This article is the final in a four-part series related to the 2022 Midterm Elections. Today is Election Day, and we conclude with a discussion on the Senate. What will happen tonight? Do the Democrats have a path to retaining their majority?
Narrative 4: The Democrats have a reasonable chance of keeping the Senate.
Rating: Slightly True
The Democrats come into the night with only a tie-breaker for a lead, which means they can’t afford a single loss. While you can make a theoretical path for the Donkeys to prevent a net negative in the Senate, recent campaign events have made this outcome impractical. The GOP has nearly an unobstructed path to a Senate majority.
The Republican Path to a Senate Majority
Let’s look at what Republicans need to take control of the Senate. First, the GOP appears solid in three critical seats that they already control: Florida, North Carolina, and Ohio. In Florida, Senator Marco Rubio is cruising to victory alongside his governor, Ron DeSantis. Ted Budd of North Carolina has dominated what was once thought to be a dogfight, but the race has since vanished from the national radar. In Ohio, J.D. Vance- considered by mainstream media types to be “unelectable”- has pulled away from his top-tier competition and is now expected to win handily. None of these races are in jeopardy for the Republicans.
Assuming wins in these three states gives the GOP a total of 48 seats, with three more seats needed to claim the majority. A month ago, Republicans only had hopes in five battleground states: Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Winning three of these was thought to be no small feat, which explains the mainstream media narrative. Today, the script has flipped. Republicans now lead in the polling averages for all five states. Furthermore, additional states now also look competitive. New Hampshire is currently a dead heat, while the Republican candidates in Washington and Colorado are also in striking distance of an upset.
Previously, Democrats had a valid argument that the Republicans would be forced to run the gauntlet to take Senate control. This is simply no longer the case. The implications of the coming red tsunami are now clear to even the most die-hard liberal. States which should not be available to the GOP are now highly competitive; meanwhile, races that are normally in play for Democrats just aren’t anymore.
Let’s look at the key races, state by state. The races are sorted by rating, from lesser to greater competitiveness.
Battleground State Analysis
States Considered Safe or Not Up For Election: DEM 43, GOP 44
Connecticut: There has only been one poll showing a competitive race here, so it could be nothing. In wave elections, though, there’s always a chance that a race can be tighter than expected. Connecticut has a history of this phenomenon, and the Northeast in general has been under-polled this cycle. Senator Blumenthal should win by double-digits, but if Connecticut can’t be called in the same hour its polls close, watch out.
Florida: The entire Republican ticket wins tonight by ten points. Miami-Dade is no longer the county of the Bush-Gore 2000 recounts. The GOP might actually carry the county tonight, and that fact has national Democrats drinking Pepto Bismol straight from the bottle.
Iowa: Senator Grassley has been in the Senate since 1981. That’s a long time. Though a snapshot from the trusty Des Moines Register showed a 3-point margin a month ago, a new poll from the same reliable source now paints a different, double-digit picture. This race probably should be considered safe, but I always take the Des Moines Register seriously.
North Carolina: The Tar Heel State would host a closer race in a cycle with different fundamentals. Democrats just have no hope to win a “reach” state in a red wave year. GOP nominee Ted Budd came out of the gate running, and hasn’t looked back. Budd now breaks 50% in every poll, meaning there’s not enough undecided vote out there to matter, even if undecideds somehow bucked the national trend and broke against him.
Ohio: Vance is a conservative star on the rise, which is why left-leaning media outlets hate him so much. Democrats spent a whopping $17M in this race in the 3rd quarter alone in an effort to keep Vance out of the Senate. In retrospect, that may have been money poorly spent, as Vance tonight could surpass Trump’s impressive margins in the state. This won’t be due to weak competition, either. Rep. Tim Ryan is in the Democratic House Leadership, and his loss here will be painful for Democrats.
Colorado: The media has talked a lot about “bad GOP candidates” this cycle. Perversely, the worst candidate in my opinion this cycle is the one they like. Joe O’Dea represents the never-Trump faction of (what used to be) the Republican Party. Liberal on social issues, he’s made a campaign out of telling voters he’ll stand up to both Republicans and Democrats. That’s not a bad strategy if your party is unpopular. But when the opposition party is the one in the tank, don’t alienate your base. O’Dea will probably lose; if so, it will be due to his inability to energize conservatives who were hoping for more of a contrast between the candidates. Given that O’Dea appears to be Colorado’s Mitt Romney, most national Republicans will not bemoan this loss. A real missed opportunity for the GOP- Senator Bennett is vulnerable and the race may yet be close.
Washington: Here’s the real sleeper race, even if both sides woke up in a hurry. Senator Patty Murray is one of the most powerful Democratic leaders in the Senate. She’s also now in a cage match with her Republican opponent, Tiffany Smiley, which has to be one of the best last names for a politician in the history of ever. Murray is struggling in the wake of the Seattle riots, and Smiley is making crime the primary issue of the campaign. Factor in the economy, and all of a sudden a deep blue state is looking very purple. The two most accurate polling organizations in 2020 both have this race within the margin of error. I’m leaning the race to Murray only because Smiley has yet to lead in a poll. If there’s a lot of blood in the water tonight, though, Smiley might be one of the sharks.
Georgia: This race started out in strong favor of the incumbent Senator Warnock, but football legend Herschel Walker never quit- even when members of his own party thought he should. Despite numerous scandals threatening his campaign, Walker has come all the way back to take the lead late. The only question remaining is whether or not a run-off can be avoided, as Georgia requires 50% of the vote to win outright. Walker is still the favorite over Warnock even in a run-off, at least for now. However, enough outside money poured into the race over yet another month could give Warnock just enough time and money to close the gap. There’s only about 1% of third-party vote expected, so a run-off is not highly likely unless the race is extremely close. With the current trends, it won’t be necessary. Georgia stands to be the first GOP flip of the night.
Nevada: This is one of the defining races of 2022. Latino turnout matters here more than anywhere else. With Republicans surging among Hispanic voters, Nevada could be the first chip on the table that shows America the new face of the GOP. Adam Laxalt has led the Democratic incumbent, Catherine Cortez Masto, for virtually this entire cycle. He can also expect a boost from the governor’s side of the ticket, where popular Clark County sheriff Joe Lombardo likely will overperform in the Las Vegas metropolitan area. The Democratic machine, while still powerful, has lost a step from its golden era under Harry Reid. Early vote numbers show Democrats are in trouble in 2022, and it will take a stronger-than-expected surge on Election Day to keep Cortez Masto in office.
Wisconsin: Senator Ron Johnson was once considered the most vulnerable incumbent of 2022. According to the legacy media, he’s an arrogant, anti-climate, election denier and Orange Man ally whose defeat will be a massive blow to Trump’s 2024 bid in the state. Johnson didn’t just embrace these indictments, he rolled them up and swatted his opposition with them like so many flies. This is a close race no longer. Johnson should win by five points, paving the way for Trump to reclaim the state two years from now. A critical battleground in the upcoming ’24 campaign, Wisconsin is also key to Senate control in 2022. Johnson’s expected hold of the seat means the GOP only needs two other wins in route to a majority.
Arizona: National Republicans bailed on Blake Masters early in this campaign. Former astronaut and Democratic Senator Mark Kelly looked to be cruising to an easy victory through September. Since then, however, Masters has surged. As of Election Day, the polling average gives Masters a 0.3% edge- which is no edge at all. This race is as pure of a toss-up as they come. The one advantage Masters has in this race is the governor’s race. Conservative firebrand Kari Lake is likely to demolish Democrat Katie Hobbs, who didn’t bother campaigning for the state’s top office. A wipeout on the top of the ticket can only benefit Masters down-ballot, and the race is trending his way. The issues in Arizona work in his favor, as well; immigration and the economy both impacting the race heavily.
New Hampshire: I don’t understand why this race was never on the radar until the last minute. The Granite State is always home to a competitive Senate race. Even after favorite son Chris Sununu declined to run in favor of keeping his gubernatorial seat, the eventual Republican nominee, General Don Bolduc, clearly has the resume. Five Bronze Stars and two Purple Hearts go a long way in a state whose motto reads “Live Free or Die.” Incumbent Senator Maggie Hassan has always been relatively unpopular as a senator, so naturally the National Republican Senatorial Committee decided to… not target the state? A Bolduc loss will cause a lot of Republicans to ask questions about the decisions made in this campaign. As it stands, Bolduc should be considered the narrow favorite- but in New Hampshire, anything can happen.
Pennsylvania: In what is arguably the marquee race of the night, television personality Dr. Mehmet Oz has a narrow advantage over Lt. Governor John Fetterman. Fetterman’s medical difficulties are now household knowledge, at least to the extent they were revealed. It’s highly probable that, if elected, Fetterman would resign after taking office. The governor, likely to be Democratic, would then offer the appointment to Fetterman’s wife, Gisele, allowing her to serve in John’s stead.
This scenario is probably the only thing driving Democratic turnout. Polls show Fetterman falling swiftly following his abysmal debate performance. The catch: the debate was after early voting was already underway. Oz would otherwise be the odds-on favorite, but we don’t know how many votes the massive GOTV operations in Philadelphia have already logged for the Democrat. Rumor has it that results may be in by Friday… yes Friday. You know, because why not take three days to do what you could do in one. Particularly if it helps you… ahem… pad the vote totals. Fetterman has already filed suit to include legally deficient ballots, and here we go again.
In the House, I’ll go with R+42. It feels like an extraordinary night, and it’s been an extraordinary two years (not in a good way). Given that I could have personally vomited out a better economic record than our President, I’m pretty sure there’s not a soul out there that didn’t at least think about the economy before casting their vote. There’s not too many historical parallels out there, so I’m going on instinct. That result would give Republicans 255 House seats, the most in a century.
The Senate is headed towards 53-47, so I’ll do one better and say 54-46. I think the GOP sweeps both their leans and the toss-ups. I’d even go as far as R+5, if I had anything more than blind hope for Smiley in the Washington race. The odds of her winning are about the same as the odds of the GOP dropping one of the toss-ups, so even a WA upset could be balanced out. Either way, the Republicans will be in control of both Houses come January.
Democrats simply have too many things to have to go their way to keep control. Running the table as a Democrat in AZ, GA, and NH will not be easy to do even in a politically neutral year, which this is not. On top of that, they’d still need a win in Nevada, Pennsylvania, or Wisconsin, and they’re behind the eight-ball in all three races.