While Americans across the country can never wait for election day to be over, the political pundits all look forward to it for a different reason: the beginning of the next campaign cycle. Given the voting irregularities of the last cycle, public backlash, a second presidential impeachment, and Democrats ramrodding $6 trillion in spending, much has happened already that could affect the 2022 midterm elections. But we’re just getting started, and you can expect to see some more dysfunction and partisan finger-pointing in Washington in the weeks and months ahead. Here’s an early look at 2022.
History is typically the most reliable predictor of election outcomes, and the old adage that the President’s party loses seats in midterms seems to ring true historically. Since 1932, only twice has the President’s party gained seats in a midterm election – in 1934 and 2002. With Democrats clinging to a slim House majority, many talking heads at this point expect Republicans to win back the House, given the numbers and other factors such as Republicans’ control of 30 state legislatures post census.
The numbers game on the Senate side is currently tight, with a 50/50 Senate in place for Democrats to lose. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) may be feeling slightly better at the time being than his Republican counterpart; however, going into 2022 for two reasons. 1) Of the 34 Senate seats up in 2022, Democrats only have to defend 14 up compared to the 20 seats Republican hold (a tough map for Republicans to be sure); and 2) Five senior Republican Senators have announced their retirement, with more possible in the months ahead. Thus, a large number of open Senate seats give Democrats a greater possibility of holding or even adding to their majority. But the unpopularity of the policies Democrats are pushing could, as they did in 2010, come back to bite them at the ballot box.
Then there are issues that drive Americans to the polls, like the border crisis, the unsteady economy, rising inflation, massive spending and a ballooning deficit, a worker shortage, and tax increases, just to name a few. High-profile judicial decisions will also be in the mix, as just this month, the Supreme Court announced that it would take up cases regarding abortion and gun control. This will be the first time that the 6-3 presumably majority-conservative court will weigh in on those issues since Justice Amy Comey Barrett was confirmed in 2020. Although next year isn’t a Presidential election year like 2016, Republican success in the past has been pushed by the Republican base being acutely aware of the status and potential outcome of the Supreme Court. Expect the outcomes of these decisions to become campaign fodder next year.
Of course, anything can happen in the roughly 500 days between now and November 8, 2022. These past two years have certainly taught us to expect the unexpected. If the past is any guide though, Democrats are likely to overreach, overstep, and overspend, leading to a pushback during the 2022 midterm elections. That’s an early look at just some of the dynamics in play as November 2022 continues to come into focus.
Palmer Schoening is part of AMAC Action’s advocacy team in Washington, DC