Political forecasting is a complicated process, such that it can feel like even so-called experts are shooting darts into the pitch-black sky. Polls themselves are often more wrong than right. It’s about time we broke down the midterms, race by race and issue by issue.
Pennsylvania Senate Race
The contentious Pennsylvania Senate race features John Fetterman and Mehmet Oz. Fetterman is dominating Oz in Google searches despite not campaigning publicly while recovering from a stroke. Yet, after a month of TV ads sponsored by external Republican groups, Fetterman’s once extensive lead has shrunk considerably. The deciding vote may come down to Black voters, as 94% of African-Americans in Pennsylvania voted Democratic in 2020. Fetterman’s campaign has invested $3 million in outreach, including going to Black churches and constructing pathways to jobs.
Fetterman is being hit hard by accusations of being too soft on crime after his efforts as lieutenant governor to release two men falsely accused of murder. A recent poll found Fetterman to be ahead by a mere 3 percent from 13 percent a month ago. This race hinges on several factors that could very well go either way, but electing a doctor with questionable medical ethics and limited policy knowledge who does not even reside in the state he’s running for certainly does not seem wise.
Georgia Senate Race
The Georgia Senate race features the incumbent Raphael Warnock and Herschel Walker. This particular contest has been roiled with controversy on the side of Herschel Walker. Walker received Donald Trump’s endorsement in 2021. Later, he falsely claimed that he graduated from the University of Georgia and has been accused of domestic violence. To complicate matters, his son has publicly criticized him for being an absent parent, despite Walker touting the importance of being an active father. His skill for confabulation extends to claims of attending FBI training and being an honorary sheriff’s deputy.
The last straw is denying paying for his ex-girlfriend’s abortion, despite there being proof of a receipt from the abortion clinic as well as a check and get-well card signed by Walker. And still, he has the temerity to reject the claim despite the woman being the mother of one of his four children. In the face of this complicated mess, Warnock has displayed real restraint, instead focusing on kitchen table issues and highlighting his bipartisanship. Granted, this bipartisanship comes with risks. After racist remarks made by Tommy Tuberville, Warnock faced blowback over his partnership. In a highly polarized political environment, crossing the aisle can hurt candidates on both sides. This race is far from settled, though Warnock is currently leading by 3 points, but he is still 4 percent off from the majority. The debate on October 14th will have an impact on this close race.
Georgia Gubernatorial Race
In the Georgia Gubernatorial race, there are 5 candidates, the most prominent of which are Stacey Abrams and Brian Kemp. Despite Abrams coming within 1% of victory in 2018, current polls show Kemp leading by 8%. Though she has 83 percent of the Black vote in Georgia, the issue comes in motivating people to get out and vote. The combination of voter disillusionment and the difficulties of running against a popular incumbent are hitting her campaign hard. Abrams has done a great deal of work in grassroots voting campaigns through her organization, Fair Fight. Yet, Kemp’s advantages do not seem to be easily overcome. Georgia is a purple state, so most Democratic victories are very much on the edge. In the off-chance of Abrams’ victory, it will likely be in the runoffs.
New Hampshire Senate Race
Another toss-up race is the New Hampshire Senate race, between Democrat Maggie Hassan and Republican Don Bolduc. Hassan, the incumbent, is currently leading by 7 percent. Bolduc was endorsed by Donald Trump and claims that the 2020 election was stolen. Hassan is focusing on abortion rights as her primary campaign message, while Bolduc is focusing on the Democrats’ inability to control inflation. Hassan has an advantage of 3% among the older population, which is relevant since the economy is a major issue in New Hampshire. This race is likely to have a Democratic victory, but it’s difficult to know for sure with the close margins.
Nevada Senate Race
The Nevada Senate race features incumbent Catherine Cortez Masto and the Trump-endorsed Adam Laxalt. Despite a well-financed campaign and the support of the Democratic establishment, this race is virtually tied. If Cortez Masto loses, the Senate will lose the only female Latina representative, one of the largest voting blocs in the nation. To make matters worse, it would elevate yet another right-wing Republican: Laxalt is a full-throated Trump supporter who worked hard to discredit Biden’s 2020 electoral victory and continues to claim the election was rigged; he’s endorsed stronger restrictions on abortion; he’s previously attacked undocumented immigrants and Latinos in the state, and members of his own family have endorsed against him.
Laxalt winning the race could cost the Democrats their Senate majority and lead to the loss of House candidates as well. Time is running out for Senator Cortez Masto’s campaign incentive to lock down her supporters through an emphasis on her family history and her political credibility as a moderate. If younger voters and Latino voters don’t show up at the poll box, the race could very easily flip. Of course, Biden’s low approval rating and the public’s general dissatisfaction with America’s direction are also hurting her campaign, along with the weakening of Harry Reid’s political machine. This race is very much still up in the air, but it will be instrumental in our political future.
Currently, Democrats are predicted to lose the House and keep the Senate, which foreshadows grinding legislative gridlock and decreasing trust in the government. Some of this could be attributed to the presidential penalty: the political phenomenon of the president's party almost always losing the national U.S. House popular vote in midterm elections. Since Democrats have the majority in a 50-50 Senate, they’ll need to either keep or pick up new seats to maintain even that narrow margin. The states set to have the tightest races are Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, and Wisconsin, all of which have been rated as toss-ups. Others expected to be contentious include Pennsylvania, Colorado, and New Hampshire, which lean Democratic; and North Carolina, Ohio, and Florida, which lean Republican. 24 seats currently represented by Democrats are considered toss-ups, and 10 other Democrat-held seats are now considered lean or likely Republican. There are 37 battleground races in the House. So, if you can, get out and vote—because this election is on the edge.