It’s prediction time! My “official” predictions for the 2022 election are below. Some perfunctory notes, however. On a national scale, the midterm was always likely to to be against the Democrats since they are the Presidential party in power. In a neutral environment, the Democrats were likely to lose the House of Representatives and be endangered in the Senate with the only saving grace being that the GOP started with so many Senate seats already which limits their pick-up opportunities.
However, not all else is equal. After the disastrous Afghanistan pull-out, President Biden’s approval rating went permanently south (give or take a mild dead cat bounce or two). Unfortunately for the Democrats, this disapproval was not limited to the President, nor was it limited simply by association with the President, but by being in unified control of Congress and the Presidency at a time of the highest inflation in four decades, complete with soaring gas prices at the pump. There are other factors, as well, the Covid restrictions lasting well after the vaccines were available combined with Democratic Governors’ heavy handed tactics add to the Democrats problems. The Dobbs decision that reversed Roe v. Wade did have an impact, but that impact has faded (though there may be a small impact on the margins in many states) as most women who aren’t hyper-partisan abortion advocates have realized that nothing much has changed, which has shifted their focus back to inflation and the struggle of paying for groceries and gas. To wit: The political environment is bad for the Democrats. Nonetheless, your humble author will constrain that impulse to assign wins for all close or potentially close races to the Republicans
On a Federal level, it’s becoming accepted that the Republicans will pick up the House of Representatives. The question is by how much? They Democrats’ current majority is so slim, that even a couple dozen pick-ups would mean a commanding majority. With Republicans poised to pick up seats in Blue states like New York, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Oregon, your humble author is on the Bullish side of things and will place the under/over at 242 for the GOP and thus a pick-up of 30 seats in the House of Representatives.
The Senate is far more difficult terrain for the Republicans. A plethora of subpar candidates who may only be saved by the combination of national environment and in many cases bad Democratic candidate to go up against. In a more neutral environment with neutral candidates, a continued 50/50 split would seem likely. But we are not in a neutral environment, and the anti-Democratic sentiment in the House will likely be enough to give the Republican party a good night in the Senate. Your humble author predicts 54R-44D-2I in the Senate.
Ohio and North Carolina were never in any threat of being picked up by the Democrats. Though Vance was a less-than-stellar candidate, the combination of money, Gubernatorial coattails, and a favorable political environment meant that Ohio was always safe Republican.
Of the Republican held seats that could flip, the only one that was at serious Democratic pick-up opportunity was Pennsylvania. Dr. Oz was a poor choice and likely would be a complete goner as a celebrity carpetbagger from New Jersey… but his opponent just happens to be a stroke victim with very obvious cognitive problems. While this race is close, your humble author sees a narrow Oz victory.
Now come the GOP pick-up opportunities, which aren’t many due to all the proverbial low hanging fruit being taken in previous cycles for this Senate class. What ought to have been an easy pick-up opportunity in Georgia was complicated with a less than politically stellar football star, Herschel Walker, with a questionable past. However, the incumbent Democrat, Raphael Warnock, has his own questionable past. While things may not even out there, the national environment, Gov. Kemp’s likely election blow-out over United Earth’s President, and the fact that Walker is a beloved college football star will put him over the 50% mark to win outright, though well behind Kemp.
The next likely Republican pick-up is Nevada, which will be discussed below.
After that 51st or 52nd seat, it become more difficult for the Republicans. The four most likely Republican pick-ups are Arizona, New Hampshire, Colorado, and Washington. The Republicans will most likely win some but not all of those seats.
Predicted GOP pick-ups: Masters is a less than stellar candidate. However, Sen. Kelly is a non-entity and votes solidly with the liberal Democrats. In a neutral environment, that might have been all Kelly needed. However, with a popular TV anchor doing well for the Governor’s race and a strong GOP wind at his back, Masters will likely be pushed-pulled over the line. The race that your humble author is most unsure about is New Hampshire. It could honestly go either way and your humble auther believes this to be a true toss-up. Though this could very well go to the incumbant Sen. Hassan, the late surge by Bolduc in the polls combined with a complete lack of early voting, Gov. Sununu’s coattails, and that strong GOP wind at his back leads me to pick Bolduc over Sen. Hassan.
Predicted GOP close-but-no-cigar races: Both Colorado and Washington has a handful of oh-so-tempting close polls for the Republicans, and about as good of Republican candidates as you could hope for Colorado and Washington, respectively, O’Dea and Smiley. But they will likely both fall short, especially with the Blue tilt of both states and incumbent Senators who aren’t as unpopular many other Democratic politicians. However, if the Republican wave is truly a tsunami, then it isn’t out of the question that one or both might squeak by in victory.
On the Gubernatorial level, there will be less of a swing than on the Federal level, or within many if not most states.
GOP seats at risk: In large part this is due to popular Republican Governors in Massachusetts and Maryland not running for reelection, creating open seats for the Democrats to easily pick-up against weak Republicans nominees. A third vacancy in Arizona will likely be won by Lake, thus keeping it in the GOP column. The only endangered GOP incumbent in in Oklahoma, but the strong national environment could save him, and if in doubt, your humble author will defer to the GOP wind blowing.
Dem seats at risk: There are many seats where Democrats are threatened, but few the GOP will win outside of a red tsunami. Aside from Nevada, discussed below, the GOP has it’s best chances in Wisconsin and Kansas. Wisconsin is almost assuredly a pick-up, and Kansas will more likely than not go with the national environment sweeping the country. Beyond that, there are several tempting targets, but will likely be near-misses for the GOP: Oregon, Michigan, New Mexico, Maine, New York and Minnesota. Oregon is the most tempting prize for the GOP, with the Republicans being ahead in many polls and the possibility of winning the seat for the first time in forty years being very desirable. Close races in New Mexico and Michigan also make them potential possibilities if the election is as good nationwide for the GOP as some are predicting it will be. Of course, the biggest prize would be New York, where a near miss could nonetheless help flip a half-dozen or so House races. If Zeldin does win New York, it’ll be the race that everyone will be talking about… whenever New York gets around to finishing up it’s count. It’ll likely be small net gain for Republicans, but picking up potentially seven Governorships is not outside the realm of possibility if the red wave is a large enough tsunami.
Nevada used to be a fairly easy state to read, especially with its heavy early voting and recognizable patterns. But the election system has been upended with mail ballots automatically being sent out to voters. With only one Presidential election year with a comparable, though not exactly the same, election set-up, parallels drawn will be tenuous as new voting patterns may not yet be set in stone.
However, the comparison with 2020 should make Democrats worried. On the first day of in person early voting in 2020, the Democrats had a 3:1 lead in mail ballots; in 2022, it was only 2:1. Republicans did much better with early voting vis-à-vis the Democrats, than the Democrats did with mail ballots through the end of early voting vis-à-vis the Republicans. How much better? By the end of in person early voting, the Republicans and the Democrats has about the same number of early voters. In 2020, it was ca 39K. In Clark County, the Democrats had an over 80K voter lead while in 2022 it was lass than 30K. The Democrats padded their Clark County lead to ca 90K and ca 47K statewide with mail ballots which cam in between the end of early voting and Election Eve. Though the full comparable numbers for 2022 were not available at time of writing, the pre-election Weekend showed less than 10K additional Democratic votes in both the urban counties of Clark and Washoe, with the GOP heavy rural numbers not readily available.
Of note, the votes gained by the Democrats in late arriving mail ballots was canceled out by the in person votes by Republicans on election day. One of the biggest differences between 2020 and 2022 is that the 2020 election was being held with Covid restrictions in place while the only think limiting in person voting is a looming snow storm in Northern Nevada and rain in Southern Nevada. Weather might end up determining the winner of at least some statewide candidates!
The real question is if this is due to the wind at the GOP’s back, or a sign of deeper problems with the Nevada Democratic Party? Usually, the Harry Reid political machine builds up an early lead in early voting to the point where even with diminishing returns the Republicans just can’t turn out the numbers to overcome it. However, Harry Reid is dead and his machine may be less effective than it was while he was alive. Additionally, there is a fracture in the Democratic Party in Nevada with the state and many county parties taken over by the Democratic Socialists of America and the remnants of the Harry Reid machine opposing them.
So, where does that leave us? Assuming that turnout due to weather is comparable to pandemic condition voting, then the partisan vote is fairly split down the middle, with independents being the deciding factor, assuming both parties hold their base. If independents split, then all Democratic statewide candidates have a shot. Of course, this assumes that late arriving absentee ballots are better for the Democrats than they were in 2020 despite there being fewer days for the Registrars of the counties to receive them, or that Republicans don’t improve on their election day margins, and/or that independents don’t break for the Republicans. This is unlikely.
Statewide, Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo is predicted to pick up the Nevada Governorship. Adam Laxalt is predicted also win the Senate seat, though by a slightly lower margin. Of the other statewide partisan officers, Las Vegas City Councilman Stavros Anthony is predicted to pick up the Lt. Governorship. Down ticket, though, things get a bit more questionable. In 2014, many Republicans barely won statewide despite the GOP’s massive voter lead and then hyper-popular Governor Sandoval. It is possible that many of the down ballot statewide candidates will loose, especially since candidate quality for some of those races was very poor for the GOP. The Republican most likely to win statewide down ballot, and is predicted to win is Andy Matthews for Controller, in large part because he’s had unified support from a still fractious Republican Party. The Republican nominees for Treasurer, Secretary of State, and Attorney General will lose in anything but a truly epic red wave turned tsunami. The GOP’s treasurer nominee is the contentious and controversial Las Vegas City Councilwoman and Bundy Ranch supporter Michele Fiore, who is far from liked even within her own party; the GOP’s Secretary of State nominee supported “stolen election” claims; and the GOP’s Attorney General Nominee Sigal Chattah is primarily known as the “Jew who saved Christmas” but hasn’t really caught on as some had hoped in the polls.
Down ticket, there is limited information on Washoe County, where Reno is located, but has no likely swing legislative districts. Withe the rural counties being solidly Republican, we can look towards Clark County. Unfortunately for prognosticators, daily detailed early vote information is limited to in person early voting and not mail ballots. While it is only guesstimation, if we assume that mail ballots countywide will not be dissimilar from the known detailed in person voting, we can get at least a vague picture.
The Nevada legislature and the Clark County Commissioned were heavily gerrymandered to maximize Democratic control to the point where Donald Trump would have lost every single new Clark County Commission district and ⅔ of the state legislature (which would then provide the Democrats with a supermajority in both legislative chambers). The downside is that in a truly big GOP wave turned tsunami, they could loose it all. Let us focus on those legislative districts that Trump would have lost, but lost less than 10 or 11 points, which is the swing margin we saw for Virginia and New Jersey in 2021, as well as the three Clark County Commission districts up this year.
Based solely on early voting through the end of in person early voting, Democrats have more early votes in all those swing legislative districts. Curiously, the GOP is doing best and is at parity and potentially better already in at least one of the County Commission seats (District F). The Republicans haven’t elected a Republican to the County Commission since 2004, and didn’t even achieve that feat in 2014. Based solely on partisan voter lead as of close of early voting, Democrats have a good shot at keeping all Congressional Districts, and potentially pick up enough seats in the legislature for a ⅔ supermajority, though that advantage is small in one of the state Senate districts and a couple of Assembly districts which would be enough to stave off said supermajority.
This, however, assumes that independent split evenly between Democrats and Republicans. In some polls, Independents are siding with the Republicans by double digit margins, potentially even by 20% or more. If we assume a 20% advantage amongst independents for Republicans, all else equal, then the Republicans will pick up NV01 and NV03, and potentially winning NV04 if the rural counties punch above their weight. The GOP would also pick up two of the three Clark County Commission seats up for grabs. The GOP would net one seat in the state Senate, one short of a majority in the chamber. Similarly the GOP would gain seats and be one seat short of tying the Democrats in the state Assembly. Any advantage the Republicans have beyond that such as holding more of their base than the Democrats or increasing their relative turnout over the Democrats vis-à-vis compared to 2020 would mean a GOP sweep at the Federal and state level, and even pick-ups in currently Democrat-only Clark County partisan offices.
If we assume the Republicans only win 10% more of independent but Democrats lose 5% of their voters compared to the GOP, than the Republicans would do nearly as well with the 20% independent advantage, with perhaps a handful of marginal seats lost.
So, to put it in pixelated stone: Your humble author predicts the Republicans will win Clark County Commission Districts F and G, state Senate swing districts 8 and 12 (11-10 Dem majority), and the state Assembly swing districts 9, 21, 29, 35, 37, 41 (22-20 Dem Majority). A 11-10 GOP state Senate majority and a 22-20 GOP Assembly majority is, though not as likely, not impossible if, again, the GOP’s red was truly becomes a tsunami.
Dark Horse Picks
Here, I will present three picks for dark horse candidates/outcomes, where I don’t think they will win, but wouldn’t be totally shocked if they were to win.
- Republican Lanhee Chen will be the first Republican to with the California Controllers race since 1970 when Reagan was reelected Governor.
- Republicans will take at least one of the legislative chambers in Nevada.
- Lee Zeldin is elected Governor.
Republicans will do well this year nationally, but the question will be how well? The Republicans will pick up the House of Representatives and the Senate, and likely do well in Nevada with statewide and local wins though limited due to gerrymandering. It is more likely that the Republicans will, overall, do better than then they’d do worse, and they have the potential to do very, very well if the GOP’s red wave turns into a tsunmi.
tl;dr GOP wins big, but how big?