Top members of both parties are fanning out into the battleground states for the last-minute scramble to turn out their bases — and make closing arguments to swing voters — before the Nov. 8 election.
But for the leaders of the Democratic Party, mired in low approval ratings that have set the tone for the midterm election, some care goes into picking the spots where they are getting involved. President Joe Biden is touting his legislative achievements in San Diego, where a Democratic-leaning House seat is under threat, while Vice President Kamala Harris is rallying virtually for Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.).
Former President Donald Trump, meanwhile, is off the trail on Friday, after hinting heavily at a soon-to-come 2024 presidential campaign announcement during a rally in Iowa Thursday night.
Friday kicks off the final weekend of campaigning in the general election — as well as foreshadowing the contours of the 2024 presidential race. In addition to the big names traipsing across the battleground map, armies of volunteers are knocking on the doors of their party’s most reliable participants, all but dragging them out to the polls after a campaign that’s drawn unusually high interest from voters of both parties.
Heading into Election Day, Republicans appear to be in the driver’s seat. While strategists in both parties have long expected the GOP to flip the House — where they need to net only five seats to turn the chamber red — Democrats are growing increasingly nervous about their ability to hold the Senate, which is deadlocked at 50-50. Republicans need to net only one seat to retake control of that chamber.
Meanwhile, public polling shows Republicans with momentum entering the final days of the midterm cycle, with key Senate races tightening for Democratic incumbents. A suite of new Marist polls released Friday provided new data points for the trend: In Georgia, Democrat Warnock and Republican Herschel Walker were tied at 48 percent among those who plan to vote, while Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) narrowly leads Republican opponent Blake Masters in his state among those who plan to vote, 50 percent to 47 percent — a significantly closer margin than public polls showed a month or two ago.
In the Arizona gubernatorial race, according to the Marist survey, Democrat Katie Hobbs and Republican Kari Lake are running neck and neck, 49 percent to 48 percent.
Marist’s Senate survey in Pennsylvania, meanwhile, staked Democrat John Fetterman to a larger, 6-point lead, though other recent polls have shown a tighter race even as Democrat Josh Shapiro appears to be running away with the gubernatorial contest.
Against that backdrop, POLITICO’s most recent Election Forecast ratings moved several seats toward the GOP, including New Hampshire, where Sen. Maggie’s Hassan narrowing lead moved the race from “Lean Democratic” to “Toss-Up.” A trio of House races — Reps. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) and Steven Horsford (D-Nev.) — all moved against the incumbents into the “Toss Up” category.
“Democrats have been saying these races were going to be extremely tight all cycle and what we’re seeing across the map is a reflection of that reality,” said Shripal Shah, a Democratic consultant who works on campaigns across the country. “The tightening poll numbers are a natural part of this cycle’s dynamics and the historical challenges facing the party in power during a midterm.”
Some Democrats are still optimistic, even as Republicans show momentum in the closing polls.
“We know that people are fired up, women particularly are fired up,” said Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (D-Pa.). “Young people are fired up. And we just want to make sure they all get to the polling place.”
Scanlon and Fetterman, who’s in the race for Pennsylvania’s Senate seat against Mehmet Oz, spoke in front of a crowd of more than 50 people at a senior center in Delaware County, a suburb of Philadelphia, on Friday afternoon. Fetterman used closed captioning, and they spoke about abortion, crime and other hot-button issues.
“You have a strong record on fighting crime,” Scanlon said, accusing Oz of distorting his record on the issue.
“I actually started in public service after two of my students were killed,” Fetterman replied. “I wanted to address gun violence.”
He also touted “funding the police” as mayor of Braddock.
Biden also voiced optimism about the election. “We’re going to win this time around,” he told reporters after headlining an official event about the CHIPS Act in San Diego alongside Rep. Mike Levin (D-Calif.), who flipped a San Diego-based House seat back in 2018. “I don’t think we’re not going to win,” he added. “We’re keeping the House.”
Now, Levin is in a tough battle against Republican Brian Maryott, even though Biden won it by 11 points in 2020. Congressional Leadership Fund, the flagship GOP House super PAC, is timing another $300,000 TV ad buy with Biden’s visit, adding to its already enormous investment of $6.2 million in Southern California.
But that’s not the only CLF additions on Friday. They’re adding another $1.2 million to upstate New York, where Rep. Pat Ryan (D-N.Y.) is trying to hang on to his competitive seat that he only won back in August, during a special election. National Democrats have raised some concerns that the struggles for the top-of-the-ticket, where Gov. Kathy Hochul is in a closer than expected battle for the governorship against GOP Rep. Lee Zeldin, could drag down down-ballot candidates in her state.
Biden later Friday will travel to Chicago to participate in a “political reception,” the White House said. On Saturday, he’ll travel to Joliet, Ill., to deliver remarks on lowering prescription drug costs and protecting Social Security and Medicare.
Biden will then appear with Fetterman and Shapiro — and former President Barack Obama — in Philadelphia on Saturday before campaigning with Hochul on Sunday in New York.
Trump is not on the trail Friday, but notably, on Thursday night, he heavily hinted at an upcoming 2024 presidential announcement. At a rally in Sioux City, Iowa, where he appeared alongside Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), he told a crowd of rallygoers that he will “very, very, very probably do it again.”
The crowd cheered, and Trump told them: “Get ready.”
Trump will also headline a rally in Pennsylvania on Saturday, before going to Florida on Sunday and Ohio on Monday — a trio of states with high-profile midterm races that are likely to be, once again, presidential battleground states.
Harris will appear at a virtual rally Friday night with a trio of candidates: Warnock, Iowa Democratic gubernatorial candidate Deidre DeJear and Harris County, Texas, Judge Lina Hidalgo.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, one of the most sought-after surrogates in his party, is in Michigan, his adopted home state, hitting seven stops on Friday from Grand Rapids to Plymouth, Mich. with statewide candidates, including Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Lt. Gov. Garlin Chilcrist, Attorney General Dana Nessel and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson.
At a stop in suburban Royal Oak, in Oakland County, Buttigieg spoke about “kitchen table issues.”
“There is so much at stake in terms of the cosmic issues that it can be hard to even keep perspective on the regular issues, but I want to talk about the regular issues, too,” he said.
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