Saxman: Independents, the Economy, and the Midterms; Kaine v Youngkin in ’24? Nope. Ain’t happening.

Tons of polls are out and they are very to extremely interesting.

Let’s kick this week’s newsletter off by comparing, once again, Joe Biden’s approval rating and gas prices.

Even history majors like me can see the correlation.

Here are the last six months for each. Note the drop in gas prices and the rise in Biden approval followed by the September leveling off for both.



“SO, it’s all gas prices?”

No, of course not. Here are the top issues right now: Economy, Inflation, Education, Crime, Immigration, and then Abortion. But Abortion intensity remains high.

But clearly gas prices drive much of the economic conversation and are a major factor with independents who typically turn on one maybe two issues. For Biden, in context, his ratings are close to that of five of the last seven presidents for their first midterm.

But look deeper into Gallup and you see where Biden is among Independents (39-58) and those without a college degree (36/38 to 61/61). Suboptimal. It doesn’t take a college degree to know this is economic and cultural.

So why the focus on Independents? Well, that’s because a plurality of voters SELF Identify as such according to Gallup:

Take for example the US Senate race in Pennsylvania where the polls are tightening between PA LG John Fetterman and Dr. Oz.

Fetterman still leads by 4 but it was almost 9 just a month ago and the Emerson poll shows Oz leading among independents 45-34 (+11.4)

That’s kind of a big deal in Pennsylvania if Democrats don’t turn out heavily in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. It’s still a Lean Democrat race but trending towards Toss Up.

Take a look at this AARP poll from Wisconsin races for Governor and US Senate:

Indies +7 and +10 for GOP candidates.

Closer to home here in the Commonwealth, the University of Mary Washington’s poll shows US Senator Tim Kaine, up for re-election in ‘24, underwater with Independents 26-43 Approve/Disapprove, while Governor Glenn Youngkin is above water with Indies on job Approve/Disapprove 42-29. #GenericBallot?

A recent column by Jeff Schapiro in the RTD noted that Youngkin’s Approval was at 45% approval in the UMW poll BUT failed to mention that his Disapproval was only at 30%. That’s a net +15 and pretty good.

The UMW poll posed a hypothetical 2024 Senate match up between Kaine and Youngkin with the Senator barely edging out the Governor 41-39, but Youngkin leads among Indies 40-33. Maybe more telling – Youngkin gets 22% of the Black vote to Kaine’s 53. Would love to see the age breakdown on Blacks for Kaine/Youngkin. My hunch is that Kaine holding is own among older Black voters.

Programming note – Kaine is running for re-election, Youngkin is not running for the US Senate and neither is Lt. Governor Winsome Earle-Sears.

One Republican is exploring a bid – click here for that candidate

All of these races are impacted by the negative national narrative and that hurts the incumbent party. This year, that means being Against the Democrats vs. being For Republicans.

Hey – it be what it be.

Just look at the impact a relatively well funded Independent (former moderate Democratic Oregon House member Betsy Johnson) is having in…OREGON. Could be a GOP Pick Up in November.

Reminder – Oregon only went 2.5 points more for Biden than Virginia did in 2020.

In fact, here are the rest of Virginia’s presidential election cohorts per Wikipedia link above:

We might be a MidAtlantic/SouthEastern state, but our politics are unlike our geographic neighbors. #NorthCarolina…kinda…

Bottom line – Independents matter more and more in our hyper partisan political times. That means the economy will be front and center for the next year which includes the 2023 presidential primary debates next summer and fall.

Those debates and resulting media coverage, dear friends in Election Nerd Disneyland, will coincide with and significantly impact the 2023 Virginia General Assembly races.


RIP Coolio.

Trivia question – In what year and in which party did Coolio run for Vice President as the running mate of porn actress Cherie DeVille?

A) Gangsta Paradise and B) Fantastic Voyage


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