Democrats Revive Old Contenders Ahead of Uncertain Midterms

As Democrats prepare for brutal midterm elections next year, they are retreading contenders, even if they failed previously. Democrat Stacey Abrams announced this week she will run once more against Republican Governor Brian Kemp.

Her declaration was made following the announcement of Texas Democrat Beto O’Rourke, who staunchly opposed Sen. Ted Cruz in 2018 and mounted a failed presidency attempt in 2020.

O’Rourke announced last month he will run against Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott.

Recycling Candidates May Have Its Advantages

In November, Democrat Terry McAuliffe conceded the Virginia governorship to Republican Glenn Youngkin, notwithstanding the state leaning heavily Democrat.

Charles Lipson, retired professor of political science at the University of Chicago, says contenders can still win in regions they’ve already lost. Lipson told reporters recycled candidates had great name recognition. 

He stated the disadvantage is the name familiarity may be unfavorable. Voters’ capacity to recognize candidates’ names is generally regarded as a worthwhile quality.

Building a name is costly and it might be useful in crowded primaries with unknown opponents. Charlie Crist, a Democrat pursuing his party’s candidacy for governor of Florida next year, may depend on name recognition to win primaries.

Recognition Doesn’t Always Work and Democrats are in Trouble

Despite national attention, prior Democrat contenders have failed in previous campaigns.

In 2018, MJ Hegar, an Air Force soldier turned politician, lost to Republican incumbent John Carter in Texas.

A viral campaign ad recounting her life narrative helped her get national attention. Even so, she ran against Republican Senator John Cornyn in 2020 and lost by nearly ten points.

Amy McGrath, a fellow war veteran, made headlines in 2018 when she faced Republican Rep. Andy Barr in an extremely competitive Kentucky congressional campaign. McGrath lost by four points to Barr.

She then launched a high-profile campaign to defeat then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, energizing the left. McGrath collected millions more from Democrat fundraisers than McConnell in 2020, but she lost to McConnell by double digits.

Lipson added that recurrent Democrat candidates had the advantage of being connected to a fundraising structure. That was the very same scenario with Terry McAuliffe. He was a seasoned fundraiser.

Famous Democrat contenders who have failed before are not inevitably doomed to fail a second or third time. Sen. Jon Ossoff of Georgia managed to win a statewide race in 2021 to unseat a Republican senator after losing a 2017 election in Georgia’s 6th congressional district.

Nonetheless, Democrats seem to be in trouble as we approach 2022. The RealClearPolitics average shows Republicans leading by three points in national polls that ask voters if they’d ever vote Republican or Democrat to serve them in Congress.

Because of President Biden’s declining favor ratings, rising inflation, and voters’ growing cynicism of Democratic policy agendas, Democrats fear losing 2022, regardless of who they put on the ballot.