The 2022 midterms have arrived, as voters across the nation decide who will set the agenda in Washington and in statehouses across the country for the next two years – and who will set the ground rules for 2024.
The House and Senate, where Democrats currently hold narrow majorities, are up for grabs. Republicans need net gains of just one seat to win the Senate and five seats to win the House.
The governor’s offices – and control of the election machinery – are also on the line in a slate of states that are poised to play crucial roles in the next presidential race.
Voters will render final judgments on the trends that have dominated the 2022 political environment. Among them: Is a Democratic backlash over the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade brewing? Can the GOP build on their 2020 gains among Latino voters and remake the battleground map in the process?
And will dissatisfaction with President Joe Biden and big-picture challenges like inflation dominate everything else, sweeping Republicans into power – or will voters reject some GOP candidates, delivering Democrats some surprising victories?
Here are seven things to watch in Tuesday’s midterm elections:
Who will control the House?
Of all the major storylines on Tuesday evening, this is one that few Democrats dispute: It is unlikely the party will control the legislative chamber come January.
Given Republicans only need a net gain of five seats to take the majority, the odds of the GOP taking back the House are high. The party is on offense in House race across the country, but most notably in districts Biden won handily just two years ago, including once seemingly solid blue districts in Rhode Island, New York and Oregon.
More on House races
“If you knew nothing else other than there would be generationally high inflation this cycle, you’d be able to predict that the party in power was going to have a tough election night,” said Tyler Law, a Democratic operative who worked as a spokesperson for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 2018. “That certainly doesn’t mean Democrats won’t exceed expectations. But we can’t ignore the macro trends that have shaped the cycle.”
The polling also backs up Republican confidence. In a CNN poll released this month, Republicans topped Democrats on a generic ballot question asking voters which party’s candidate they would support in their own House district by 51% to 47% among likely voters, narrowly outside the poll’s margin of sampling error. The generic ballot question is often a leading indicator of which party will have a better midterm night.
“Those chances would be zero,” Doug Heye, a longtime Republican strategist and former communications director for the Republican National Committee, said of the chances his party doesn’t control the House in January. “If Republicans only win seven seats, it would be a letdown, but they would still have the House.”
Who will control the Senate?
If control of the House feels like more of an unavoidable loss for Democrats, control of the currently evenly divided Senate offers a surprising bright spot for the party – aided by voters harboring unfavorable feelings about Republican candidates while also disapproving of Biden’s job performance.
More on key Senate races