West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin
Washington, D.C.’s political class is focused on West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin and which way he’ll vote on Build Back Better. Manchin, who in the past has hinted that he’s on the verge of caucusing with the GOP, might be in a bind. Although he’s not up for re-election until 2024, and the sitting Senator is dodging questions about whether he’ll defend his seat, Manchin is a career Democrat who will be campaigning in a state that President Donald Trump won by nearly 30 points.
Manchin has two years of breathing room, but three other swing-state Democratic senators aren’t as lucky, and will face voters in 2022. During a period of acute inflation, how constituents will feel if their senators vote in favor of adding nearly $3 trillion to the federal debt total, the estimate that two independent analysts made in early December, and granting amnesty to 6.5 million illegal immigrants will be pivotal.
In left-leaning New Hampshire, the “Live Free or Die” state, Sen. Maggie Hassan has a disastrous 33 percent approval rate, precariously low since in 2016 she displaced Republican incumbent Kelly Ayotte by a razor-thin 1,017 ballots. Hassan’s fate could depend on how effectively her as-yet-unknown opponent makes the case against her. Polling indicates that whoever Hassan’s challenger is, possibly Ayotte now that GOP Gov. Chris Sununu announced he won’t enter the race, will be well-positioned to defeat her. Hassan will have to defend the Biden administration’s failure in Afghanistan, especially since evacuees are, controversially to many Granite State residents, being resettled in New Hampshire.
Two purple state U.S. senators may face longer re-election odds than Hassan. In the first of the two, Georgia’s vulnerable Raphael Warnock is a prime GOP target. Warnock scored a special election win over Kelly Loeffler, Gov. Brian Kemp’s appointee after Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson retired in 2019. The Democrats’ hold on the Peach State is tenuous, at best. President Donald Trump carried Georgia in 2016 and in 2020, and Georgia had been reliably Republican until 2020. Warnock’s probable opponent is former University of Georgia Bulldog and Dallas Cowboys running back Herschel Walker. In the latest poll, the football hero and immensely popular Walker leads Warnock by five points, 46-41.
The steepest uphill climb to survive the 2022 mid-terms may be in Arizona where another Democratic special election winner, Mark Kelly, will most certainly be pressed to defend Biden’s wide-open border policy. Arizona has been the state most adversely effected by the refusal of Biden and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to enforce immigration laws. The Yuma Sector border crisis now dwarfs the more widely publicized Del Rio Sector immigration catastrophe. Yuma’s illegal immigrant border surge is 2,400 percent higher than last year, a direct result of Biden’s indifference to enforcement. Sector Chief Patrol Agent Chris T. Clem has been using social media to get the word out about the devastation in Arizona. In early October, agents captured a convicted child rapist. And as recently as late September, agents were encountering 1,000 illegal immigrants a day during the week.
Republican Gov. Doug Ducey said that “Arizona is a border state. We faced this [illegal immigrant surges] before, but we’ve never faced a crisis this large in 21 years.” Ducey may be understating Arizona’s problem. During the last fiscal year, illegal immigrants whose aggregate number is nearly equal to Yuma’s total population have unlawfully crossed the border. Kelly’s most likely challengers include Attorney General Mark Brnovich who, with attorneys general from Ohio and Montana, has filed suit against the Biden administration over its immigration policy.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell hopes that one of the four – Manchin, Hassen, Warnock or Kelly – will defy Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, and instead respect their constituents’ wishes, vote against BBB and thereby limit debt, deny rewarding illegal immigrants with a path to citizenship, and protect their political futures. Optimists hope that a BBB vote will be called before the winter recess; more realistically, negotiations over the bill’s land mines will drag into next year.