With US Democrats facing low chances of winning next month’s congressional midterm elections, Yahoo News has come up with a likely and familiar culprit in advance: Russian interference.
This time, Moscow is putting its thumb on the US election scales by triggering soaring inflation through the Ukraine crisis, Rick Newman, a senior columnist for the online news outlet, wrote on Tuesday. With the US inflation rate hovering near a 40-year high, voters are struggling financially, portending an uphill election battle for President Joe Biden’s party.
“When voters struggle, they blame incumbents, which is why President Biden and his fellow Democrats face long odds of keeping control of Congress in November,” Newman said. He added that “Russian acts of aggression, both military and economic, are probably the biggest factors pushing food and energy prices higher.”
US security experts expect Russian hackers to “stir up trouble” by targeting voting systems as the November 8 midterms approach, Newman claimed. “That would fit the pattern of aggressive Russian interference that marred the 2016 presidential election and has continued in various forms ever since.”
Democrats have blamed Russia and President Vladimir Putin for a wide range of setbacks, from Hillary Clinton’s loss in the 2016 presidential election to record-high US gasoline prices earlier this year. However, the 22-month Mueller probe in 2017-2019 failed to find evidence that Trump colluded with Russia to defeat Clinton, but the media-hyped investigation disrupted the new president’s policy agenda. Russia, meanwhile, has consistently denied any influence over foreign elections.
The US inflation rate was 1.4% in January 2021, the month when Biden took office. It nearly doubled by March 2021 and breached 7% last December, months before Russia began its military offensive in Ukraine. The rate was 8.2% last month. Polls show that inflation ranks as the top concern among voters heading into the midterms, and Biden has an approval rating of only around 30% on the issue.
Yahoo’s Newman acknowledged that some voters may blame Biden’s policies, including a $1.9 trillion spending bill enacted in March 2021, but he argued that Russia is the bigger factor. The US economy has contracted for two straight quarters, meeting the classic definition of a recession.
The columnist, however, also noted that strict anti-Russia sanctions imposed by the US and its allies have contributed to shortages of some goods and higher prices. He added that Russia has used its leverage as a major oil and natural gas producer to “starve” Europe of desperately needed fuel and keep crude prices high.
Newman claimed, too, that the harm done to Democrat politicians wasn’t “mere collateral damage” from the Ukraine conflict. He suggested that Putin tried to hurt Biden and weaken his resolve. “For the next couple of weeks, a key target of Putin’s hybrid war will be the American election system.” He did not provide any evidence for any of his claims.