With the midterms fast approaching, Republicans are poised to gain enough seats to take back both the House and Senate and serve as a check on the Biden administration.
How to account for the recent GOP surge? First, it was supposed to be a Republican year. The president’s party almost always takes a beating during the midterms. So, it should be no surprise that political conditions shifted back in favor of the GOP, following a temporary Democratic upswing earlier this fall.
According to Real Clear Politics (opens in new tab), Republicans currently have about a three-point advantage on the generic ballot, a rough proxy for which party voters want to control Congress, after trailing Democrats for much of September.
Second, President Biden remains unpopular, with an average approval rating of around 43%. That’s better than it was this summer, when only 37% of voters, on average, thought Biden was doing a good job, but not enough to prevent big Democratic losses at the ballot box.
Moreover, Biden’s approval rating has started to drift lower again, with high inflation likely to persist for 2022. What does this mean in terms of how many seats Republicans will win? In the House, expect a net GOP gain of at least 20 seats, slightly greater than our September estimate (15), but slightly below our initial spring forecast (25). “At least” accounts for the fact that Republicans could build on their advantage in the final days and flip even more seats.
Remember, Republicans need to gain only five seats to retake the House. In the Senate, the GOP needs to flip one seat without losing any of theirs. We think they will, but it will be close. The three Democratic-held seats most at risk: Arizona, Georgia and Nevada, where the Republican candidate either leads or is within the margin of error.
2022 voter turnout remains a wildcard
Democrats at one point were heavily favored to flip Republican-held Pennsylvania, but health problems have dogged Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (D) and helped his GOP opponent, Mehmet Oz, close the gap. Wisconsin, another seat that Democrats hoped to flip, has also trended toward Republicans in recent weeks.
One factor that hasn’t changed, despite the various twists and turns: Voter turnout in the midterms is expected to reach record highs, which could upset our expectations, rooted in previous, low-turnout midterms. For example, younger voters showing up in greater-than-usual numbers could give Democrats a boost, though older GOP-friendly voters are also fired up.
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