President Biden predicts that Democrats will “surprise the living devil out of a lot of people” in Tuesday’s midterm elections, when roughly a third of the Senate, all 435-members of the House of Representatives, and governors’ offices in 36 of the 50 states are up for grabs.
But with Democrats facing historical headwinds — the party that wins the White House traditionally suffers major setbacks in the ensuing midterm elections — and a very rough political climate fueled by record inflation, soaring crime and a crisis at the nation’s southern border, all accentuated by his own rebounding but still underwater approval ratings, the president’s election eve forecast appears optimistic.
Republicans are aiming to regain majorities in both the House of Representatives and Senate in Tuesday’s contests, while maintaining and potentially increasing their current control of a majority of governorships and state legislative chambers.
“We’re going to make some history,” Rep. Tom Emmer of Minnesota, the chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee, told Fox News in a recent interview, as he reiterated his conviction that the GOP would win back the House majority it lost in the 2018 midterms.
Rep. Tom Emmer of Minnesota, the chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee, teams up with GOP congressional nominee Monica De La Cruz of Texas, at her campaign headquarters in McAllen, Texas, on Oct. 18, 2022
While Republicans lost control of the White House and the Senate majority in the 2020 cycle, they over performed in House races and took a big bite out of the Democrats’ majority. The GOP needs a net gain of just five sets in the 435-member chamber in the midterms to reclaim control.
Pointing to the economy and crime, two top issues Republicans have hammered Democrats over this cycle, Emmer described the midterms as a “security election.”
“America’s economic security is in a terrible place because they have to choose between buying groceries for their family or putting gas in the gas tank. And they’re watching their retirement accounts evaporate in front of their eyes and then it’s the physical security, the crime,” Emmer said.
Emmer’s counterpart in the Senate, National Republican Senatorial Committee chair Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, also forecasts that the GOP will retake the Senate majority with “52-plus” seats.
The Senate is currently split 50-50 between the two major political parties, but the Democrats control the majority thanks to the tie-breaking vote of Vice President Kamala Harris through her Constitutional role as president of the Senate. That means Republicans need a net gain of just one seat in the midterms to win back the majority they lost when they were swept by the Democrats in Georgia’s twin Jan. 5, 2021, Senate runoff elections.
Republicans are defending 21 of the 35 Senate seats in contention, including five open seats where GOP senators are retiring rather than running for re-election. Two of those open seats are in the battleground states of Pennsylvania and North Carolina with another in the competitive state of Ohio. And Republican Sen. Ron Johnson in the swing state of Wisconsin is facing a challenging re-election.
But the GOP for more than a year and a half has been targeting the four first-term Democratic senators from the battleground states of Arizona, Georgia, Nevada and New Hampshire who are running for re-election. And Republicans also see possible picks in once reliably blue Colorado and Washington state.
Republican Senate nominee Herschel Walker of Georgia holds a campaign rally on Oct. 27, 2022 in Cumming, Georgia.
Scott charged that “it’s real simple. People are fed up with open borders, high inflation, high crime. They’re just fed up with this stuff, and the Democrats did it.”
Republicans enjoyed strong political tailwinds during the second half of last year and the first half of this year as surging gas prices fueled record inflation, and rising crime and an unrelenting crisis along the U.S.-Mexico border grabbed outsized attention.
But the blockbuster move in late June by the Supreme Court’s conservative majority to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling and send the combustible issue of legalized abortion back to the states energized Democrats, boosting them with female and suburban voters who helped power Democrats to a blue wave in the 2018 midterms.
The Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization abortion ruling, along with declining gas prices and a slew of legislative victories by Biden and congressional Democrats, gave the party a shot in the arm over the summer as their poll numbers rebounded.
But polls indicate the Democrats’ summer surge didn’t last into autumn as gas prices once again spiked, inflation concerns didn’t dissipate and Republicans inundated the airwaves with ads bashing the Democrats over crime.
“As much energy and excitement as the Dobbs decision generated, what we’re going to find on Election Day next week is that this is going to look exactly as everybody expected pre-Dobbs, like any other midterm election where the party in power is going to suffer some fairly significant losses,” veteran political scientist Wayne Lesperance, the interim president of the New Hampshire-based New England College, told Fox News.
In Ohio, the first week of in-person early voting saw more than 71,000 people cast their ballots; a 74% increase from 2018.
A troubling sign for Democrats is that recent polling indicates the GOP making gains with Spanish-speaking and Black voters, two core Democratic constituencies.
And in a sign of a building red wave, Republicans have been pouring resources the past couple of weeks into once solidly blue congressional districts while Democrats have been shelling out money to defend those seats.
Pointing to the surge in the GOP’s electoral fortunes that polls have indicated over the past two months in the battle for the House majority, Emmer touted that “there were 18 races that we [NRCC] were playing in as of the end of last week that Biden won by double digits.”
But he cautioned that “right now, we’ve won nothing yet.”
Pushing back against what appeared to be a building red wave, Democratic National Committee spokesperson Ammar Moussa told Fox News that “Democrats are highlighting historic accomplishments like lowering prescription drug costs, helping create over 10 million jobs, and passing a bipartisan infrastructure law,” which he emphasized gives his party “a powerful closing message to take to the American people.”
Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesperson Chris Taylor predicted that “Democrats’ mainstream agenda of lowering prices, investing in America to create jobs, and protecting freedoms will prevail on Election Day.”
In the battle for the states, Republicans currently control 28 governors’ offices, and Democrats run the other 22.
Republicans aim to flip Democratic-controlled governorships in Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico and Wisconsin. Biden carried all those states — except for Kansas — in the 2020 presidential election. Democratic incumbent governors are running for re-election in all of those states. And in New York State, where Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul is running for a full term to steer the reliably blue state, conservative Rep. Lee Zeldin has dramatically narrowed the gap.
While playing plenty of offense in gubernatorial races, the GOP is also on defense in Arizona and the blue states of Maryland and Massachusetts, where Republicans are defending open governorships.
Democrats are also eying a possible pickup in the red state of Oklahoma and in battleground Georgia, where Republican Gov. Brian Kemp is in a high-profile rematch with Democrat Stacey Abrams.