Senate retakes spotlight as Democrats’ frustrations grow: The Note

The TAKE with Rick Klein

The graveyard of Democrats’ ambitions could wind up as the salvation of an agenda.

That at least is the hope Democrats harbor as they approach an uneasy and more expensive holiday weekend dominated by mind-blowing revelations and world-altering legal opinions. There are new signs of frustration as well as motivation inside the party — along with signals of how President Joe Biden intends to clarify the stakes in the fight ahead.

At the midway point of 2022, the stark fact highlighted in FiveThirtyEight’s new midterm forecast is that while Republicans are heavily favored to win the House, the Senate is a virtual toss-up. That’s a consequence of both the map and the men GOP voters are choosing to help them win in key places on it, as made clear in recent polls showing Herschel Walker in Georgia and Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania trailing their Democratic opponents.

The wild news environment reinforces calculations that Democrats’ best — if not only — hopes lie in the Senate. Supreme Court rulings on abortion rights, guns and the environment showcase triumphs for former President Donald Trump and the court he helped remake; the House’s Jan. 6 committee hearings highlight alarming low points for Trump and his allies, in ways that make 2022 vital for 2024.

So it is that Biden is now backing a change to filibuster rules for a second big issue, adding abortion to a tiny list that previously only included voting rights. Few Democrats need reminding how much is riding on Senate control when it comes to any potential court vacancies, just a day after Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson was sworn in to replace retiring Justice Stephen Breyer.

The first six months of 2022 have demonstrated both the limits of narrow control of Congress and the power conferred by a Supreme Court with a solid and emboldened conservative majority. The answer for Democrats is as simple as it is frustrating.

“Vote in the off-year, and vote, vote, vote,” Biden said Thursday.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, with other Democratic leaders, takes a question during a news conference in Washington, May 18, 2022.

Bloomberg via Getty Images, FILE

The RUNDOWN with Averi Harper

As thousands of people from across the country descend on New Orleans for Essence Fest, the largest celebration of African-American culture in the country, Vice President Kamala Harris and Democratic groups are taking advantage of the opportunity to engage with a key bloc — Black voters.

Harris, the first woman and person of color to hold her post, is slated to address festival-goers on Saturday, sources tell ABC News.

Her address comes as Democratic groups like the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the Congressional Black Caucus PAC have cast the weekend-long festival as a “party with a purpose,” urging voters to turn out for Democrats in November.

Historically, midterm elections don’t bode well for the party in the White House. That trend coupled with soaring inflation and campaign promises left unfulfilled to Black voters has some Democrats bracing for losses.

Rep. Nikema Williams, D-Ga., told ABC News that voting for Democratic candidates is important for passing Democratic agenda items and combating the conservative majority on the Supreme Court in the wake of the decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

“Congressman [John] Lewis reminded us in his final letter, his final words, that this isn’t the fight of a day, a month or a year. This is the fight and a struggle about a lifetime,” Williams said. “So this work doesn’t just happen in one election cycle. We have to continue to do the work because we know what’s at stake.”

PHOTO: People use voting machines to fill out their ballots as they vote in the Georgia primary in Atlanta, May 24, 2022.

People use voting machines to fill out their ballots as they vote in the Georgia primary in Atlanta, May 24, 2022.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images, FILE

The TIP with Alisa Wiersema

The first debate in the Republican primary for Wyoming’s at-large U.S. House district – where incumbent Rep. Liz Cheney is seeking reelection despite opposition from members of her own party – predictably put a spotlight on election denial and the ongoing Jan. 6 hearings due to Cheney’s repudiation of former President Donald Trump.

“There’s a real tragedy that’s occurring, and the tragedy is there are politicians in this country beginning with Donald Trump, who have lied to the American people — people have been betrayed. He has consistently said the election is stolen when it wasn’t,” Cheney insisted despite her rivals’ repeated scrutiny of 2020 election administration and integrity throughout the debate.

Cheney’s top challenger, Trump-endorsed Wyoming attorney Harriet Hageman, brushed off the hearings as irrelevant to the state’s Republican voters despite Cheney pointing out that Hageman’s campaign had hired the firm of Trump’s former campaign manager, Bill Stepien. As recently revealed in the Jan. 6 hearings, Stepien urged Trump not to declare victory during the 2020 election fallout and had acknowledged stepping away from the former president due to his unfounded election denial conspiracies.

“I’d be interested to know whether or not my opponent, Ms. Hageman, is willing to say here tonight that the election was not stolen. She knows it’s not stolen. I think that she can’t say that it wasn’t stolen because she’s completely beholden to Donald Trump, and if she says it wasn’t stolen, he will not support her,” Cheney said.

Although Cheney reminded opponents and voters alike that she aligns with her party on economic policies, the incumbent congresswoman appeared to indicate she is willing to lose her seat in the House rather than give up her political principles.

“I will never put party above my duty to the country. I will never put party above my duty to the Constitution. I swore an oath under God and I will abide by that oath. […] So I’m asking for your vote. And I’m asking you to understand that I will never violate my oath of office and if you’re looking for somebody who will, then you need to vote for somebody else on this stage because I won’t. I will always put my oath first,” she concluded.

PHOTO: Harriet Hageman and Liz Cheney are pictured in a composite file photo.

Harriet Hageman and Liz Cheney are pictured in a composite file photo.

Getty Images, FILE

NUMBER OF THE DAY, powered by FiveThirtyEight

50-50. That’s essentially the odds that FiveThirtyEight’s 2022 midterm election forecast gives Republicans — or Democrats — of winning the Senate. We’re avoiding giving you the exact numbers because, well, our forecast updates multiple times a day. But the big top-line takeaway — along with a reminder that we’re issuing forecasts for all 435 U.S. House races, all 35 U.S. Senate races and all 36 governors’ races up in 2022 — is what editor-in-chief Nate Silver wrote in his overview of the forecast: The national environment does not favor Democrats, which is why Republicans are favored to win back the House, but the candidates Republicans have chosen to back in the Senate and in gubernatorial races could come back to haunt them — or at the very least, make these races more competitive than they probably should be.


In FiveThirtyEight’s first “Model Talk” episode of the 2022 midterm cycle, Nate Silver and Galen Druke discuss the factors behind the 2022 midterm forecast. As Silver wrote in his overview: “Overall, we’re happy with our congressional and gubernatorial forecasts … However, after assessing the performance of the models, we did make a few changes around the margins.”


ABC News’ “Start Here” Podcast. “Start Here” begins Friday morning with ABC’s Terry Moran and Tracy Wholf outlining the legal and environmental implications of the Supreme Court’s ruling on EPA powers. And: Florida teacher Wendy Doromal describes her concerns with the controversial Florida ban on LGBTQ topics in classrooms that critics have dubbed “Don’t Say Gay.” Then, a 1955 arrest warrant for the woman who accused Emmett Till of sexual harassment has been found in a courthouse basement.


  • First lady Jill Biden will visit Virginia at 1 p.m. ET where she will appear a vaccination clinic in the Richmond area “to urge parents and guardians to vaccinate their children under 5 years old,” according to her office.
  • ABC’s “This Week” with co-anchor Martha Raddatz: ABC News Chief Washington Correspondent and co-anchor Jonathan Karl goes one-on-one with Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) for her first interview since the start of the January 6 Committee hearings. Roundtable: New York Times National Political Correspondent and author of “This Will Not Pass: Trump, Biden and the Battle for America’s Future” Alex Burns, TIME National Political Correspondent Molly Ball, ABC News Senior White House Correspondent Mary Bruce and ABC News Politics Reporter Brittany Shepherd.

Download the ABC News app and select “The Note” as an item of interest to receive the day’s sharpest political analysis.

The Note is a daily ABC News feature that highlights the day’s top stories in politics. Please check back on Tuesday for the latest.

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