With less than six months to go until the 2022 midterms, there is anxiety in the Democratic Party as to whether they will be able to hold on to either chamber of Congress. There is historical precedence for the party that wins the White House losing seats in the midterm election that follows two years later, as oftentimes the opposition party feels more energized to turn out and impose a “check” on the sitting president.
According to Geoffrey Skelley and Nathaniel Rakich at FiveThirtyEight.com, “since the end of World War II, the president’s party has lost House seats in all but two midterms: 2002 and 1998,” with the average loss of House seats being twenty-six.
Democrats currently have a majority of only nine seats in the House of Representatives: 222 seats to the 213 that Republicans have. Needless to say, precedent is not on their side, and it would take an unusual political landscape or a swing in political winds for them to hold on to the House.
Precedent aside, President Biden is quite unpopular nationally with an approval rating that averages in the low 40s. This is relatively low only two years into a presidency, with only former president Trump having a lower approval rating at this point (big emphasis on at this point; a handful of Presidents have had incredibly low ratings among the public, albeit not at this moment in their terms). This is inevitably tied to the list of challenges currently facing the nation, as inflation and high gas prices continue to be major issues, as well as most of President Biden’s agenda is stalled in Congress due to the razor-thin majority that Democrats have in the Senate.
Although Democrats are unlikely to hold on to the House, the Senate is more contentious, considering that Republicans are defending more seats and there are a handful of open races due to some Republican incumbents retiring. In Pennsylvania, Republican Pat Toomey is retiring, creating a scenario where both Democrats and Republicans must run in primaries for their respective parties. Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman is the Democratic frontrunner, and while it is less clear on the Republican side, “Dr. Oz” (Mehmet Oz) is infamously running and has poured millions into his campaign. Democratic Senators Raphael Warnock (Georgia), Mark Kelly (Arizona), Catherine Cortez Masto (Nevada), and Maggie Hassan (New Hampshire) all face competitive races to retain their seats, while Democrats hope to flip Wisconsin and defeat Republican incumbent Ron Johnson.
Even with a majority in both the House and Senate, it has proven nearly impossible for Biden to pass massive legislation. In a 50-50 Senate, West Virginia Senator, Joe Manchin has practically single-handedly stalled his agenda. It isn’t impossible, but the deck is stacked against Democrats and they’re going to have to find a way, in less than six months, to change the tides. Even if they retain or make gains in the Senate, if the House is lost, political gridlock is the likely result where little to nothing is passed due to opposition politics.