US midterms are often considered one of the surest trends in American politics and a good barometre to see which way the political pendulum is swinging. These elections are critical also because they can impact a sitting president and his policy. It becomes all the more important in 2022 because of a whole host of reasons.
Democrats, who currently control the US Congress, could lose their majority. That is one of the key anxieties — depending on which side you support — in these election.
Depending on the voter turnout and swing voters, Biden may well get a Republican-controlled Congress for the remainder of his first term. Most pollsters give the GOP one or both chambers of Congress, which will empower them to block Biden’s agenda.
Often enough the party that holds the White House tends to lose seats in midterm elections. Since the second world war, the president’s party has historically lost 29 House seats on average in each president’s first midterm election, per the Council on Foreign Relations. A notable exception was George W Bush who, following the Sep. 11 terrorist attacks, bucked the trend.
So where are we placed now? Presently, the Democrats’ majority in Congress is wafer-thin: The US Senate is a 50-50 split. The House currently has 221 Democrats, 212 Republicans and two vacancies.
For these elections, all 435 House seats and 35 of the 100 Senate seats are on the ballot. Additionally, 36 out of 50 states will elect governors.
Democrats have zeroed in on two major issues in these midterms — the national abortion protection and the rise of election-denying Republican candidates in some of the key races. Democrats also accuse Republicans of using coded racist language on crime.
Republicans, in the meantime, have focused on security, crime and inflation. GOP campaign has been all about areas where Democrats are the weakest — cost of gas and groceries, concerns about crime and border crossings. There is more to the electoral matrix: Donald Trump — who has both endorsed and campaigned for candidates he shares ideological bandwidth with — has hinted at running for White House again.
While President Biden continues to have low approval ratings, Republicans have decided to turn him into a “lame duck” president, in case they win the House or Senate in these elections.
With severe political divisions and a highly polarised society, America goes to these midterms at a crucial time. Equally important are the gubernatorial elections in 36 states.
Some top races include: Arizona (Democratic Katie Hobbs is running against Republican Kari Lake), Georgia (Stacey Abrams, a Democrat, vs Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican), Michigan (Gretchen Whitmer, Democratic, squares off with Republican challenger, Tudor Dixon), New York (Democratic Kathy Hochul vs Lee Zeldin from GOP) and Pennsylvania (Republican Doug Mastriano, a state senator, takes on Josh Shapiro, Democratic).
Here are most watched high-stake states and races in these midterms.
Pennsylvania is a high-stakes contest. A John Fetterman victory over the a celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz would be a real moral-booster for the Democrats. It would send a strong signal to the base that the party is capable of winning a state where President Biden’s approval is low. If Oz wins, the message that goes out is that GOP’s talking points on inflation and rising prices have hit home.
The GOP candidate Don Bacon is up against Tony Vargas. Republicans are sure of a win here because it is very tough to defeat a Republican strongman in the Great Plains.
Democratic Matt Cartwright faces Trump-endorsed Republican Jim Bognet in Pennsylvania. Parts of his district includes predominantly white, working-class areas. In 2020, Cartwright became one of few Democratic incumbents to win despite Trump prevailing over Biden here. That alone makes it a key race.
Ideologically-heavy candidates Attorney Jamie McLeod-Skinner (Democratic) and Lori Chavez-DeRemer (Republican) go face-to-face in this one.
This district has both conservative and liberal strongholds, so it will be an interesting race. If elected, McLeod-Skinner would be the first LGBT congresswoman from Oregon. Chavez-DeRemer would be one of the first Latina congresswoman if she comes out tops.
Abigail Spanberger (Democratic) faces a tough challenge from Yesli Vega in the Virginia toss up race. Interestingly, Wyoming Republican Rep. Liz Cheney has endorsed the Democratic congresswoman, saying Spanberger is ‘dedicated to serving this country’.
Her early victory in 2018 over a right-wing Republican congressman was an early signal of the Democratic wave that year. Can the GOP change the tide this Tuesday?