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An Overview of the 2022 US Midterm Elections

Yeshaya Gedzelman

There's an old and common saying, "pride goes before a fall", which is an apt description for the failure of the Republican party to anticipate the mood of the electorate in the 2022 midterm elections earlier this month. Republicans expected they would unleash a "red wave" in the midterms that would take back control of the house and senate. After all, Republicans had good reasons to feel optimistic: firstly, midterms are typically harmful for the incumbent President's party. The sitting President's party has lost seats in the House of Representatives 17 times and lost seats in the Senate 13 times, in the 19 midterm elections that have taken place after World War II. Additionally, President Biden's approval ratings were setting benchmarks for mediocrity. Unfortunately for the GOP, the anticipated "red wave" never materialized, as Republicans only managed to gain a slim majority in the House of Representatives, while Democrats managed to gain control of the Senate (including 3 independents that are closely aligned with the DNC). While progressive leaders felt vindicated by the results of the midterm elections, Republican leaders have engaged in soul searching, bemoaning their inability to take advantage of President Biden’s abysmal approval ratings and the historical trend for midterm elections. Republicans still managed to win 222 of the 435 races for the House of Representatives and 20 of the 35 Senate races, as well as 18 gubernatorial races, winning half of the 36 races for Governor. The results have been considered, almost indisputably, as a disaster for Republican hopes heading into election day and Republicans will have to re-configure their strategy as both parties prepare for the Presidential elections in 2024. 

To understand the results of the 2022 Midterm elections, one must be cognizant of the political system and landscape of the US. The US has midterms elections every 4 years, at the "midway" point of every presidential term, hence the name "midterm". Although Presidents are not on the ballot in the midterms, it is a widely accepted view that the outcome of the elections is affected by and considered an important reflection of the public approval of the job performance of the incumbent President. However, it's also important to expand on some other factors that also can influence the outcome of the midterms. For example, because members of the Senate are elected for six year terms, an average of about one-third of all senators, are up for re-election in the presidential or midterms elections. In addition, the entire house of representatives, and many (but not all) governors are selected in the midterm elections. Similar to the presidential elections, not all states have an equal likelihood to win. Some states consistently vote Democratic, for example, Washington, Illinois, California or New York. Other states consistently vote for Republican candidates, such as Oklahoma, Montana or Idaho. There are also the famous swing- states, such as Pennsylvania or Nevada, where both Republicans and Democrats have viable chances of being elected. This fact gives the outcome of the 2022 midterms additional context, because it shows that the likelihood of changing the balance of power in the Senate is partially dependent on which states have Senate and Gubernatorial races and how they typically vote. 

One important dynamic that's an encouraging sign for Republicans was the slim margin of victory for Kathy Hochul in her campaign to be re-elected as Governor for New York. Although her Republican opponent, Lee Zeldin, lost the race, he managed to garner 47.1% of the total vote count, which should be considered an impressive achievement, relative to the typical margin of victory for Republican candidates in New York. It would be a boon for the GOP, if they are able to continue and even improve on these results in New York, which could force the DNC to divert resources from battleground states. 

Aside from Zeldin’s strong campaign in New York and its implications for the GOP’s future efforts there, things looked far bleaker in states that are considered swing states and usually more conducive to Republican success. Republicans lost Senate races in Arizona, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Nevada and New Hampshire, although they did manage to win Senate races in other swing states, including Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, Wisconsin and Iowa. So, the midterms did produce some good news for conservatives. Perhaps the 2022 midterm elections have been viewed as a disaster for Republicans because they were extremely confident they would be able to capitalize on Biden's extreme unpopularity. Regardless, a Republican-controlled House will further increase President Biden’s difficulty in passing legislation through Congress and the likelihood of further deadlock in Congress and more Presidential executive actions from President Biden. Thus, the results of the November midterms produced concerning dynamics for both parties, but the biggest loser of the 2022 midterms was the American people that desperately needed bi-partisanship to pass legislation to deal with the many challenges facing the United States today. Unfortunately, the 2022 midterms only produced yet another example of the ongoing, deep political division that is plaguing our country.

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