican. But in 2020, 28 new women were also elected to Congress, and some were Republicans who defeated the Democrats who had won the last cycle for the first time.
“We’ve had a couple of very strong years in a row, one for Democrats and one for Republicans,” Walsh said of women in the House. She said that means that even if the 2018 House Democratic class shrinks this year, “I wish I didn’t look at an election cycle and say the face of Congress is going back to the old white men.”
Meanwhile, Republicans have 32 Hispanic nominees and 23 Black nominees running for the House this cycle, both party records. They say his chances of winning a House majority rest more on high inflation and rising crime rates in some places than on Trump or last year’s insurrection.
“We have a choice between common sense and insanity,” Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said in a statement. “And as a result, Americans will vote Republican from top to bottom on the ballot.”
The 2018 House class of Democrats will not be completely disbanded. Some incumbents are seeking reelection in safe blue districts, including Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Lucy McBath of Georgia and Colin Allred of Texas, who was a co-chair of the class.
Michigan Democratic Rep. Haley Stevens, the other co-chair, beat Andy Levin, a member of the 2018 House Democratic class, when the two incumbents met in this year’s Democratic primary according to the new map of her condition.
A member of the 2018 House Democratic class ousted in 2020, former New York Rep. Max Rose, is now running to return to Congress. Another member, New Jersey Rep. Jeff Van Drew, has since become a Republican.
Former Virginia Rep. Denver Riggleman was elected as a Republican in 2018 but lost the 2020 Republican primary. Riggleman now appears in a TV ad praising Spanberger.
“She’s trying to change Congress and make it work,” Riggleman says in the ad. “She puts the country first.”
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