The November midterms are approaching and the “red wave” Republicans are looking for is not looking as likely as it once was. Between candidate recruitment issues, smaller war chests and recent legislative accomplishments by Democrats, cold November waters may merely ripple.
“The terrain isn’t nearly as favorable as you might have expected. And I think that’s going to condition Republican expectations for picking up seats and maybe flipping the Senate. I think most objective observers right now think it’s about a 50–50 proposition,” professor Daron Shaw, Frank C. Erwin, Jr. Chair of State Politics University of Texas at Austin, said.
In the Senate, Republicans have challenging races where they are trying to both flip and maintain seats.
For instance, Republican Sen. Ron Johnson is running for re-election in Wisconsin, but a Marquette poll in June showed him down two points. In Pennsylvania, Republican Sen. Pat Toomey is retiring, and the Republican nominee, Dr. Oz, is down 11 points to his Democratic opponent, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, according to a Fox News poll. In Georgia, Republican Herschel Walker is trailing incumbent Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock by two points, according to a 538 average of polls.
“Republicans are running into some problems with some of the candidates they’ve nominated, especially in these high profile Senate seats. And that could limit their ability to take advantage of an issue environment where short term forces seem to favor the GOP,” Shaw said.
In the House, Republican wins in the 2020 election will make it more difficult to pick up a large number of gains this year. They were able to pick up 12 seats, even as Joe Biden was elected president.
“The targets of opportunity the Republicans have in 2022 are fairly limited because Biden didn’t bring in a whole lot of Democrats on his coattails in 2020,” Shaw said.
But Republicans have a big advantage on kitchen table issues, according to Shaw’s polling and research. The parties break even on education and guns, while Democrats have the advantage on abortion. But Republicans are greatly favored by voters on just about all of the others.
That’s one reason why Republican members of Congress are still expressing optimism.
“Jan. 3, you got about an hour flight to get to D.C. I want you all there. I want you to see Nancy Pelosi hand me that gavel,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif, said in an address to the South Carolina Republican Party.
Democrats, however, just had a big week with Nancy Pelosi, Calif., as their speaker.
President Biden signed the Chips Act, which will invest in domestic semiconductor manufacturing, design and research so America won’t be so reliant on chips from overseas. The Pact Act also became law, greatly expanding health care for veterans who were exposed to toxins while deployed. Democrats’ signature legislation for this year, the Inflation Reduction Act, has also been approved in Congress.
They hope this gives them the momentum they need to either maintain their majorities or blunt Republican gains.