ANALYSIS — It could be a normal midterm election after all.
The 2022 cycle has felt like a roller coaster at times, as we’ve seen glimmers of evidence that Democrats could buck the midterm trend. The Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision overturning abortion rights woke up apathetic Democrats, giving the party demonstrable momentum in the late summer. But Republicans are closing fast, and voters frustrated by a sputtering economy and urban crime are poised to send a message to President Joe Biden and the Democrat-controlled Congress.
There is some nuance in the fight for Capitol Hill. Even during the Democratic surge, Republicans were always favored to win the House majority. Their projected gains ticked down in early September, but are now back up to a likely GOP gain of 13 to 30 seats — similar to our projections before the fallout from Dobbs. (Republicans need a net gain of five for a majority.)
That doesn’t mean Dobbs didn’t matter. Democratic losses would have likely been greater without the historic decision. If individual race ratings are true to form and the parties split the toss-ups, Republicans would land on the lower end of the projected range. But if undecided voters break disproportionately toward Republicans, and the GOP wins most of the closest races, then they could reach or exceed the upper end of that projection.
It’s not impossible for Democrats to maintain control of the House, but the climb is very steep. They would need to win all of the races they are favored to win (all races rated Solid, Likely, Lean or Tilt Democratic) and 19 of the 20 races rated as toss-ups.
Senate fight closer
The fight for the Senate is closer. Republicans only need a net gain of one seat for a majority, but underwhelming general election campaigns by GOP nominees in key states have made that task more difficult than it should have been. Republicans had to divert resources to defend seats in Ohio and North Carolina instead of spending on offense in Colorado, Washington, Arizona and New Hampshire.
Candidates in the half-dozen most competitive Senate races are within a handful of points of each other, creating a broad range of potential outcomes. The most likely result should fall between a Republican gain of two seats and a Democratic gain of a single seat.
Whichever party wins two of the three toss-up states (Nevada, Georgia and Pennsylvania) will likely control the Senate next year. But it could take a Dec. 6 runoff in Georgia before that is ultimately decided.
Republicans could exceed all expectations if polling underestimates support for GOP candidates once again, or if the lack of polling in the final days masks a late surge fueled by undecided voters focused on the economy.
Overall, the final midterm outcome will likely be delayed by the normal counting of ballots and legal challenges. There could be further complications and tumult if individuals actively seek to undermine the electoral process — a consequential dress rehearsal for 2024.
Races shifting toward Republicans
- California’s 13th District (Open; Josh Harder, D), from Tilt Democratic to Toss-up
- California’s 26th District (Julia Brownley, D), from Solid Democratic to Likely Democratic
- California’s 47th District (Katie Porter, D), from Lean Democratic to Tilt Democratic
- California’s 49th District (Mike Levin, D), from Lean Democratic to Tilt Democratic
- Colorado’s 8th District (Open; new), from Toss-up to Tilt Republican
- Connecticut’s 5th District (Jahana Hayes, D), from Lean Democratic to Toss-up
- Illinois’ 13th District (Open; Rodney Davis, R, lost primary), from Lean Democratic to Tilt Democratic
- Illinois’ 17th District (Open; Cheri Bustos, D, retiring), from Tilt Democratic to Toss-up
- Iowa’s 3rd District (Cindy Axne, D), from Toss-up to Tilt Republican
- New Jersey’s 3rd District (Andy Kim, D), from Solid Democratic to Likely Democratic
- New York’s 1st District (Open; Lee Zeldin, R, running for governor), from Tilt Republican to Lean Republican
- New York’s 4th District (Open; Kathleen Rice, D, retiring), from Lean Democratic to Tilt Democratic
- New York’s 17th District (Sean Patrick Maloney, D), from Tilt Democratic to Toss-up
- New York’s 25th District (Joseph D. Morelle, D), from Solid Democratic to Likely Democratic
- Oregon’s 4th District (Open; Peter DeFazio, D, retiring), from Lean Democratic to Tilt Democratic
- Oregon’s 5th District (Open; Kurt Schrader, D, lost primary), from Toss-up to Tilt Republican
- Pennsylvania’s 12th District (Open; Mike Doyle, D, retiring), from Solid Democratic to Likely Democratic
- Rhode Island’s 2nd District (Open; Jim Langevin, D, retiring), from Tilt Democratic to Toss-up
- Texas’ 34th District (Mayra Flores, R; Vicente Gonzalez, D), from Tilt Democratic to Toss-up
- Virginia’s 2nd District (Elaine Luria, D), from Toss-up to Tilt Republican
Races shifting toward Democrats
- Alaska’s At-Large District (Mary Peltola, D), from Tilt Democratic to Lean Democratic
- Florida’s 13th District (Open; Charlie Crist, D, running for governor), from Likely Republican to Lean Republican
Nathan L. Gonzales is an elections analyst with CQ Roll Call.