From dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and its related aftershocks including issues with crime and education, to managing an influx of federal dollars to the states, the nation’s governors have faced significant challenges in the last four years. Now voters have the opportunity to either continue the course or change course when they cast their ballots in this year’s midterms. Here is your look at the gubernatorial races for 2022, based on my personal predictions:
Likely Democratic (MN, NY, PA)
A really good night for Republicans would involve keeping these three Governor’s races close, Minnesota has been a state that Republicans have coveted for years, but incumbent Democratic Governor Tim Walz has run a stable administration and Dr. Scott Jensen, the Republican nominee, hails from the MAGA wing of the party. While Republicans have a credible chance at winning some downballot races in Minnesota, including Attorney General, Governor Walz has benefited like many other incumbents from the federal government backstopping state finances and is in a credible position for re-election.
In New York, former Congresswoman Kathy Hochul took over as Governor after the scandal plagued Andrew Cuomo stepped down, and as his Lieutenant Governor, she was next in line. That is to say, the voters of New York statewide now have a choice of whether to elect Hochul in her own right, or take a turn to the right and go with Republican Congressman Lee Zeldin, who has run (by Republican standards) an inspiring, energetic campaign focused on the crime issue, the same issue that got Eric Adams elected Mayor of New York. Hochul felt secure based on early polling, a strong primary victory, and the Roe v. Wade ruling upsetting voters in heavily pro-choice New York, but Zeldin kept on trucking and got to the point that Democrats were forced to react and push money into Hochul’s campaign to prevent defeat. Hochul’s polling numbers and standing has stabilized since then, but only after she changed tone and called in reinforcements to shore up her position. New York is such a blue state that only a disastrous night for Democrats would give Zeldin a win, but his overperformance is a warning sign for the Democratic party with some of its key voting blocs.
In Pennsylvania, Doug Mastriano, the Republican nominee backed by Trump and hailing from the far right of the party, has run out of money and badly trails Democrat Josh Shapiro, the State Attorney General, in a competitive swing state where Republicans should be competitive. Shapiro’s credibility on the crime issue, and well-funded disciplined campaign helped insulate him, while Mastriano’s embrace of Qanon, Antisemitism, and general nuttery has left him praying for victory, with only his hardcore supporters truly holding out hope for victory. The RGA did not want to help Mastriano, and he never gave them a reason to, which gave Shapiro a big advantage on the airwaves. Shapiro will immediately be positioned as a future contender for President for Democrats, if he’s able to secure the expected victory in what may be a bad night for the party overall.
Likely Republican (AK, GA)
In Alaska, ranked choice voting outcomes give Independent Bill Walker, the former Governor, a slim path to victory against the incumbent Republican Mike Dunleavy. It’s a complicated race, but Dunleavy is a strong favorite.
In Georgia, the 2018 rematch of (now Governor) Republican Brian Kemp and Democrat Stacey Abrams was much anticipated but ultimately has fizzled, with Abrams holding out slim hopes for a runoff. Kemp and his allies endured months of attacks from Donald Trump and his allies after facing years of blistering criticism from Democrats related to voting issues in the state. But Kemp’s refusal to throw his lot in with the Trump “stolen election” narrative, and voter perceptions of his skillful management of the state’s economy, suspending the state Gas Tax, and the COVID-19 reopening issue helped him maintain strong, and ultimately rising approval ratings, while Abrams was never able to find a compelling narrative or message that connected with the voters of Georgia.
Kemp focused on building relationships in the state, including outside of the traditional Republican coalition with non-white voters, and he has more suburban support than he received in 2018 where he narrowly defeated Abrams, thanks to (at the time) record numbers for a Republican in rural Georgia. Kemp was also boosted by his ability to dole out federal stimulus funds to key communities and constituencies. Both candidates raised a record sum of money, but in a state that went blue in 2020, Kemp has engineered a GOP comeback narrative around the economy, crime, and local issues, that has expected to surpass the 52.7% of the vote that previous Republican Governor Nathan Deal was re-elected with in 2014.
Lean Democratic (ME, MI, NM)
Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico was briefly talked about as a potential Vice Presidential pick for Joe Biden, that didn’t pan out, but she’s now seeking a second term and remains the favorite in a blue state for re-election, despite a sexual harassment scandal. Republican Mark Ronchetti, who was a local TV forecaster, was discussed as a potential dark horse victor. But his campaign and the funding needed to make the race competitive never quite took off, leaving MLG the favorite, although the margin is worth watching.
In Michigan, Republicans had high hopes of defeating Democratic incumbent Gretchen Whitmer, but they struggled to field a quality nominee, and Republican Tudor Dixon has been scrambling to play catch up against Whitmer’s well-funded disciplined campaign. In a state narrowly won by Biden in 2020, this race still has upset potential, Whitmer’s COVID-19 management policies and handling of public schools are also a question mark, but Dixon’s late surge appears to be too little too late, consolidating the GOP vote will cut the margin, but she would need to improve among independent voters to win. The reality for Michigan Republicans and Georgia Democrats alike is that beating an incumbent Governor is hard.
In Maine, Democratic incumbent Janet Mills should in theory be facing a difficult race, but former Republican Governor Paul LePage is one of the most well-known and divisive political figures in the state. Famously announcing he was moving to Florida after a previous defeat, LePage has come back, but has failed to capture the enthusiasm of his previous campaigns. In a state full of independents, Mills has the advantage.
Toss-ups and Tilts (AZ, KS, NV, OK, OR, WI)
Democratic Governor Steve Sisolak of Nevada is taking the brunt of voter anger around his handling of COVID-19 and issues with the state’s economy and gas prices. The Republicans nominated Sheriff Joe Lombardo, who was in many ways the ideal candidate for the political environment of this cycle. Sisolak likely has many regrets about decisions that were made, but the reality is numbers in Nevada don’t look great for Democrats already, and Lombardo is running stronger than his Senate counterpart Adam Laxalt. This gives him a strong advantage heading into Tuesday, even though with late mail ballots Sisolak will be holding out hope.
In Oklahoma, Republican Governor Kevin Stitt shouldn’t be a topic of discussion. One of the most conservative states in America, a state where “Let’s Go Brandon” is widely popular, Stitt is facing a tough re-election campaign against former Republican turned Democrat Joy Hofmeister. This race was not on the radar for most until a series of polls showed it close. Stitt has every advantage by default, but he’s gone out of his way to alienate the State’s large Native American community, causing the tribes, a major employer and social influencer, to endorse Hofmeister. He has also upset residents dealing with issues like natural disasters and school closures because the state lacks enough teachers. In short, Kevin Stitt is following in the illustrious path of Sam Brownback, Matt Bevin, David Vitter, and other Republicans who managed to become widely unpopular in states that favor their party. If Trump was in the White House, Stitt could lose, with Stitt’s allies focus on Biden, it’s possible they still pull it out, but Hofmeister’s campaign needs to be taken seriously. This was a credible challenge that emerged without any national input and support, and her ability to focus on local issues is a way forward for Democrats in middle America.
Oregon is the inverse of Oklahoma for Republicans. Term-limited Democrat Kate Brown is leaving office, and Democrat Tina Kotek was widely expected to follow Brown into office in a blue Pacific coast state. However, issues including homelessness, rising crime, drug addiction, high gas prices, COVID-19 restrictions, and opposition to the influence Multnomah County (Portland) has on the rest of the state have put Kotek in peril. First it was independent and former Democrat Betsy Johnson mounting a credible challenge backed by money from the Nike founder and other major industry groups. Now those groups have largely coalesced behind the Republican nominee Christine Drazan, who is hoping to follow Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin’s footsteps into office in a state that Biden won. After reviewing the data, the RGA decided to invest in Drazan/ Republicans have a low ceiling in Oregon but a credible floor, and Drazan has been working to consolidate the traditional GOP vote in places like Eastern Oregon. Johnson’s support has collapsed, and while Kotek is getting some of the “come home” effect as well over fears of a Republican takeover of the state, she was clearly under enough pressure that she had to move to criticize Governor Brown and Portland officials over their mismanagement of the state. In a state with all mail voting, the results may take some time to be settled, but for now Drazan looks like a narrow favorite, as even Kotek’s internals are not impressive. Kotek is going to underperform the Democratic line the question is by how much.
In Wisconsin, the mild mannered Democratic incumbent Tony Evers has been extremely limited in his ability to governor by the State’s Republican legislature, Evers was perceived as a favorite early on though, but Republican businessman Tim Michaels has emerged as a strong challenger, doing better than many expected in one of the traditional swing states. Given Democratic margins in Wisconsin are narrow as is, Evers and Democratic support eroding in rural Wisconsin and Michael’s ability to appeal to the WOW counties better than Donald Trump did gives him a small advantage. The Wisconsin GOP turnout machine also appears to be better than what Democrats bring to the table. Even the Roe v. Wade issue did not boost Evers at this late stage.
Kansas Governor Laura Kelly looks to be slightly luckier than Evers, Kelly has governed a Republican majority state with moderation and is hoping to recapture the coalition that put her into office in the first place four years ago. Kansas voters recently rejected a ban on abortion by a surprising margin and the state’s voters appear poised to continue that moderate and balanced governing approach by pairing Kelly with a Republican legislature. Republican Derek Schmidt is hoping dissatisfaction with the Democratic party brand and President Biden can get him the win, but his camp has not put much out that indicates they have confidence in victory.
Other Notables (FL, MD, NH, OH, TX, SC)
Incumbents winning is the order of the day in gubernatorial races that never truly became competitive. Republicans Mike DeWine (Ohio), Henry McMaster (South Carolina), Chris Sununu (New Hampshire), Greg Abbott (Texas), and of course most famously Ron Desantis (Florida) are all cruising to re-election. Their Democratic opposition has in some cases run credible campaigns – for example Beto O’Rourke’s efforts in Texas this year are completely legitimate – but the political leanings and strong voter approval for incumbents in these states has put them out of reach.
Democrat Charlie Crist put his hand up once again in Florida but will face a third consecutive statewide defeat, as Democratic infrastructure and voter sentiment was simply not there for him to truly challenge Desantis and his “free state of Florida” messaging. Democrats will easily retake the Maryland Governor’s race, with Republican Larry Hogan making way for Trump backer Dan Cox in a blue state, Democrats will be picking up Massachusetts’s Governor for the same reason with Maura Healey set to replace Charlie Baker.
This year’s midterm elections are an opportunity for American voters to express their sentiment about the “post-Trump” era of politics for the first time – and for the first time since 2014, it’s Democrats that are on the defensive after they had the momentum in recent elections, including securing a trifecta of control of the federal government after the January 2021 Georgia Senate runoffs. Senate control has been precarious at times for the blue team, with centrist Senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona clashing with Democratic Senate leadership and the more mainstream and progressive wings of the party about major legislative priorities. With the long-term demographic trends of the Senate, including the 2024 Senate class clearly having a built in Republican advantage, this midterm is a “must-win” for Democrats in the Senate.
With President Joe Biden’s approval ratings lingering below par, and specifically below his 2020 vote performance, Republicans have seized on the opportunity to take Senate control and protect their incumbents, in a year that features offensive and defensive targets being contested by both parties. Democrats are hoping that poor Republican candidate quality, the lingering effects of “Trump/MAGA extremism” including election denialism, and specifically the Supreme Court’s repeal of Roe v. Wade, putting abortion rights in peril around the country, give them a fighting chance to retain Senate control.
Republicans are running a more traditional midterm offensive as the out party, focused on voter perceptions of a weak economy, record inflation, rising crime, the lingering effects of COVID-19 restrictions and the shutdown of schools. Additionally, they are targeting perceptions that the Democratic party is out of touch and out of the mainstream with the average American.. With record amounts of money pouring into Senate races around the country from candidates themselves and PACs controlled by Republican and Democratic leadership, there is little doubt that voters in key states know they have a critical choice to make in this year’s election. Here is a look at all the key races.
Likely Democratic (CO, WA)
If the early signs on the east coast are a big Republican wave year, Democratic Senators Michael Bennett and Patty Murray will be feeling stress about what is coming. Both are low-profile mainstream Democrats who have done little to draw attention to themselves in recent years. Their Republican opponents, Joe O’Dea in Colorado, and Tiffany Smiley in Washington, are not particularly well-known either, and though both parties have put some money in these races, especially with Republicans going on the offensive in Washington, ultimately voting preferences in both appear to fall along party lines. Colorado and Washington are states Republicans no doubt want to win, but the growth in the urban and suburban parts of Denver and Seattle have nullified any Republican gains made in the rural parts of these states. If Murray or Bennett lose or it’s even close, the biggest person to blame would be Joe Biden, as both Senators have been otherwise unremarkable.
Likely Republican (NC, OH, WI)
Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson and Ohio’s Republican nominee J.D. Vance (who emerged from a bruising primary) are two of the Republican candidates that Democrats hate the most. Johnson’s embrace of conspiracy theories and support for entitlement cuts, and Vance’s mix of MAGA extremism and laziness on the campaign trail have made them top targets for Democrats. However the late trend shows them both favored to prevail.
In Wisconsin, the problem for Democrats is their own nominee. Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes, faced a negative advertising barrage for weeks that he failed to effectively counter related to crime, inflation, and his own history of overtly left-wing statements and commentary, including a flirtation with “defunding the police”, praise for Iran’s Ayatollah, and appearances on Russian state media. Johnson is hardly a beloved Senator, but in a state that Biden narrowly won, in a midterm that is a “check” on the President, the experienced campaigner has worked hard to solidify his margins in the Republican base WOW counties between deep blue Milwaukee and Madison, as well as to perform better in the more rural parts of the state including western Wisconsin and the Northwoods where Democrats used to be able to put up respectable numbers. Barnes will hold out hope for supercharged Democratic turnout to give him a path to victory, but realistically, Johnson has once again pulled a Houdini act and secured himself another term despite low approval ratings.
In Ohio, Democrat Tim Ryan’s biggest problem is that he’s a Democrat. He’s run an ideal campaign, making an effort to localize the case against Vance and focusing on the economy and pocketbook issues. The rust belt Congressman from Youngstown knows Ohio well and has worked hard to try to engage the same working class coalition that sent Sherrod Brown to the Senate even while the State increasingly embraced the politics of Donald Trump and other Republicans. Ohio Democratic infrastructure is lacking though, and a big win for Governor Mike DeWine is going to help boost Vance. Vance has done little to deserve becoming a Senator, but with Biden in office, and Ryan carrying the voting record of a mainstream House Democrat, the hill looks too high to climb.
In North Carolina, by all accounts, Democrat Cheri Beasley has run a credible campaign against Republican Congressman Ted Budd. North Carolina early voting numbers look respectable for Democrats as well, but in a state that Trump won it’s hard to overcome the fact a majority of voters prefer Republicans and are unhappy with Joe Biden. Beasley deserves credit for keeping this race in frame, but the unremarkable Budd has not faced any personal scandals or significant knocks on his credibility that reduce him from the odds on favorite.
Leans Democratic (NH)
In a state with no early voting, Democratic Senator Maggie Hassan will be hoping that Republicans don’t surge on Tuesday and give the Republican nominee, General Don Bolduc, enough votes to win. Republicans are heading for an easy win in the Governor’s race, but Bolduc was lesser known, underfunded, and on the far right of the party. Hassan has cultivated a moderate image in a small state where retail politics matters and is going to secure the votes of some voters who disapprove of Biden, along with having near uniform support among the Democratic base. New Hampshire is also a state where being pro-choice is an advantage, and Republicans did not consistently spend in this race to boost Bolduc, a nominee they really did not want. I don’t think the margin will be significant, but I do have Hassan leading at the end of the night.
Toss-ups and Tilts (AZ, GA, NV, PA)
These four races will decide control of the US Senate, Democrats should still be slight favorites in Arizona. In Georgia, a runoff if neither candidate secures 50% complicates things, while in Pennsylvania and Nevada the Republican position has been inching up for weeks and Republicans are banking on winning those two states to secure a majority. With Vice President Harris serving as a tiebreaking vote, Republicans need 51 Senate seats for control. If all things hold, winning Nevada and Pennsylvania would be enough.
In Nevada, Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto has been at risk for over a year, in a state that has been slightly Democratic but competitive for years (and to some degree shifting right). Cortez Masto lacked signature achievements and was never known for her retail political skills. Facing off with Republican Adam Laxalt, the former State Attorney General and the member of a political dynasty, Cortez Masto was always going to have a tough race. Nevada shifted to large scale vote by mail recently, and tracking returns indicate that while the registered Democrats have a small lead, it’s lower than 2020, where Biden defeated Trump by ~34,000 votes. Polling data indicates that independent voters and even some registered Democrats are willing to consider Laxalt.
With the margins tight, Democrats were counting on organized labor (specifically the powerful Culinary Union) to carry them to victory, but the economic and societal fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic and related shutdowns that lead to a rise in unemployment, and academic and workplace disruptions in Nevada, perhaps more than any other state, have led to voters souring on the Democratic brand. Republican efforts to engage non-white voters face a key test in Nevada as well, and Cortez Masto was slower than expected to engage the state’s Hispanic population. Polling in Nevada has historically understated Democrats, but if that doesn’t happen, it’s pretty clear that the Democratic “firewall” in Clark County (Las Vegas), and the slight ballot return edge in Washoe County are not enough to inspire confidence ahead of Tuesday’s election day voting. Laxalt has an edge.
Next door in Arizona, Democratic Senator Mark Kelly has always faced a tight margin for re-election but was the favorite over the summer against Republican nominee Blake Masters. Masters has never held elected office and is a close friend of Republican venture capitalist Peter Thiel. His non-traditional background coming out of the Ron Paul movement was a bit of a strange fit for a state full of retirees and famous for its moderation. Despite that, President Biden is not popular in Arizona anymore, a state he won, and any reversion back to the State’s historic GOP lean would give Masters an edge. With Republican Gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake running ahead of her Democratic opponent, Lake has taken it upon herself to uplift Masters and try to get him over the finish line. The Libertarian party nominee also dropped out and endorsed Masters. Masters has the momentum and benefited from taking a pivot towards the pro-choice direction, but he was triaged in prior weeks by outside Republican spending, and Kelly is holding onto a brittle lead in a state with significant early voting/vote by mail. Kelly is a small favorite to advance but a Republican win wouldn’t surprise me at this point.
In Pennsylvania, Republican Nominee Mehmet Oz a surgeon and TV host, made famous under the title Dr. Oz, has been dragged down by poor favorability ratings after a tough primary and the fact he’s carpetbagging from New Jersey, while Democratic nominee John Fetterman, the Lieutenant Governor, had the course of his life and his campaign change forever after he had a stroke just days before the primary. We’ll never know what a fully healthy Fetterman campaign would have looked like, but when it comes to digital engagement and rust belt appeal it’s hard to argue the former steel town Mayor Fetterman hasn’t run a good campaign. Republicans knew Oz was trailing for some time, but then they discovered Fetterman’s kryptonite: his passion for criminal justice reform and leniency at a time when voters concerns about crime, especially violent crime, have reached highs not seen since the 1990’s. Oz finally found an issue to make a mark, and Fetterman’s stroke inhibited his ability to communicate with the voters in a race where the margins are tight and Biden’s approval lags in a state he won narrowly against Trump. You can make a case for either candidate’s victory, and election day turnout will be critical, but it looks like Republicans have engineered a comeback for Dr. Oz and the daytime host is about to become a Senator.
In Georgia, only the campaign of Republican nominee Herschel Walker, the former football star at the state’s flagship university, would be thinking they have a clear path to a majority on election day. Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock is facing another election less than two years after he won a special election in a runoff that was marred by President Trump’s election denialism in full focus. Warnock, and his Democratic colleague Jon Ossoff did what Joe Biden could not, winning a majority of the state’s votes (Biden won Georgia, but not with 50%+ of the vote). The campaign of Republican Governor Brian Kemp, who Trump spent months attacking, makes it rather clear that Republicans have the clearest path to victory in the state, but Walker has faced baggage from being a serial liar and an outspoken friend of Trump. Warnock has also done an excellent job moderating his image and trying to engage voters across the state, rather than the just the Metro Atlanta area where the population has grown in a way that made a Democratic victory possible in Georgia.
Polling is highly variable in this race, but early voting numbers are respectable for Warnock. What boosts Walker is Biden’s poor approvals and GOP gains with non-white voters a relevant factor in Georgia, not to mention, many Biden/Warnock/Ossoff voters in Georgia were previously Mitt Romney, Brian Kemp, and Nathan Deal voters, and even a slight change in their voting pattern makes Georgia red again. Kemp’s ground game will be a significant boost to Walker, as Republican voters in critical counties like Forsyth, Cherokee, and Oconee County have turned out in high numbers, while some parts of the Democratic coalition in places like Albany and Athens are lagging.
Warnock will be aiming to force a runoff and hope that Senate control is not on the line when that runoff takes place, head-to-head against Walker, an unqualified candidate despite his folksy southern charm and athletic achievements, Warnock has a fighting chance, if he’s weighed down by Biden and voters casting their ballots based on which party will control the Senate, Walker regains an advantage. Georgia is either headed to a runoff or Tilt R depending on how lucky you feel.
Other Notables (AK, FL, IA, MO, UT)
Briefly touching on states that are not competitive but did have notable races this year. In Alaska, Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski has fended off a Trump-inspired challenge from her right from Kelly Tshibaka, both candidates will caucus with Mitch McConnell’s Republican Party but Murkowski has once again “beaten the odds” to channel her broad appeal in America’s last frontier, especially with the state’s native population, to gain an advantage in an expensive and high profile race. With ranked-choice-voting in effect, Democrats have coalesced behind Murkowski, with independents and enough Republicans backing her to give her another six year term.
In Iowa, Admiral Mike Franken faced a sexual harassment scandal, which hampered his otherwise credible profile for the Senate race. In a state that Trump won twice by a significant margin, where Democrats are in retreat at all levels of government, and Republican Senator Chuck Grassley is a household name, it was always a longshot effort from Franken, though. Grassley’s advanced age and clear desire to see his son succeed him in the Senate is going to cost him some votes, but in the end the margin between these candidates is going to be closer to partisan feelings than anything else.
In Florida, former Republican Presidential candidate Marco Rubio was unpopular for some time but the state’s Republican surge and weakness in Democratic turnout and infrastructure have created a situation where he is expected to once again secure a routine victory in the Senate race, similar to his last race against Democratic Patrick Murphy. Congresswoman Val Demings was in many ways an ideal Democratic nominee on paper as a former Orlando police chief, but voter turnout in her home district is some of the worst for Democrats in the state, and the money that was put in her campaign, and Rubio’s hardline anti-abortion views wasn’t enough to inspire Florida voters to back Demings, despite the face the state is at least nominally pro-choice. Demings failure to make inroads with the Hispanic community and retirees has meant Rubio isn’t sweating his six year check in with the voters of the Sunshine State.
In Missouri, beer heiress Trudy Busch Valentine, the Democratic nominee, has spent a significant amount of her personal fortune but has little hope of defeating Republican Eric Schmitt, who defeated the scandal-plagued former Governor Eric Greitens in the Republican primary. In a politically polarized state that Democrats used to compete in but Trump won handily twice, they were not even on the board this year.
In Utah, former Republican Evan McMullin, of 2016 election fame, put forward an independent challenge to Republican Senator Mike Lee. McMullin got the backing of the Democratic party in Utah for his challenge and some polls have shown a close race in a state that notoriously dislikes Trumpism and the “far right” despite its strong Republican voting record overall. Perhaps if Trump was in office, Lee’s seat would be in play, but for the time being McMullin’s realistic hope is to put up a respectable number against Lee, who has not entirely taken the challenge from the independent McMullin seriously. The long-term trends of Utah make the state an intriguing target for Democrats.
In summation, Democrats hoped to win Senate control again, but Republicans hold an advantage going into election day with the median outcome expected to be 51 or 52 seats for McConnell’s majority, and Democrats, most of all President Biden, likely ruing some of the messaging and policy decisions made in the last 18 months when they took control of the Senate.
In 2020, Democrats narrowly won control of the US House, the narrow nature of their victory with Joe Biden defeating Donald Trump for President was a major disappointment, and after redistricting, the party faced long odds to hold the House in a midterm election. Those odds briefly improved with the Supreme Court’s repeal of Roe v. Wade, and the January 6th hearings meant to put the focus on Republican extremism, but in the closing weeks of the 2022 Midterm campaign, the generic ballot and outside spending signals indicated Republicans were on track to make gains, with most of the seats in play being seats that voted for Biden over Trump, in some cases by double digits.
Simply put, Republicans will win control of the House and are already measuring the drapes, but the size of Kevin McCarthy’s majority and his ability to manage a caucus with many competing types of politicians is going to be a challenge, along with his ability to actually deliver on addressing American’s concerns around the economy, inflation, energy prices and crime, and whether he will focus on that, or opening investigations into Hunter Biden. With that context, we will look at the most competitive US House seats from around the country and where things stand heading into election day. I’m predicting a 233-202 Republican majority.
- Likely D: CA-26, CA-49
- Lean D: AK-AL, WA-08, CA-09, CA-13, CA-47
- Likely R: WA-03
- Lean R: CA-45
- Tilt D: OR-04
- Tilt R: OR-05, OR-06, CA-22, CA-27
Democrats are on the defensive on the west coast, with the notable bright spot being Mary Peltola’s impressive standing in Alaska, a long-time Republican State where the Democrat won the special election that featured rank choice voting, and is now favored to remain in office despite pessimistic national conditions. In Oregon, Republicans are favored to win two of the three competitive seats, with Democrats facing headwinds around homelessness, crime, drug abuse, and the economy, and Republicans attempting to present a moderate image in a blue state. All three seats voted for Biden but expect the GOP to pick up two of the, including the seat Democratic centrist Kurt Schrader lost a primary into Jamie McLeod-Skinner.
In Washington Republicans nominated an extremist in Joe Kent, but it’s a red seat and he remains favored. In California, a number of Biden seats look to stay Republican downballot, including Michelle Steel’s CA-45 in Orange County, and Mike Garcia’s CA-27 that voted for Biden by double-digits. In blue states like California, voters are seemingly more empowered to put a check on the President and vote Republican downballot, which is why Julia Brownley in CA-26, a safe Democratic seat, was calling for air support in the closing weeks of the campaign.
- Likely R: AZ-01, AZ-02, MT-01, CO-08
- Tilt R: AZ-06, NM-02, NV-01, NV-03
- Tilt D: NV-04
Republicans are set to gain Montana’s new Congressional seat and make gains in Nevada and Arizona in this year’s midterms. Biden’s position and the Democratic Party brand has eroded in both states, with only Democrat Steven Horsford favored to survive from Nevada’s delegation. In New Mexico, Democrat Gabe Vasquez has mounted a credible challenge against Yvette Herrell, Herrell remains vulnerable but it will need to be a better year for Democrats in order to beat her most likely.
- Likely D: IL-06
- Lean D: KS-03, IL-13
- Likely R: IA-02, WI-03
- Lean R: NE-02, IA-03, MI-10
- Tilt D: MN-01, MN-02, OH-01, OH-09, MI-03, MI-07
- Tilt R: IL-17, IN-01, OH-13
In the Midwest, Republicans are set to gain Congressman Ron Kind’s seat in Wisconsin, Cindy Axne’s seat in Iowa, and are poised for an upset in Frank Mrvan’s IN-01 with Republican veteran Jennifer-Ruth Green surging at the close after military records were leaked. Democrats are optimistic about Sharice Davids’s KS-03 in the suburbs and other suburban seats are likely to hold up better for them for now, but a red wave could lead to much heavier losses in Michigan, Minnesota and Ohio. Candidate quality has helped Democrats and hindered Republicans, with the likes of Marcy Kaptur set to hold on in seats that would otherwise be lost, while Republican’s Don Bacon and Steve Chabot are looking to survive after redistricting.
- Likely D: GA-02, NC-01, NC-14
- Likely R: TN-05, FL-27
- Lean R: FL-13, NC-13, TX-15, VA-02
- Tilt D: TX-28, VA-07
- Tilt R: TX-34
Republicans are set to make gains in the sun belt, especially Texas and Florida, where they controlled redistricting and Hispanic voters have soured on the Democratic party brand. In Texas, Mayra Flores, who won a special election, was at one point considered a big underdog to win in November. But she has now drawn even with Democratic Congressman Vincente Gonzalez, while Democratic incumbent Henry Cuellar again survived a tough primary and is now battling with Republican Cassy Garcia to retain his seat. The Rio Grande Valley and Miami-Dade are expected to once again be ground zero for Democratic party problems this cycle, and Republicans are well positioned to potentially sweep both. Democrat Annette Taddeo has mounted a credible campaign against Republican Maria Elvira-Salazar in FL-27, and Democrat Eric Lynn has done the same trying to hold Charlie Crist’s FL-13 but neither look likely to win.
Strong support among black voters has Democrats still favored in NC-01 and GA-02, where Sanford Bishop has been challenged but is likely going to hang on. In Virginia, spurred on by winning the Legislature and Glenn Youngkin’s victory last year, Republicans are on the offensive with the moderate Abigail Spanberger in the most marginal competitive seat remaining. In Tennessee, Republicans will sweep the state’s Congressional Delegation after controlling redistricting.
- Likely D: PA-06, PA-12, NJ-03, NJ-05, NJ-11, NY-25
- Lean D: MD-06, NY-04, NY-17
- Likely R: PA-01. NY-11
- Lean R: PA-07, NJ-07, NY-22
- Tilt D: PA-08, ME-02, CT-05, NY-03, NY-18
- Tilt R: PA-17, NH-01, RI-02
The northeast, a mix of swing states and traditional Democratic strongholds, has the most competitive House races this year, with New York and Pennsylvania hosting two must-watch states on election night. A really good night for Republicans would push them towards 30+ House seats net gain nationally, while a modest night would see them net about 20-25 House seats nationally, and a poor night would be Republican gains kept short of 20 seats.
Democrats are lucky to have a quality candidate in Jared Golden, who is set to hold ME-02 after ranked-choice preferences are accounted for, while Republicans have a strong nominee in Allan Fung, a local mayor who gives them an edge in RI-02. If the red wave is on, watch David Trone’s MD-06 and DCCC Chair Sean Patrick Maloney’s NY-17. Republicans have made a significant push in Pennsylvania and New York, and I do have Gen Z GOP’er Karoline Leavitt upsetting Chris Pappas in NH-01. In the end, I project more or less a median outcome, though Republicans are in frame in places like CT-05 where Democratic teacher Jahana Haynes faces a spirited challenge.
Should the house end up with Republicans in the high 220s-to low-to-mid-230s in terms of seats, Democrats will be making a push for House control in 2024. If the GOP wave crests north of 235 to 240 seats, the odds are much longer for that to happen. If Democrats outperform on the generic ballot and issues like Roe do more than just preventing the bottom from dropping out and stopping a full on GOP wave, then a single digit Republican house majority is still possible.