NBC News survey finds 2022 midterms have entered uncharted territory

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Democratic Senate candidate Lt. Gov. John Fetterman takes photos with supporters following a rally at the Bayfront Convention Center, on Aug. 12, 2022 in Erie, Pa.Nate Smallwood / Getty Images file

WASHINGTON — If it’s Monday ... A new NBC News poll finds 57% of voters want the Trump investigations to continue. ... Democrats’ Senate campaign arm outraises Republicans’ for fourth-straight month, NBC’s Natasha Korecki reports. ... NBC News’ Henry Gomez and Allan Smith wrap Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ campaign swing through Ohio and Pennsylvania. ... And the Florida and New York primaries are just a day away.

But first: With the midterms now less than three months away, our latest NBC News poll finds that it’s shaping up to be a midterm election unlike any we’ve ever seen before.

The traditional measurements — presidential job approval, the country’s direction, generic ballot — all point to a rough election season for the power controlling the White House and Congress, akin to what we saw in 1994, 2006, 2010, 2014 and 2018.

Per our poll, President Biden’s job rating is at 42% (even after some big wins); more than 70% believe the country is headed in the wrong direction for a fifth-straight NBC News survey (a record in our poll); and Republicans lead in congressional preference by 2 points (after being tied in May). 

All three measurements would be pointing to shellacking for the president’s party in our Midterm Meter.  

Yet other numbers in our poll make it clear this doesn’t look like 1994/2006/2010/2014/2018. 

For starters, Democrats have now drawn even with Republicans on enthusiasm, with 66% of Democratic voters expressing high interest in the upcoming midterms, versus 68% for Republicans.  

In past shellackings, the party out of power has enjoyed double-digit leads (or close to it) on this question in our poll (using either October or merged data from previous years).

  • 2006: D+13
  • 2010: R+17
  • 2014: R+11
  • 2018: D+9
  • Now: R+2

The main driver of that uptick in Democratic enthusiasm is the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, and the poll finds 58% of voters disapproving of that decision, versus 38% who approve.  

In addition, “threats to democracy” has overtaken cost of living as voters’ top issue facing the country — after months of cost of living being No. 1 in the poll. (Still, cost of living and jobs/economy are two of the Top 3 issues in the poll.)

And then there’s the Trump factor, with the NBC News survey showing 57% of voters believing the investigations into Trump should continue. 

Add them all up, and it sure looks like we’re headed for a much more unpredictable November than we had previously thought. 

What’s also unpredictable is that we’re still in August with plenty of big weeks to go until the election. 

Tweet of the day

Data Download: The number of the day is … 21%

That’s the share of registered voters in a new national NBC News poll who say the most important issue facing the country is “threats to democracy.” That surpasses cost of living (16%); jobs and the economy (14%); immigration and the situation at the border (13%); climate change (9%); guns (8%); abortion (8%); and crime (6%). Just 1% of voters list the coronavirus as the most important issue.

A plurality of Democrats (29%) say threats to democracy was the most important issue facing the country, while 17% of independents and 17% of Republicans agree. A slightly higher percentage of independents (21%) list cost of living as the No. 1 issue, while a plurality of Republicans (26%) say immigration is the most important issue. 

While voters express a concern about threats to democracy, it appears so far that Democrats haven’t leaned into the issue in the midterm elections. A Politico analysis of AdImpact data found that less than 4% of the $300 million Democrats have spent on ads were on spots that mentioned the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol, democracy or stolen elections. 

Other numbers to know:

$2.2 million: How much the National Republican Senatorial Committee spent on ads in Wisconsin and Arizona following a New York Times report that the committee was cutting ad spending in battlegrounds, per Fox News.

$1.6 billion: The size of a new donation to a new political group helmed by Leonard Leo, the longtime conservative legal activist, per new reporting from The New York Times about the unique and possibly record-breaking donation

2: How many bills House Oversight Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., introduced on Friday aimed at the firearm industry. 

$3.90: The average price of a gallon of unleaded gas in America, per AAA, a decline the White House is celebrating but one experts say could be short-lived. 

6,800: How many times drivers in Kinney County, Texas, have received citations from Texas Department of Public Safety officers looking for smugglers and illegal immigrants, the most of any county in the state, per an NBC news analysis of Texas DPS data that showed increased citations in Latino-majority and border counties. 

1,043:  The number of LGBTQ elected officials in office 2022, a 6% increase from 2021, per a new report from the LGBTQ Victory Institute.

206: The number of full-time statehouse reporters in America, per Pew Research, down from 369 in 2003. 

Midterm roundup: Running with Ron

Gov. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., hit the campaign trail over the weekend to boost GOP candidates for Senate and governor in Ohio and Pennsylvania, following an earlier stop in Arizona. The events, sponsored by Turning Point Action, offered a preview of a potential DeSantis presidential run in 2024 as he railed against “woke ideology,” NBC News’ Henry Gomez and Allan Smith report. 

DeSantis stumped for Senate hopeful J.D. Vance in Ohio and controversial gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano in Pennsylvania. Ohio GOP Gov. Mike DeWine, who is up for re-election, as well as Republican Senate nominee Mehmet Oz, did not attend the events (Oz, Smith reported last week, has mainly avoided Mastriano on the campaign trail).

But Oz and Mastriano are expected to appear at a Trump rally in Wilkes-Barre on Sept. 5, which, Gomez and Smith note, was announced during DeSantis’ Pennsylvania speech.

Elsewhere on the campaign trail:

Arizona Senate: Arizona Republican Blake Masters is up with a new spot that criticizes the “Democrats in charge” for failing on the border, the supply chain and crime, arguing that his bid for Senate is motivated by the same frustrations about those issues felt by many Americans. 

Georgia Senate: Republican Herschel Walker has declined an invitation to appear at a debate co-sponsored by 3WMAZ, Atlanta station 11Alive, Georgia Public Broadcasting, The Telegraph and Mercer’s Center for Collaborative Journalism at Mercer University. In his refusal, Walker said he didn’t want to do a debate seen by only a handful of people and on a Sunday, although the debate is actually scheduled for Thursday and will be televised statewide and held in front of a live audience. 

Nevada Senate: Club for Growth Action launched a new ad over the weekend that slams Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez-Masto for supporting a sweeping package that includes more funding for IRS agents. The spot is part of a $2 million buy, per a press release from the group. 

Pennsylvania Senate: Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC aligned with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, launched its first negative ad targeting Democrat John Fetterman. 

Wisconsin Senate: Republican Sen. Ron Johnson said that Social Security “was set up improperly” and would have been better as an investment in the stock market, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Arizona Governor: It’s an open question whether Arizona’s gubernatorial nominees will debate, with Democratic Sec. State Katie Hobbs’ campaign saying they have concerns about how the Citizens Clean Elections ran its GOP primary debate this cycle, per 3TV/CBS5, and Republican Kari Lake responding by challenging Hobbs to a debate at the time and place of her choosing. 

Georgia Governor: Democrat Stacey Abrams once opposed abortion rights, but is now making protecting them central to her gubernatorial run, per the New York Times, which delved into her “evolution” on the issue. Her campaign is out with a new spot with women attacking the state’s laws on abortion that they say leads to “forced pregnancy” and “criminaliz[ing] women.” 

Michigan Governor: Republican nominee Tudor Dixon tapped Shane Hernandez, a former state representative, as her running mate

Indiana-02: Republican precinct committee members picked Rudy Yakym to be their nominee in the special election to replace the late GOP Rep. Jackie Walorski. Yakym, a businessman who once worked as Walorski’s finance director and was endorsed by Walorski’s husband, is also running for a full term. 

New York-12: A new, last-minute ad ahead of Tuesday’s Democratic primaries accuses Democratic Rep. Jerry Nadler of wanting to defund the police and includes violent videos of shootings. The group responsible for the ad doesn’t appear to have filed with the FEC yet

Ad watch: Florida Dems duel on women’s rights

In a closing ad, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried is making one last appeal to voters ahead of the Democratic gubernatorial primary. The ad features scenes of women marching for their rights throughout history and ends with a clip of Fried at an abortion-rights protest.

There, she tells attendees, “We have got to be standing on the shoulders of the women that came before us, to show every little girl in Florida and across the country, ‘We are doing this for you.’” 

Fried echoed this sentiment on Friday, when she told Chuck Todd on Meet the Press NOW the nominee “has got to be a female, especially one who has been a staunch supporter of pro-choice and the biggest advocate for our issues.”

Fried’s opponent, a former Republican governor and current Democratic Rep. Charlie Crist, countered the notion in his Meet the Press NOW appearance moments later. 

“I am the only candidate in this race, that as governor of Florida, even as a Republican, vetoed an anti-abortion bill. And, as a member of the Congress for the past six years, almost, have a 100% rating by Planned Parenthood, a 100% rating by NARAL,” Crist said.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world 

NBC News’ Mike Memoli reports on how President Joe Biden’s decision on 2024 threatens to put the party in limbo for the third cycle in a row

Trump believes the FBI search at his Mar-a-Lago home could boost his presidential prospects for 2024, but some of his allies aren’t so sure, NBC News’​​ Marc Caputo, Carol E. Lee, Peter Nicholas and Courtney Kube report.

NBC News’ Julia Ainsley is reporting on new video obtained by NBC News that shows “an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent putting his foot on the neck of a migrant lying face down on the floor of a poultry plant.”