The next election for 1/3 of the Senate and all of the House of Representatives as well as a variety of state offices is coming up on November 8, 2022. Collectively known as “the midterms,” this election is an important test for the party in power. Both houses of Congress are within a one-seat net pick-up for the majority. The Senate is split 50–50 and the democratic majority in the house is hanging on by one single seat. A net pick-up anywhere would flip control of either chamber. President Biden has struggled with his popularity.
There are a few narratives that are playing a big part in this election. Abortion, the Economy, and inflation are all hot topics this election. Over the summer, after the SCOTUS abortion decision, democrats had a great resurgence. I noted to friends that much could happen over the summer and into the fall, and I was right. Much of the energy democratic candidates nationwide enjoyed in July and August has fled the scene. From a narrative perspective, the mood of the country seems to have shifted. The polling has been rather interesting. Heading into the summer, Republicans were up by double digits in aggregate polling. It seemed like democrats were headed for a wash. Then over the summer that trend reversed sharply and democrats moved from being behind by as much as 15 points to being tied or up 1–2 points in aggregate polling (Steve Kornacki and 538 keep up on this). Abortion as a national issue was a big lift for democrats, however, economic worries have reared their ugly head again and most Americans do tend to vote with their wallets.
The other narrative that has been promoted, although not as much on the campaign trail, is the idea that democracy is on the ballot. Many folks are arguing that a vote for a Republican is a vote for Trump and election denial. Certainly, for the GOP, this is a selling point. For those on the Left, it is an indictment of their opposition. The narrative is simple, “if you want to continue to have freedom and democracy, vote blue.”
Races to Watch
There is a trio of races that I’m concerned about and watching closely. The first is Ohio Senate with JD Vance. Over the summer, JD Vance began to fall behind in the polls over the summer but he has not caught up with his opponent. JD Vance is famous for writing the book Hillbilly Elegy and he has been close to Trump and taken severe insults from him.
We’re also looking at the Pennsylvania Senate race as well. This week John Fetterman made headlines for his terrible debate performance against Dr. Mehmet Oz due to his recent stroke. However, the race remains tied. Across the country, most of the major senate races are within the margin of error which makes most of these races a toss-up. This is especially true in Nevada where 538 thinks that the GOP might be able to gain control of the Senate.
Democrats are trying to pick up governorships this cycle after losing Virginia (which usually indicates how the mid-terms will go) and there are worries throughout the country but most notably in New York with Kathy Hoschul is up for election after taking over for the disgraced Andrew Cuomo. This should be an easy governorship for democrats to pick up again but it is proving more difficult than anticipated.
The Democrats Tried to Legislate the Midterms
One of the major goals of the Democratic Party over the past year has been to give their members some signature pieces of legislation to run on this fall. If inflation weren’t hitting so bad and the price of gas wasn’t so high, it just might have worked. The Inflation Reduction Act had several great things for middle-class earners, and democrats are also talking about the infrastructure bill too. On top of that, Democrats are talking about abortion because it is an issue that can get their base out to the polls.
The picture might be different if Joe Manchin hadn’t torpedoed Build, Back, Better. Biden’s popularity never recovered from the disastrous Afghanistan withdrawal. However, Democrats haven’t been talking about their legislative achievements as much as I think they really should. I think it would help them fight the Republicans on the economy. However, it is probably a bit late for them to pivot their messaging now.
My personal prediction aligns with others like Mark Halperin and the general consensus between 538 and other sources. Republicans will likely take control of the House, and Democrats should end up with control of the Senate. Americans do like a divided government. Americans are going to voice their displeasure about inflation and the economy. All this talk about a recession isn’t helping, and the consistent fall of the stock market certainly isn’t a way to build confidence in voters. The only thing I think that might shift that is turnout. Turnout is already double 2018 numbers in Georgia. Democrats are focusing on turnout too, which is good. Turnout could make the night better for Democrats than they might otherwise have had. That all being said, never underestimate American’s desire to reject a bad narrative or a bad idea. The Republican Party has been saying the quiet parts about religion and other things out loud. For many moderate Americans, it might be a bridge too far.