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August Recess Federal Election Update

With about 12 weeks remaining until November 8th, 2022, I’m getting asked a lot of questions about the upcoming midterm elections. And while I can’t predict the future, below is my very frank snapshot of the current election landscape based on available polling and analytical perspectives.


Republicans Are Stinking It Up in The Senate


First off: for the Senate, let’s toss out the ‘older’ historic transitional elections arguments straight away… You know, the argument that says since a Democrat won the Presidency 2-years ago, that Republicans will dominate this year.


That still might hold water for the House (more on that below), but I don’t think it does for the Senate this year for a variety of reasons. Not the least of which being that in our latest transitional election (2018), Republicans gained 2 seats in the Senate, in a year Democrats should have done pretty well (based on this historic argument).


Taking all the Senate races that either Cook, IE or Sabato have as battlegrounds, as well as North Carolina and Ohio races because of recent public polling, I’m seeing the following:

If the election were today, I see Democrats picking up 1 maybe 2 Senate seats in Ohio and/or Pennsylvania. And I don’t see Republicans taking any Democratic held seats yet.


Now, things could change, and public polling may be skewed, however, remember that this would be a direct reflection of what happened in the chamber in 2018’s transitional election.


Also, I don’t have access to internal polling information but did see a Politico article here yesterday showing that the NRSC has pulled over $10 million in ad buys since the first of August in Arizona, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin… Now, maybe they pulled the ads in those states because they have internal numbers that kick ass. Hell, it could be a signal to their Independent Expenditure teams to get in there. It could be a number of reasons, but as for the August update: the Senate doesn’t look great for Republicans if the election were held today.


What about the House?


Current House makeup is 220 Democratic members, 211 Republican members, and 4 vacancies. For the sake of this exercise, I’m going to say the real makeup of the House is more like 221 Democratic members, and 214 Republican members. If that roughly shakes out to be correct (we’ll actually see some of those vacancies get cleared up soon), Republicans need to flip 4 seats to gain the majority.


There are 11 ‘Toss-up’ races that Cook, IE and Sabato agree on as too close to call. Of the 11, 4 are held by Republicans, and 7 by Democrats. If these truly are coin-toss races, that would mean Democrats come out with 5.5 seats and Republicans would win 5.5 seats, giving Republicans a 1.5 seat advantage in these 11 districts.

For Congressional forecasting, I also look at generic ballot (because more than just these 11 seats will be close). As of right now, RealClearPolitics aggregate has an R+0.1 advantage, and 538 shows a D+0.5 generic ballot. At ‘even’ I give the Republicans a couple more seats in the House because of how the generic ballot works.


However, there is one caveat: that generic ballot a couple months ago was R+4 or 5. Republicans' lead has now fallen to even, and if in a month from now that generic ballot trend continues, I see it difficult for Republicans to make big gains in the House.


Bottom Line


Republicans have had a long, tough summer. Trump’s favorability numbers have deteriorated 8 points over the past three months while Biden’s job approval has only dropped 3 points in the same span (according to RealClear aggregates). Dem oppo-research seems to have the advantage this year, or another way to say it: Republican candidate backgrounds aren’t as clean as Democratic candidates this cycle. Recent Supreme Court rulings aren’t helping the GOP according to voter sentiment. Meanwhile, gas prices, which many pointed to as the biggest problem with inflation, have gone down, giving a little reprieve to Democratic officials.


Needless to say, if the election were held today, I think Democrats may make some gains in the Senate, and I would think Republicans narrowly take the House. BUT I have to go back to the first sentence of this article to say – the election is still 12 weeks away. Anything is possible.


Pro-tip: If anyone is telling you they know for a fact what is going to happen in the House or Senate – take that person to the sportsbook, because they’re back from the future.


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