After several Republican blunders, it looks as though the incoming red wave is a lot bluer than anticipated, but is this enough to change the tide?
Coming into the summer of 2022, Republicans’ odds of dominating the midterms were undeniable. Not only did they control the Supreme Court with a 6-3 majority, but had a lock on governorships, a decent lead in the Senate, and an appalling House polling average of 88%, according to FiveThirtyEight. Yet a string of legislative victories, court fumbles, and mediocre endorsements effectively flipped the tables, allowing Democrats to take back control. Not only did the expected Senate control return to blue, but the generic ballot also saw a boost of 3.5% for Democrats. Support was rallied for issues ranging from abortion to veteran care to the environment, and, in the coming weeks, it is unlikely that the movement will slow down.
But Democrats should not expect to gain any significant governmental power this November.
Although FiveThirtyEight predicts Democrats to win up to 56 seats in the Senate this year, reasonable estimates lower that prediction to 50 to 51 seats. Their chances in the House, although improving, still have Republicans holding 218-219 likely seats, with 30 up for grabs. And despite the generic poll lead, A+ and A- pollsters (ABC News and Trafalgar Group) predicted as recently as September 18th a range of 1 to 5 percentage points in favor of the GOP. These polls highlight the bias towards Democrats in races like the 2016 presidential elections, which presented Hillary Clinton as poised to win the presidency by a whopping 71.4%. The fact that states like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, and North Carolina had radically different outcomes than predicted demonstrated the fault in the way that we poll elections in the United States. The rise of distrust in the media and the government by conservatives has seemingly fueled many to ignore data collection surveys and polls, thus limiting their voice and strength in recent years. As reported by NPR, only 1 in every 3 Republicans believes that US elections are free and fair, with only 9% trusting the government after the election of Biden. And with polls such as Sabato’s Crystal ball indicating an even split between parties in the Senate with two toss-up seats in Georgia and Nevada, these biases could give Republicans the edge they need to win this November. This trend is exacerbated by the Supreme Court's efforts to stay gerrymandering cases until after the midterms, which have allowed for little to no oversight in states like Florida, Georgia, and Ohio. While the Supreme Court’s efforts have helped redistrict red states, blue states are also feeling the heat, being handed independently drawn maps that increase Republican and swing districts in New York and Maryland.
Georgia, a state that elected two of the most progressive senators, has Raphael Warnock, an incumbent fighting to fend off far-right challenger Hershel Walker, whose nonsensical speeches and tangents should have driven him out of the race. Even seemingly safer races like those of the Oregon governorship are being threatened with pundits like Geoffery Skelley and Jessica Taylor predicting it to be a toss-up—possibly giving Republicans their first win in 40 years for the seat.
With midterms now less than a month away, races previously thought safe for Democrats have begun to shift closer and closer even as Republicans face more and more controversy in their races. The Pennsylvania senate race is a clear example. There has been a devastating loss in the polls for Democrats as Fetterman’s lead drops from double digits to a 1-2% lead. To poll worse in a system that favors Democrats indicates a serious issue with the race. Despite Mehmet Oz’s clear carpetbagging, lack of political charisma, lack of knowledge in regard to Pennsylvania’s residents, referencing the faux store “Wegners,” and being labeled an elite, his controversies have still yet to break down his mediocre campaign.
Even with the victories Democrats have had, their luck is quickly running out as gas prices rise again with no signs of stopping as OPEC slashes their export supply to 2 million barrels less a day. This, coupled with inflation rising past 8%, could still hinder Democrats' road to success as many economically-driven voters and moderates weigh the benefit of what Republicans have branded as excessive government spending over that of major social change. They may have a chance, but Democrats need to start acting on their promises to voters in regard to following through on policy and electoral reform.
Hayk Kibarian is a freshman CLEG major in the School of Public Affairs. He is a Guest Contributor for the American Agora.