While polls still play a useful role in reading the political environment, they should be taken for what they are; an imperfect tool that is still the public's best measure of electoral races. (ddp)

The Environment in the Final Week. We now are a week before election day. Particularly with over 20 million people having already voted at this point, it is increasingly unlikely that the election will be impacted by some sort of late-breaking surprise. According to national polls, the economy—specifically inflation—is the top issue on the minds of most voters. Crime is often cited as the second highest concern in many polls. Concerns about threats to democracy, immigration and access to abortion also are significant issues for some voters, but overall resonate less than inflation and crime. Though neither President Biden (approval rating of 43%) nor former President Trump (approval rating of 40%) are on the ballot, they both loom over races across the country. Republicans currently have momentum nationally and in most (but not all) of the competitive races.

  • We don’t see any evidence of this changing in the final days before election day.

Outcome in the House. Democrats currently hold a 220-212 majority in the House (there also are three vacant seats). Of the 435 seats up for re-election, only about 90 are considered competitive. Following redistricting, 188 seats are solidly Republican, while 161 seats are safely Democratic. Republicans have benefited from redistricting and President Biden’s low approval ratings. They also have an advantage on inflation and crime, the two issues most important to voters.

  • We project that Republicans will win a net of 25 seats, which would give them a majority of about 40 seats in the next Congress.

Outcome in the Senate. The Senate, which is currently split 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans, is more difficult to project. Of the 35 seats up for re-election in the upper chamber, only about ten are competitive. We think Republicans will hold on to seats in North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin, while Democrats likely will retain seats in Arizona, Colorado, New Hampshire and Washington. We project Republicans to flip a Nevada seat currently held by a Democrat. With that seat, Republicans would be able to get an outright majority if they also are able to win either Georgia or Pennsylvania (Democrats retain control in a 50-50 Senate because Vice President Kamala Harris once again would be a tiebreaker). GA is currently a Democratic seat, while PA is currently a Republican one. These two races likely will be the most important in determining which party will control the Senate. The races in both states seem likely to come down to the wire, with GA probably needing a run-off election in December. While it will be very close, the late momentum may give Republicans a slight advantage to win in PA and take the majority.

  • We think the most likely outcomes are either a 51-49 majority for Republicans or a 50-50 majority for Democrats depending on what happens in just a few states.

Will We Know Results on Election Day Night? A common question is what time will we know for certain which party will be in control in the House and Senate. Given that each state sets its own election rules and procedures by which votes are counted, there is no clear-cut answer. In particular, different states have different rules on the timing of accepting and then processing and counting mail-in ballots. That being said, we should have a sense of which party will be in control of the House by the end of the evening. However, the Senate may be different. Beyond the aforementioned time differences between states on accepting and counting mail-in ballots, there could be a run-off in GA. The Peach State requires a candidate to win 50% of the vote in order to be declared the winner. If no candidate receives 50%, the two highest vote getters would advance to a run-off election on December 6.

  • The bottom line is that there’s a good chance we won’t know which party controls the Senate by the time you turn off the TV on election day.

The 2024 Senate Map. Even though the 2022 mid-term elections have not concluded, both parties have already begun to study what will be a difficult Senate map for Democrats in 2024. Democrats will have to defend 23 seats, while Republicans only will have 10. To make matters even more challenging, seven of those seats that Democrats have to defend are in states that Trump won in either 2016 or 2020 (West Virginia, AZ, MI, MT, OH, PA, WI). Another is in NV, a state that has historically had highly contested Senate elections. Republicans meanwhile will not have to defend a seat in any state won by Clinton or Biden in 2016 and 2020 (FL likely would be their most difficult seat to defend).

  • Democrats’ performance in key Senate races this year will determine not only control of the Senate over the next two years, but also how well-positioned they will be to withstand what will be a tough 2024 electoral map.

Impact on the 2024 Presidential Election. Even with the 2022 elections not yet behind us, the 2024 presidential elections have already begun behind the scenes. On the Democratic side, President Biden has stated numerous times that he plans to run for re-election, although that has not stopped speculation to the contrary. While President Biden will face blame for Democrats’ expected losses this year in House and Senate elections, a good night for Democrats could strengthen his position to run in 2024. On the Republican side, former President Trump has also signaled a desire to run in 2024, though this year’s result will also affect his standing. If Republicans don’t flip the Senate due to losses by candidates hand-picked by Trump, the former president’s standing could slip in the party. If his candidates win (especially in GA, AZ, PA and OH), his hand will be strengthened.

  • We will address the likelihood of a Biden-Trump rematch in a future edition.

For the answers to many more questions, see the Special Washington Update: 2022 Mid-Term Elections, 1 November, 2022.

Washington Weekly Podcast: US Midterms - Final thoughts and projections

With the US midterm elections just days away, we focus our conversation on the final thoughts and outcome projections of the US Office of Public Policy. We also examine the closing arguments of candidates on the campaign trail and what the messaging has consisted of in recent days. Featured is Shane Lieberman, Federal Affairs Manager, UBS US Office of Public Policy. Host: Daniel Cassidy

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Expiration: 9/30/23

Approval date: 9/30/2022

Review Code: IS2205545