In American politics these days, every election is the most important election of our lifetime, because the stakes continue to be raised on an increasing number of issues that impact the daily lives of Americans. While non-presidential elections get less fanfare in the media they are no less important. In fact, midterm elections have historically served as a check on the power of the Presidency and the party controlling Congress. This is a natural and necessary ebb and flow of power, designed to prevent any permanent majority from emerging.
As we have previously quipped on these pages, over the last 40 years of midterm elections, the party that controls the U.S. House of Representatives typically loses, on average, 26 seats. Today, Democrats hold a three-vote majority, 221-209, with five vacancies (218 seats needed for a majority). A 26-seat victory this November would handily give Republicans control of the House.
In the Senate, things are even closer with the current 50-50 split. This year, 35 Senate seats are up for election, with 15 Republican and 13 Democrat incumbents running, and seven open seats, six of which were held by Republicans. Fortunately for Republicans, even though they are defending more seats than Democrats and have to compete in open seats vacated by Republicans, some of which are in purple-ish states like North Carolina, they have the historical wind at their back.
Recent polling of the generic congressional ballot over the cycle shows a Real Clear Politics average of 45.8% support for Republicans compared to 42.3% for Democrats. One would expect the Republican congressional ballot poll average to be higher, especially with a President in office with an abysmal 51.7% unfavorable RCP average but even that small advantage translates to enough seats to take the House. Liberal pundits are seeming to sense something big is coming. MSNBC’s Chuck Todd referred to the upcoming midterm elections as being “bad or catastrophic” for Democrats. With inflation hitting 8.5% over the last year as of March 31st, and continuing to rise, who can blame Americans for not being on board with the Democratic agenda?
Two of the nation’s top political ratings forecasters, the Cook Political Report and the University of Virginia’s Crystal Ball, moved 8 and 11 competitive House races, respectively, all in favor of Republicans. Cook’s analysis summed up the mood most Americans are feeling today, stating “President Biden’s approval rating remains stuck at 42 percent, and if anything the political environment has deteriorated for Democrats since January as inflation concerns have soared and Build Back Better has stalled. That means no Democrat in a single-digit Biden (or Trump-won) district is secure, and even some seats Biden carried by double-digit margins in 2020 could come into play this fall, giving the GOP surprising ‘reach’ opportunities.”
Given all of these factors, political observers are now saying that the question is not if Republicans will take back Congress, but the question is by how much?
Bob Carlstrom is President of AMAC Action