In early August, political portal Five Thirty-Eight updated its predictive model for the midterm elections. The newest version offers a significant change: for the first time, their statistics show the Democratic Party will likely keep control of the Senate after the November elections.
An uphill battle for the Democratic Party
The 2020 Presidential election was unprecedentedly contested but ultimately left the Democrats with a tenuous grasp of the Upper Chamber. In addition to 48 seats under the Party’s direct control, they could also count on two independents who largely caucus with their Party and Kamala Harris as an eventual tie-breaker.
At the start of the current term, the Party’s goal was to cement this lead and ensure a larger win within two years. Unfortunately, a series of political mishaps and unfavorable circumstances saw the Democrats lose ground in the polls. Meanwhile, the GOP’s 50 seats appeared to consolidate.
A highly-expected “red wave.”
At the start of the year, most polls predicted the November elections would strongly favor the Republican Party. During the first two years of the Biden Administration, economic figures were not positive, and the President’s team could not deliver on some of his initial promises.
The result? Dissatisfied voters, especially among independents and traditionally “hardcore liberal” groups. In early June, FiveThirtyEight agreed with most of its peers and predicted the Republicans had a 60% chance of winning back the Senate.
Uncertainty, underperformance, and fear
The tide began to turn towards the end of June. The GOP has continued to walk with optimism and can still count on significant House victories. However, FiveThirtyEight warned that some “weak candidate choices” have chipped away at their certainty of winning the Senate.
Then came the Supreme Court’s decision on Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which effectively overturned Roe vs. Wade. As many GOP-controlled states began implementing or planning abortion bans, women’s rights activists began to mobilize. For many voters of reproductive age, the possibility of strict abortion restrictions felt like a personal and immediate threat.
Where Does This Result Come From?
So what would it take for Five Thirty-Eight’s current scenario to play out? In reality, it is just a difference of two to four seats which are still heavily contested.
The 2022 midterm will determine the future of 35 Senate seats out of 100. Of these, 21 are currently under Republican control, while 14 are held by Democrats or Democrat-aligned independents. To keep their majority, the Democrats simply need to hold onto what they already have.
About the Five-Thirty Eight Model
Unlike traditional voter-preference polls, the Five-Thirty Eight forecast model is a computerized simulation that adds up the latest poll results from various sources and examines their current trends (for example, who is going up or down in popularity, or which seats appear safe).
Then, it uses this data to simulate the election 40,000 times and examines who wins the Senate most often. According to the model’s creators, the latest simulation exercise showed the Democrats winning between 48 and 54 seats approximately 80% of the time.
The battleground states to watch closely
The most contested states are all deeply-established “toss-up states:” Nevada, New Hampshire, Arizona, and Georgia. Out of these three, Georgia perhaps carries the largest emotional load for the Republican Party: their January 2021 defeat in this State is what initially gave Democrats the majority.
All these states are still up for grabs, and polls generally indicate they are too close to declare a winner yet. However, the Democratic candidates are currently gaining support in New Hampshire and Arizona.
Finally, FiveThirtyEight‘s calculations also show Pennsylvania is likely to shift: although it is currently under Republican control, the seat will “likely” go to Democratic candidate John Fetterman.
Next month, many seats will likely be decided by razor-thin majorities. For activists, this means two things: first, that now is the time to drum up every ounce of support they can; second, excessive confidence is often the path to a treacherous defeat.
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