- Joe Biden46th and current president of the United States
- Raphael WarnockAmerican politician and pastor
- Maggie HassanUnited States Senator from New Hampshire
Senior Republican officials think President Joe Biden’s handling of the situation in Afghanistan significantly boosts their chances of winning key races in the 2022 midterm elections, especially the Senate races in Arizona, Georgia, and New Hampshire.
Multiple GOP officials spoke with the Washington Examiner about how the Biden administration’s strategic choices and messaging on the subject will play out in congressional races, even though midterm elections are generally not decided on foreign policy.
One official claimed the situation makes Biden look like a “failed leader,” adding the idea that the president represented a “return to normalcy” has “quickly worn off.”
A second GOP official agreed with that assertion but suggested Republicans wouldn’t have to emphasize the specific point on Afghanistan, as it’s yet another point of “general frustration” over Biden’s foreign policy. That official also claimed the president and his top officials’ inability to “get their stories straight” makes the administration look disorganized and incapable of performing executive branch duties.
In terms of specific races, Republicans already viewed sitting Sens. Mark Kelly of Arizona, Raphael Warnock of Georgia, and Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire as particularly vulnerable, and officials cite the high veteran populations in those states as a campaigning boon given the situation in the Middle East.
Georgia, in particular, had the fifth-most active military personnel living in the state and the ninth-largest total veteran population back in 2019.
Yet another official conceded that Hill Republicans in the minority have very few opportunities to take congressional action but joked that “luckily” some Democrats in Congress will take care of that for them.
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Gregory Meeks, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez of New Jersey, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Mark Warner of Virginia, and Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jack Reed of Rhode Island have all called for hearings with administration officials on the planning and execution of the troop withdrawal and subsequent evacuation. Those members have also stated they wish to hear testimony from Trump administration officials on former President Donald Trump’s planned withdrawal and peace negotiations with the Taliban.
Furthermore, Republicans will also look to highlight several Democratic congressional candidates who have been “silent” on the subject, despite numerous lawmakers from both parties criticizing the Biden administration’s handling of the situation in recent days.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee has already issued statements attacking Democratic Reps. Val Demings of Florida, Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio, and Rep. Conor Lamb of Pennsylvania, all of whom are running for Senate in 2022, for “following the leader.”
“As Americans across the country and legislators from both sides of the aisle are speaking out against President Biden’s botched withdrawal in Afghanistan, some vulnerable Democrats are playing partisan politics and refusing to condemn President Biden and his administration,” one such release reads. “If these vulnerable Democrats have any hope for 2022, they must speak out clearly to denounce what the Biden Administration has done and demand action and accountability. Americans deserve it and our allies deserve it.”
T.W. Arrighi, an NRSC spokesman, claimed in a statement both Vice President Kamala Harris and Senate Democrats “are currently in hiding, praying and hoping that the quagmire in Afghanistan, created by President Biden, blows over quickly.”
“Their brazen lack of leadership is making a bad situation worse,” he continued. “The American people are disgusted and horrified with the continued poor handling of this situation by Democrats and are clamoring for new leadership.”
Polling on both Biden’s handling of Afghanistan and his general presidential approval shows figures have dropped significantly since the fall of the Afghan government on August 15.
Prior to the Taliban’s quick conquest of Kabul and the surrounding provinces, nearly 70% of respondents approved of the Biden’s planned withdrawal. That figure fell by as much as 15 points in some polls conducted this past week. Similarly, Biden’s approval rating in the RealClearPolitics polling aggregate fell below 50% for the first time after the Taliban resurgence.
Biden has heartily defended his decision to withdraw and close the book on a 20-year “endless war,” telling ABC’s George Stephanopoulos on Wednesday there was no way to get out of Afghanistan that didn’t end in “chaos.”
“It was a simple choice,” Biden said. “When you had the government of Afghanistan, the leader of that government, getting into a plane and taking to another country, when you saw the significant collapse of the Afghan troops we had trained, up to 300,000 of them just leaving their equipment and taking off, that’s what happened.”
“We’re going to go back in hindsight and look, but the idea that somehow we could have gotten out without chaos ensuing, I don’t know how that happens,” he concluded.
“This evacuation mission is dangerous. It involves risks to our armed forces, and it is being conducted under difficult circumstances,” the president added in a national address on Friday. “I cannot promise what the final outcome will be or what it will be — that it will be without risk of loss. But as commander in chief, I can assure you that I will mobilize every resource necessary.”