Early voting in the 2022 midterms to determine which party will control both houses of Congress in the second half of President Biden’s first term is over now, as a select number of U.S. Senate races have garnered immense national media attention in the campaign’s final week. All 435 U.S. House seats, 35 Senate seats and 36 state governorships are up for grabs on Election Day, Nov. 8.
Democrats currently hold a narrow majority in the federal legislature, while Republicans control 28 of 50 state executive offices. Traditionally, the president’s party loses congressional seats in a midterm election as opposition party voters are typically more motivated to turn out and independents swing in their favor. Republicans seem poised to make a comeback this year after losing control of the White House and Senate in 2020 due to a dramatic rise in inflation, perception of an increase in crime and an explosion of illegal immigration at the southern border during the Biden administration’s first two years.
While the Supreme Court’s decision in June to overturn legal abortion protections afforded by Roe v. Wade initially swung political momentum in the Democrats favor, Republicans have made a comeback in recent weeks as so-called “kitchen table” issues like increased consumer good prices and public safety fears are being hammered home by GOP candidates. Somewhat surprisingly, female voters not associated with either major party have shifted overwhelmingly to the Republican Party since September, as an October New York Times/Sienna College poll found women favor Republicans by a double-digit margin compared to 14 points for Democrats the month prior.
According to Gallup, the only issue which has changed significantly in order of importance for registered voters is “gun policy”, which ranked at the top of the list with “the economy” in June, but is now fourth behind “crime” — a bad sign for Democrats. The “defund the police” movement that emerged in 2020 following the murder of George Floyd has come back to bite liberal Democrats who called for cutting local law enforcement budgets. Subsequently, the national homicide rate increased 30 percent, year-over-year. In 2021, murders jumped by an additional 4.3 percent.
Possibly as a result of increased media scrutiny, a record 56 percent of American adults say criminal activity has increased locally since 2021, while 78 percent say there is more crime nationally. Indeed, the perception of increased physical danger is a key dynamic in the 2022 midterms, as Pew Research recently found 61 percent of registered voters consider “violent crime” as a “very important” factor in deciding who to cast a ballot for. Similarly, 77 percent of registered voters responded to a POLITICO/Morning Consult survey rating “violent crime” as a “major problem” in America, while 74 percent said “violent crime is increasing” nationwide.
It should be noted violent crime did not increase statistically between 2020 and 2021 according to the FBI, but the numbers do not include many major police jurisdictions such as New York and Los Angeles, which failed to report incidents of crime in 2021 to federal authorities. Complete data for 2022 has not been published yet with two months to go in the calendar year, but robberies and assaults increased between January and the end of June compared to the same time period last year in 70 large cities according to the Major Cities Chiefs Association.
Both issues, crime and abortion, have been seized by each party with over $81 million spent by Republican on law enforcement and crime-related television ads since September, compared to $59 million by Democrats. Democrats invested $103 million in abortion rights ads during the same time period — $415 million during the 2022 election cycle in total. GOP-aligned groups spent only $11 million on the issue.
Conversely, Republicans have vastly outspent Democrats on the top economic issue of inflation by a margin of more than five-to-one since September, $53 million to only $10 million. In this vain, liberal Democrats find themselves in a conundrum, as reporting shows the issue of reproductive rights following the Dobbs v. Jackson ruling resonates more in conservative states among younger women voters, where larger majorities are pro-life. Other issues like crime and education are having more influence on how ballots will be cast in “blue” states where voters tend to be more supportive of greater abortion access.
The latest ABC News/Washington Post poll published Sunday shows a whopping 77 percent of likely voters consider inflation to be an “important” issue in deciding who to vote for in their local congressional race, while 69 percent say the same about crime and 62 percent for abortion. Education came in behind the economy and inflation with 75 percent, followed by “threats to democracy” with 74 percent.
While the likelihood of Democrats retaining control of Congress has slipped away over the past month, it isn’t for a lack of trying by the White House or even Congress itself. In August, the Inflation Reduction Act was signed into law and subsequent executive actions have been taken to remind voters why Democrats were elected in 2018 and 2020. The White House has either finalized or proposed various student loan forgiveness plans, while trying to bring down gas prices through the release of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.
Such policy remedies seem to be a case of “too little, too late”, for Democrats however, as polling experts are almost unanimous in their prediction of a GOP victory on Election Day. According to POLTICO, only 28 House seats are considered “toss-ups”, while 198 are “solid” or “likely” Republican wins, compared to only 168 for Democrats. Election forecaster FiveThirtyEight predicts Republicans have an 83 percent chance of winning the House and a 54 percent chance of taking control in the Senate.
The magnitude of a GOP win in the 2022 midterms is still widely unknown, but a devastating outcome is more likely to garner a leadership change on the House side as its three current top leaders are all 80 years-of-age or older. According to reporting by NBC News, Reps. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., and Adam Schiff, D-Calif., are both expected to challenge Speaker Nancy Pelosi to lead congressional Democrats starting in January 2023.
More importantly, what will the GOP do with their new congressional majorities? Will the leadership of Kevin McCarthy and Mitch McConnell whip rank-and-file Republicans into a functioning majority or will Washington politics remain a sideshow for another two years? Given the extreme temperament and ideology of some Republican candidates in 2022, it will be a long-shot for enough newly elected congressmen to work with the current administration and solve issues that desperately need to be remedied ahead of 2024.
The following list is a summary of several key races that will likely tip the partisan scales of Congress, some of the most important issues candidates are focused on and a look at who has most proverbial “skin in the game” — how much money campaigns, donors and political advocacy groups are pouring into what is set to be the most expensive midterm election in American history.
Georgia: *Warnock vs. Walker
- Raphael Warnock, top fundraising candidate running in 2022 with $123.5 million in total campaign receipts — over $12 million from California-based individual donors, $6.7 million from Georgia, over $6 million from New York.
- Former NFL and University of Georgia running back Herschel Walker has only raised $37.7 million for his campaign.
- $139.6 million in total outside spending is second only to Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senate race; $276 million in projected television advertising.
- Walker receiving support on campaign trail from former President Trump and former Democratic Hawaii congresswoman turned independent, Tulsi Gabbard..
- Scandal-ridden race with accusations on both sides suggesting opponent is hypocritical — Walker paying for abortions of two women despite pro-life stance, Warnock evicting poverty-stricken tenants of church sponsored housing in Atlanta where he served as pastor.
- If neither candidate receives at least 50 percent of the total vote, race will go to a Dec. 6 run-off between top two vote-getters
- Race in statistical tie according to polling averages heading into Election Day.
Pennsylvania: Fetterman vs. Oz (open seat-R)
- Lt. Gov. John Fetterman facing off against celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz, the latter receiving vehement public support from Trump.
- Fetterman top five fundraiser with $57.2 million raised for campaign, majority in-state; non-candidate related funding (super PACs or non-profits funded by individual mega donors, unions, think tanks, advocacy groups) totals over $34 million, $83.9 million spent opposing candidacy.
- Dr. Mehmet Oz has raised $40.4 million ($902K from Florida vs. $882K from Pennsylvania), benefited from $14.6 million in outside spending; $88.5 million opposed.
- $201.1 million in total outside spending (most expensive in 2022); $261 million in television ads.
- Fetterman criticized for supporting criminal justice reform issues such as ending “stop-and-frisk” and cash bail, relationship with district attorneys funded by progressive billionaire George Soros.
- Debate on Tuesday, Oct. 25, highlighted Fetterman’s lack of mental acuity following a stroke suffered in May which apparently affected his communication skills, a post-stroke condition known as aphasia.
- Latest polls show race in statistical tie after Fetterman lead comfortably throughout summer.
Ohio: Ryan vs. Vance (open-R)
- Congressman Tim Ryan set an Ohio fundraising record, outraising lawyer, businessman and Marine J.D. Vance’s campaign by a nearly four-to-one ratio ($48.1 million vs. $12.7 million); spending by outside political advocacy groups favor Vance ($51.6 million vs. $25.1 million), including $32.4 million from Mitch McConnell’s Senate Leadership Fund.
- Ryan focused on blue collar jobs outsourced to China, attacking opponent for being supported with exuberant amounts of money from billionaire venture capitalist and PayPal founder, Peter Thiel; Vance concentrating on inflation issues, energy prices, tying Ryan to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
- Vance enjoys a mid double-digit lead according to latest polling averages.
Nevada: *Cortez Masto vs. Laxalt
- Catherine Cortez Masto, first Latina in U.S. Senate, challenged by former Nevada state Attorney General Adam Laxalt.
- Polls shows race in a near–dead heat despite Masto’s significant campaign fundraising edge, which ranks in the top five in 2022 with $54.5 million to Laxalt’s $15.7 million.
- Only competitive U.S. Senate race without a candidate debate.
- $121.5 million in outside spending is third most of any 2022 campaign; $239 million in television ads.
New Hampshire: *Hassan vs. Bolduc
- Former New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan’s campaign outspending retired Gen. Don Bolduc by more than 15-to-1 ratio.
- Bolduc, who served in the U.S. Army for 36 years, including 10 Afghanistan tours, has benefited from $3.2 million in advertising money from the pro-Democratic Senate Majority PAC during primaries to defeat more moderate candidate.
- Tulsi Gabbard actively campaigning for Bolduc, who has also received recent endorsement from Trump.
- Polls show race in statistical tie after Hassan lead by high single-digits in late September and early October.
Utah: McMullin vs. *Lee
- Former CIA officer and 2016 presidential candidate Evan McMullin running as an independent against Republican Mike Lee, who has an extensive law background and clerked for conservative Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito.
- McMullin has vowed to caucus with neither Republicans or Democrats if elected and holds conservative views on a number of issues, but is being supported by pro-Democratic donors and political advocacy groups, particularly in the tech industry.
- Polls now show Lee with comfortable 10 point lead in campaign’s closing two weeks following McMullin closing the gap to mid single-digits earlier in the fall.
Washington: *Murray vs. Smiley
- Five-term Democrat Patty Murray running against first-time political candidate Tiffany Smiley.
- Campaign fundraising surprisingly close ($18.7 million vs. $16.5 million, mostly from individual, in-state donors); moderate amount of outside spending ($19.3 million)
- Democrats focusing more on abortion rights in race with pro-choice super PAC Women Vote! spending $8.5 million to support Murray.
- Murray campaign now calling race “too close for comfort,” in appeal to donors with polls showing Smiley within striking distance at three to six points behind.
Arizona: *Kelly vs. Masters
- Mark Kelly second in 2022 fundraising ($81.8 million raised, spent $75.9 million; $8.8 million from California vs. $8.5 million in-state); benefited from $22.2 million in outside spending, $37.9 million in opposition to Masters.
- 36-year-old businessman Blake Masters has only raised $12.25 million, but is benefiting from an end of campaign $5.5 million splurge from conservative Club for Growth PAC after being left out by McConnell’s Senate Leadership Fund; $9.9 million in negative ads against Kelly financed by National Republican Senatorial Committee, led by Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla.
- Over $104 million in total outside spending (fourth most in 2022); $242 in television ads.
- Libertarian candidate Marc Victor dropped out in final week of campaign, throwing support to Masters, who says he’ll act as an independent in Senate like Kyrsten Sinema has for Democrats.
- Most polls show race in statistical tie heading into Election Day.
North Carolina: Beasley vs. Budd (open-R)
- Former North Carolina Supreme Court Justice Cheri Beasley being badly outspent in non-campaign related expenditures by Republican Congressman Ted Budd ($23.4 million vs. $70.6 million).
- Beasley campaign has raised $34.2 million compared to only $12.7 million for Budd.
- Heritage Foundation super PAC Sentinel Action Fund ran ads attacking Beasley for “soft on crime” record totaling nearly $1 million; Senate Leadership Fund, run by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, has spent $38 million supporting Budd.
- Senate Majority PAC led by Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has spent $11 million hammering Budd largely for anti-abortion position.
- Polls show Budd with a four to six point average lead after being nearly tied with Beasley in September.
Wisconsin: Barnes vs. *Johnson
- Businessman and two-term incumbent Ron Johnson in surprisingly close race with Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, a former community organizer in Milwaukee.
- $35 million vs. $32 million raised by campaigns in favor of Barnes.
- Over $103 million in total outside spending on race, overwhelming majority in favor of Johnson or against Barnes.
- $28.8 million in pro-Johnson and anti-Barnes ads have come from Wisconsin Truth PAC, funded by wealthy in-state billionaire business leaders slamming Barnes’ liberal economic proposals; $26 million from Senate Leadership Fund
- Polls show Johnson leading by approximately three points in final polls.
*incumbent (Democrats currently hold 50-50 majority in Senate with Vice President Harris casting tie-breaker votes)
New Jersey 7th: *Malinowski vs. Kean
- Traditionally Republican district in central New Jersey represented since 2019 by Democrat Tom Malinowski, a career diplomat and civil servant born in Poland.
- Tom Kean Jr., former state Senate minority leader and son of a former New Jersey governor, running for seat again after being defeated in 2020.
- Malinowski ranks in top House top 20 fundraising with $8.4 million, compared to to $4 million for Kean.
Alaska 1st (at-large): Peltola vs. Begich vs. Palin (open-R)
- Former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin running for Alaska’s lone House seat in four-way race against fellow Republican Nicholas Begich, a tech investor, Democrat Mary Peltola and Libertarian Chris Bye.
- Congresswoman Peltola won seat in September special election against Palin in ranked-choice voting system with a reallocated 51.5 percent of the vote after receiving just over 40 percent in the first round, with the top two GOP candidates splitting the remainder of the vote.
- Ranked choice voting will be used again in general election, which is predicted to be a toss-up.
Georgia 14th: Flowers vs. *Greene
- U.S. Army veteran Marcus Flowers running to unseat controversial conservative Marjorie Taylor Greene in northwest Georgia.
- Both rank as top 10 House fundraising candidates, $15.6 million vs. $12 million in favor of Flowers, who has received vast majority of indvidual donations from out-of-state.
Michigan 3rd: Scholten vs. Gibbs (open-R)
- Race in western Michigan district between Hillary Scholten, who ran unopposed in the 2022 primaries, and John Gibbs — a former Trump Housing and Urban Development official.
- Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spent $425,000 in ads supporting conservative Gibbs over moderate GOP incumbent Congressman Peter Meijer in August primary.
New Hampshire 2nd: *Kuster vs. Burns
- Five-term Congresswoman Annie Kuster running against Trump-aligned, conservative Republican activist Robert Burns.
- Burns benefited from $100,000 in advertising during September GOP primary from PAC associated with Democrats.
* incumbent (Democrats currently control House 220-212, 218 needed for majority)
Editor’s note: This article has been updated to reflect the latest polling averages and outside spending expenditures as of 11/8