With midterm elections just over a month away, the campaign trail is heating up and the plethora of political ads are about to come crashing in. Conventional wisdom is that in a midterm cycle, the party that is not in the White House tends to gain seats in both the House and the Senate due to their party being more energized and wanting a “check” on the sitting president. Most recently, the 2018 midterms come to mind, where Democrats flipped some forty-plus seats to take control of the House of Representatives, and 2010 and 2014 when Republicans gained seats in former President Obama’s first and second term, respectively.
Yet this midterm cycle is looking hazier, as Democrats have been performing better than expected in special elections so far. It’s unusual given that President Biden’s popularity is underwater. That largely has been placed on the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v Wade, the landmark decision that declared abortion a constitutionally protected right. A large majority of Americans support at least some abortion rights, and with that guaranteed right taken away, it has fired up voters and has been a contributing factor to Democrats over-performing thus far.
While Republicans are still quite favored to take the House this year, the Senate has moved into territory that slightly favors Democrats. Democrats at the moment have the thinnest of margins in the Senate, a 50-50 majority due to Vice President Kamala Harris’s tie-breaking vote. A handful of states, including Pennsylvania, Arizona, North Carolina, Georgia, Nevada, Wisconsin, and Ohio are shaking up to be close races that will determine which party has control of the Senate.
Arizona, Georgia, and Nevada are all states with Democratic incumbents (Mark Kelly, Raphael Warnock and Catherine Cortez Masto, respectively), who are in tight races, and Wisconsin has a Republican incumbent in Ron Johnson, who isn’t particularly popular in the state. The others are open elections with fresh faces from both parties running off against each other, with the most prolific arguably being Pennsylvania, where the two nominees are Democrat John Fetterman, the lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania, and Mehmet Oz, TV doctor and host of Dr. Oz. Fetterman has retained an edge over Oz, but all of these midterm races have one thing in common: They’re close and can go in either direction.
While the Senate remains competitive, it should be noted that if Republicans take back the House like they’re expected to do, that will likely create the political gridlock that we’ve come to expect, partly as a result of the hyper-partisanship and polarized nature of our political climate. While improving on margins in the Senate would be good for Democrats, it would be incredibly difficult to pass any type of progressive legislation without the majority in both chambers.
Yet, we live in strange times and this midterm cycle has proven to be in alignment with this. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that Democrats retain control of the House.