The exchange between Oz and Fetterman is just one example that is giving Democrats hope that they have a realistic shot at retaining control of the Senate come November.
Although there is still sufficient time for Republicans to regain their strength in these races, there is evidence the Senate is up for grabs in what was previously thought to be a midterm from hell for the Democrats.
In other words, the Republican Party, in putting forward untested candidates and refusing to cut ties with the former president, might do for the Democrats what Biden himself has not been able to achieve even with his major legislative victories.
This is surprising since midterms rarely go well for the party in control of the White House. The electorate tends to see the vote as a referendum on the president and the inevitable frustration that sets in often translates into an opposition party that is more energized and motivated to go to the polls.
Counteracting the political pendulum’s swing in the opposite direction is incredibly difficult and rare. In the 2002 midterms, President George W. Bush was able to do so by rallying voters around the theme of national security in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks.
More relevant for President Joe Biden are the midterm elections that took place during President Bill Clinton’s second term. Despite Clinton facing impeachment, Democrats picked up five seats in the House in 1998.
There might be a similar dynamic in 2022. The Trump-endorsed candidates are already causing problems for a Republican Party that might have previously thought they would glide into congressional power.
Several Republican candidates in key Senate races have made unforced errors, giving Democrats unexpected opportunities in states like Pennsylvania. The specter of the January 6 committee and the ongoing shock and awe from the multiple investigations dogging the former president might influence enough pockets of independent voters in decisive states. In the next few months, Democrats might be able to soften the blows or even retain power in the Senate if they are able to frame this election as the choice between a party that governs and a radicalized party primarily interested in burning down the house.
The outcome is still too difficult to see. Economic conditions and ongoing investigations will be crucial in dictating the outcome. But the best path forward for Democrats might be to keep the public eye trained on the dangers of having Trump-endorsed candidates wreaking havoc in Congress. And it might just be enough for voters to see the image of Trump instead of Biden in their minds.