The latest polls ahead of next month's midterm elections have generally not been kind to Democrats, and the resulting sentiment is reflected in two similar headlines out on Tuesday: "Democrats worry they peaked too soon ahead of midterms," reads one at the Hill. "Democrats' midterm hopes fade: 'We peaked a little early,'" reads another at Politico. The narrative goes like this: Republicans were always expected to do well in the midterms because the party not in power usually does. But then a series of factors over the summer—most notably the Supreme Court's overturning of Roe v. Wade and falling gas prices—shifted momentum toward Democrats.
"I'm wishing the election were in August," Matt Bennett of the center-left group Third Way tells Politico. "I think we peaked a little early." Among the factors tilting things in Republicans' favor are big concerns over the economy (gas prices, for example, are rising again) and President Biden's low approval numbers, per an analysis at CNN. Headlines over the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, which put a focus on gun safety, also have faded. One bright spot for Democrats: The "generic ballot" polls (asking whether voters would prefer a Republican or Democrat) remain tight, suggesting that even if Republicans do make gains, it probably won't be a rout along the lines of 2010, when they won more than 60 House seats.
Another wild card is turnout, specifically the possibility that polls aren't taking into account aggressive Democratic efforts to sign up new voters. And one analyst offers a bad-news-is-good-news assessment for the party: "Would you prefer to have polls saying you are going to win? Hell yeah," Ivan Zapien tells the Hill. "But on the other hand, if you are looking to motivate your base, [there's] nothing like a poll saying everything you care about is going to go down the drain." Meanwhile, one polling expert offers some skepticism about this week's New York Times poll showing a huge swing toward the GOP among independent women. Beware small sample sizes and "tiny" response rates, warns Natalie Jackson. (Read more 2022 midterms stories.)