The 2022 Midterms

The 2022 Midterm Elections are upon us, with all members of the House of Representatives and a third of the Senate are up for reelection. Because Democrats possess a tenuous hold on both the House and Senate, the upcoming election is of the utmost importance for allowing the passage of the Biden Administration’s agenda. So, what’s going to happen in November?

First, it is worth looking into the history of midterm elections in the United States. A constant pattern observed during prior midterms is that the president’s party typically loses seats in both the House and Senate. In only two midterm elections since 1946 has the president’s party gained seats in the House; it has not happened since the 2002 midterms, which can be attributed to extraneous circumstances following the 9/11 attacks. Moreover, the president’s party has gained seats in the Senate since 1946 only four times. Nearly all historical data points toward Democrats losing control of the House and Senate in the 2022 midterm elections, rendering Biden incapable of passing any meaningful legislation through Congress.

Since the redistricting process in most states has finished, it is worth examining the newly-created House of Representatives maps. Analysis from FiveThirtyEight’s Redistricting Project has found that new maps will contain a likely increase of 11 Democratic House seats – a substantial margin. Democratic redistricting of states such as New York and Illinois has allowed them to increase the share of likely blue districts. Moreover, State Supreme Courts in states like Ohio and North Carolina have ruled that Republicans have racially gerrymandered many maps. While the process has not concluded for all states, the newly created House maps will likely favor the Democratic Party.

Control of the Senate will likely be decided in the battleground states of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Georgia, and Arizona. In Arizona, the incumbent Mark Kelley is favored to win against whichever candidate the RNC puts forward. Georgia, however, presents an extremely tight race between the incumbent Rafael Warnock and the former NFL Superstar Herschel Walker. In Ohio, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania, Republican Senators are retiring. Finally, Wisconsin has become a critical battleground state in recent years, and the incumbent Ron Johnson is up for reelection. In many of these key states, it is Republicans who must scramble to replace or re-elect their candidates, therefore increasing the likelihood that Democrats will be able to steal a few seats.

However, the international and domestic political conditions presumably favor Republicans – the party not in control of the presidency and Congress. Incredibly high gas prices, rising rates of violent crime, and the persistence of the pandemic are all significant issues for voters. These issues will not help re-elect Democrats – regardless of whoever may have been the cause of these problems. The Russian invasion of Ukraine and its continuing domestic consequences also present a complex problem for Democrats – many voters perceive Biden as too weak on sanctioning Russia; others believe the conflict lacks any importance to the US. While the ongoing confirmation of Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson will aid in the appeal of electing Democrats, the domestic and global turmoil will likely cripple the ruling Democratic majority in the House and Senate. 

When considering the history of midterm elections, newly redistricted election maps, and domestic issues, it is difficult – if not impossible – to predict which party will gain control of the House and Senate. Can Democrats bring a sufficient number of voters to the polls without the motivation of Trump’s name on the ballot? Will voters blame the Democratic Party for domestic and international turmoil? Even with gains in redistricting, can Democrats offset historical precedent? Come November, these questions will be answered by American voters in the highly anticipated House and Senate races.