NORTH CHESTERFIELD, Va. — Abigail Spanberger’s congressional district, two hours outside Washington, has been a hot spot for political movements over the last decade, from the rise of the tea party to the “blue wave.”
Now, in the time of President Joe Biden, temperatures appear to have cooled. Maybe it’s a fleeting calm due to the receding Covid-19 pandemic and the improving economy.
“I’m seeing, gradually, the anxieties tamping down a little bit in the engagement that I’m having with people,” Spanberger, a two-term Democrat, said in a wide-ranging interview at the Urban Farmhouse Market & Café outside Richmond. “And I can’t ascribe that wholly to Biden — it’s also Covid moving in the right direction, and people are starting to get their vaccine.”
Democrats hope it’s a harbinger of their ability to buck the historical trends and win the midterm elections as the party in charge. Spanberger’s district has had an uncanny knack for reflecting the national mood, and both parties again see it as a key to the battle for House control next year.
She said that the reaction to Biden’s $1.9 trillion economic stimulus has been “generally positive” and that she has experienced “wow” moments, such as when she told a superintendent what the school district would be getting. But she also warned of “negativity” about the high cost and confusion about what’s in the law, which she said Democrats must keep explaining to voters.
“I won’t call it backlash. I think there’s a little bit of disappointment” about the party-line vote, she said. “But we’re not getting much feedback in terms of ‘I hate that, or you guys shouldn’t have done this.'”
The moment is unlike the spring after the last two presidents took office.
In 2009, a swift backlash to President Barack Obama’s stimulus plan triggered nationwide tea party protests, fueling a “shellacking” for Democrats in this district and others in 2010.
By this time in 2017, the national women’s uprising had taken shape, as thousands of women filled the streets the day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, a movement that would fuel a Democratic “blue wave” in the 2018 elections.
So far, there hasn’t been a grassroots uprising against the new president’s agenda. And the stimulus doesn’t appear likely to ignite one.
Democrats acknowledge that Spanberger’s seat will be one of the most difficult to keep. Redrawn maps could affect the battle, but she said she expects the district to look largely the same.
Her re-election bid is a snapshot of the national fight. Republicans are banking on disaffected white and rural voters who turned out for Trump to stay engaged. Democrats hope that suburbanites who left the GOP in recent years will stick with their party and that a growing economy will minimize the backlash.
Democratic pollster Cornell Belcher said that Biden hasn’t triggered partisan…