2022 Midterm Prediction

by Sebastian Andrew

It’s that time again, where there’s an election and I tell you all what I think is going to happen.

This time it’s the midterm elections in the United States, where elections are up for the entirety of the House of Representatives, a third of the Senate, a majority of governorships, and a slew of statewide races. That sounds like a lot — don’t worry, I’ll try and keep it simple. I had been intending to write a more detailed outline of specific races for those of you who are U.S political junkies, but alas, a combination of COVID-19 and a capstone essay that needs finishing has killed any hopes of me completing that.

Anyways.

Democrats are on the defensive, holding a narrow majority in the House and a bare majority in the Senate (Democrats and Republicans both hold 50 seats, with Vice President Kamala Harris acting as a tie-breaking vote). These narrow majorities leave Democrats in a precarious position heading into the elections. The party of the incumbent president usually struggles in midterm elections. A few presidents have managed to buck the trend but more often than not, the president’s party loses seats in both the House and Senate, and generally overall control of at least one, but often both chambers.

Biden’s popularity sits at roughly 42%, around the same place where former President Donald Trump’s was around this time (before Republicans went on to lose 41 seats in the House). Although down slightly from 9% in June, the inflation rate is still uncomfortably high (expected to be around 8% for October). Adding to the pinch are gasoline prices, which although down from a high of $5 a gallon in June, are still uncomfortably high at $3.9. Another contributing factor scaring voters are their perceptions of rising crime rates, despite the conflicting data on this. Although in many cases, the policies of Biden and congressional Democrats have little to no correlation with these issues, voters are blaming the party in power. Current polls demonstrate that voters are prioritising the economy and crime as important issues, and when asked who they trust better to handle these issues, voters overwhelmingly prefer Democrats to Republicans.

Additionally, partisan redistricting has benefited Republicans through the elimination of competitive seats and the conversion of Democrat-leaning seats into conservative ones. Even if Democrats were to hold onto every single seat they currently hold, redistricting alone would allow Republicans to gain a slim majority.

With all this, Democrats should be headed for a wipeout. But they aren’t.

The backlash to the Dobbs ruling which overturned the constitutional right to an abortion has given Democrats a noticeable boost in special elections and it is driving enthusiasm amongst younger voters, and college-educated voters (particularly women). Enthusiasm is crucial in midterms, and although Republican-leaning voters motivated by inflation still hold an edge, abortion as a motivating factor is giving Democrats a fighting chance.

Republicans have also nominated some truly lousy candidates. Democrats would be looking at a loss of up to four seats in the Senate were it not for candidates like Herschel Walker in Georgia, who’s been dogged by allegations of violence and payment for multiple abortions, or Blake Masters in Arizona who said the words ‘social security’ and ‘privatise’ in the same sentence (Masters later denied claims of wanting to privatise social security, but those words should never be said together under any circumstances.) n general, Republicans have nominated candidates for all offices who’ve shown a willingness to embrace dangerous conspiracy theories peddled by former President Donald Trump, all of which have turned off moderate voters.

Onto the prediction.

Republicans will gain the House of Representatives. They’ll pick up 21 seats to hold a 223–212 majority over Democrats. Far from a wipeout. Both parties will pick up seats, and the aforementioned abortion support will help Democrats stem losses in suburban seats. Still, Republicans will gain enough via redistricting, as well as flipping Democrat-held seats to gain an edge.

Attached below is a link to an interactive map. Darker colours indicate that the party holds that seat. Lighter shades indicate a flip (e.g. light red indicates that Republicans will flip this seat)

Although needing to defend competitive seats in the Senate, Democrats will be on the hunt for seats in order to increase their majority. A 50–50 tie has been gruelling for Democrats, with a rule called the ‘filibuster’ killing any legislation that doesn’t have 60 votes. Democrats will be hoping to win 52 seats — enough supposedly to vote and remove the filibuster, but this isn’t going to happen. The Senate remains at a 50–50 split; Democrats flip Pennsylvania but lose Nevada.

In the immediate aftermath, the Senate will be 50–49–1. This is because since no candidate will reach the required 50%, Georgia will go to a runoff election held on December 5th. In this case, I would give Democrats the narrow edge; Georgia, being the crucial 50th Senate seat for Democrats, should juice turnout as it did in the 2020/21 Georgia runoff elections. And I expect that a month of national spotlight solely on Georgia will do no favours for the Republican candidate.

Despite failing to flip the seats of Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Ohio, Democrats will come away with a lucky 50–50 split. They can thank Republicans for that; had they selected good or decent candidates, they could have easily flipped Arizona, Georgia, and New Hampshire in addition to holding Pennsylvania, to get a majority of 54 seats.

There won’t be many changes in the elections for governor. Democrats defend the vulnerable states of Oregon, New Mexico, Kansas, Minnesota, Michigan, New York, and Maine. Republicans hold onto Arizona, Texas, Georgia, and Florida. Democrats gain Massachusetts and Maryland; due to the retirement of popular, moderate Republican governors, and Republicans gain Nevada and Wisconsin.

So, what does this mean?

Biden’s presidential agenda is practically dead. At least for two years (with these numbers Democrats would have decent chances of regaining the House in 2024). Negotiating legislation through a narrow house and a 50–50 Senate was tricky enough when Democrats controlled both, however with Republicans controlling the House it’s near impossible. Not that Republicans have demonstrated much interest in legislating, anyways With the House in Republican control, investigations into the January 6th attacks are shut down and investigations into Biden’s cabinet, Dr Fauci, (and Hunter Biden, if the hardcore partisans get their way) are opened. An impeachment is likely to occur at least once. The Republican House majority will not be productive, nor will it be stable. With a majority so slim, McCarthy needs to keep everyone happy — from moderate Republicans to far-right members like Georgia congresswoman Marjorie Greene Taylor — or risk losing the speakership. Meaning McCarthy likely has to play along with far-right stunts like proposals to shut down the government, in order to keep his far-right flank from rebelling.

Things in the Senate will be a little less exciting. The filibuster remains in place, not that it matters with little legislation of interest to Democrats being passed by the House. The Senate have little to do beyond approving judges and cabinet officials for the next two years.

What about the races for governor? These races may be easy to overlook, but they’re going to be crucial come 2024. States like Nevada, Arizona, and Wisconsin (which will all have Republican governors) are states that Joe Biden won and could expect to win in 2024. If this happens, Republican governors could use false claims of fraud to refuse to certify Biden’s electors or nominate their own. This could sway the election, or just continue to sew doubt and discontent. Either way, not good. …

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