Even right-leaning pollster Trafalgar Group has Wisconsin Democratic Senate Candidate Mandela Barnes up by 2 over GOP Sen. Ron Johnsom, and Democratic Gov. Tony Evers tied with Republican Tim Michels.
Nate Silver is still giving Johnson a 60-40% shot at winning. Incumbency and being the out-of-the-White House party is still a powerful combination.
And even given that, Silver is also giving Dems a 2/3rds chance of keeping the Senate right now. Right now the polls show the Dems hanging on in rough incumbent races in GA, NV, AZ and NH, and Dems getting the flip they need in PA with Fetterman over Oz in case one of those races goes to the GOP.
Headed into 2022, Republicans were confident that a red wave would sweep them into control of Congress based on the conventional political wisdom that the midterm elections would produce a backlash against President Biden, who has struggled with low approval ratings.
But now some are signaling concern that the referendum they anticipated on Mr. Biden — and the high inflation and gas prices that have bedeviled his administration — is being complicated by all-encompassing attention on the legal exposure of a different president: his predecessor, Donald J. Trump.
Those worries were on display on Sunday morning as few Republicans appeared on the major Washington-focused news shows to defend Mr. Trump two days after a redacted version of the affidavit used to justify the F.B.I. search of his Mar-a-Lago estate revealed that he had retained highly classified material related to the use of “clandestine human sources” in intelligence gathering. And those who did appear indicated that they would rather be talking about almost anything else.
Senator Roy Blunt, Republican of Missouri, acknowledged that Mr. Trump “should have turned the documents over” but quickly pivoted to the timing of the search.
“What I wonder about is why this could go on for almost two years and, less than 100 days before the election, suddenly we’re talking about this rather than the economy or inflation or even the student loan program,” Mr. Blunt lamented on ABC’s “This Week.”
Gov. Chris Sununu, Republican of New Hampshire, also pointed to a fear that Mr. Trump’s legal troubles could hurt his party’s midterm chances.
“Former President Trump has been out of office for going on two years now,” he said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “You think this is a coincidence just happening a few months before the midterm elections?”
The Aug. 8 search of Mar-a-Lago, which followed repeated requests over more than a year and a half for Mr. Trump to turn over sensitive documents he took when he left office, initially prompted most Republicans to rally around the former president, strengthening his grip on the party. Some reacted with fury, attacking the nation’s top law enforcement agencies as they called to “defund” or “destroy” the F.B.I. Others invoked the Nazi secret police, using words like “Gestapo” and “tyrants.”
Polls showed an increase in Republican support for Mr. Trump, and strategists quickly began incorporating the search into the party’s larger anti-big-government messaging. They combined denunciation of the F.B.I.’s actions with criticism of Democrats’ plans to increase the number of I.R.S. agents in hopes of rallying small-government conservatives to the polls.
But as more revelations emerge about Mr. Trump’s handling of some of the government’s most sensitive documents, some of those voices have receded.
“Some of the president’s biggest cheerleaders — Marjorie Taylor Greene, Jim Jordan — have gone kind of silent,” Representative Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, an anti-Trump Republican, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “That tells you all you need to know.”
When Blake Masters was running for the Republican nomination for Senate in Arizona, he floated what he called a “fresh and innovative” idea.
“Maybe we should privatize Social Security. Right? Private retirement accounts, get the government out of it,” he said at a June forum with the fiscal conservative group FreedomWorks.
Masters subsequently backtracked. “I do not want to privatize Social Security,” he told the Arizona Republic after he won the primary. “I think, in context, I was talking about something very different. We can’t change the system. We can’t pull the rug out from seniors.”
Democrats saw an opening in the key Arizona race. The party's Senate campaign arm rolled out an ominous TV ad highlighting the footage, accusing Masters of seeking to “cut our Social Security and privatize it” to finance tax breaks for the wealthy, while “gambling our life savings on the stock market.”
Asked to clarify his position, Katie Miller, Masters campaign spokesperson, told NBC News: “Blake’s position has always been clear. All he wants to do is incentivize future generations to save through private accounts.” She described his stance as “Social Security-and.”
Ahead of the 2022 election, Masters is one of many Republicans to touch what has been called the “third rail” of American politics — a costly but popular pillar of the safety net that gives monthly cash benefits to those 62 and older, who vote in big numbers. In major Senate and House races across the country, GOP candidates have called for cutting long-term Social Security spending to tackle inflation and resolve the program's finances. Democrats are trying to make them pay a political price, arguing that the same Republicans created a budget hole by cutting taxes for top earners.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that Sen. Ron Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican, said at a recent campaign stop that Social Security “was set up improperly” and that it would have been better to invest the money in the stock market. Earlier, Johnson told a radio show that Social Security and Medicare should be axed as "mandatory" programs and be subject to "discretionary" spending, meaning Congress would have to renew them yearly or they'd end.
His Democratic opponent, Mandela Barnes, responded that the two-term incumbent senator “wants to strip seniors of the benefits they’ve worked their entire lives for” and “throw Wisconsin’s middle class overboard” to serve corporate donors.