(WASHINGTON) — Officially four weeks out from Election Day, the 2022 midterm cycle is entering a final sprint as both parties wrestle for control of Congress.
Midterm elections have long been considered a referendum on the president’s party and voters now have their first nationwide chance to react to the first two years of President Joe Biden’s leadership.
The most recent ABC News polling, from September, shows Biden’s approval rating is underwater, with just 39% of Americans approving of his job performance while 53% disapprove.
But Democrats are looking to capitalize on a string of legislative victories this summer and a controversial Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade’s abortion rights, while Republicans look to blame the administration for high inflation and what they say is a problem dealing with crime.
Early voting is already underway in more than a dozen states, with several more to start early voting sometime this week.
What’s at stake
Biden’s legislative agenda and ability to confirm judges and other nominees hang in the balance as campaigns near the finish line.
The midterms could very well change the power balance of Congress, where Democrats enjoy a narrow majority in the House and a one-vote advantage in the evenly split Senate thanks to Vice President Kamala Harris’ role as tie-breaker.
All 435 seats in the House are up for grabs this November, and while House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has expressed optimism about retaining control of the chamber, the latest forecast from FiveThirtyEight shows Republicans are slightly favored to win the House.
In the Senate, there are 35 seats on the ballot this November. Republicans need to flip just one seat to take back the chamber, but FiveThirtyEight’s model shows Democrats currently slightly favored to hold onto their majority.
If Republicans take back either chamber, they can thwart much of Biden’s agenda for the last two years of his term — something Republican leaders on Capitol Hill have already vowed to do. Biden himself has warned of a “difficult two years” if the GOP regains congressional control.
According to FiveThirtyEight, Republicans have an 80% chance of holding between 209 and 242 seats in the House — where a dozen or so toss-up races could make the difference between a GOP and Democratic majority.
As for the Senate, FiveThirtyEight shows Democrats having about a two-in-three chance of holding onto control. The party’s odds for retaining power have increased since late July, when the model showed both Democrats and Republicans with about a 50-50 chance of winning majority control.
The four likeliest tipping-point states in this year’s midterms are Georgia, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, according to the FiveThirtyEight Senate forecast.
Georgia, which flipped blue for Biden in 2020, has been the center of the political universe this past week as controversy has plagued Republican nominee Herschel Walker in his race against Democratic incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock.
Senate debates highlight key issues for both parties
Meanwhile, debate season is in full-swing as candidates in battleground states take the stage to hammer out their differences.
Republicans are focusing their messaging on southern border security, the economy and crime while Democrats point to abortion rights and election denialism as major inflection points for voters this election cycle.
In Ohio’s Senate race, Democrat Tim Ryan and Republican J.D. Vance clashed at a debate on Monday night over abortion access — with Ryan saying he wants to codify Roe v. Wade while alleging Vance once called rape an “inconvenience.” Vance denied saying that and falsely claimed a 10-year-old girl from Indiana who sought an abortion would’ve “never been raped in the first place” if Ryan had done his job on crime and immigration.
Also looming large over some debates have been Biden and former President Donald Trump.
A handful of Democrats in tight races have distanced themselves from the Biden administration on certain issues, including Arizona Sen. Mark Kelly, who in a debate last week against Republican Blake Masters called the situation at the southern border a “mess,” and Ryan, who during Ohio’s Senate debate on Monday also distanced himself from Biden when it came to inflation and the border.
Meanwhile, North Carolina GOP Senate nominee Ted Budd embraced his relationship with the former president, touting himself as an “America-first candidate” in his Friday debate against Democrat Cheri Beasley. Vance, during Monday’s debate in Ohio, also declined to separate himself from Trump, who previously joked that Vance badly wanted his support.
More debates are scheduled this week in Georgia, Michigan and Wisconsin.
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