Midterm elections in the United States in 2022: 5 critical Senate battlegrounds4 min read
US Midterm Elections 2022: Democrats reduced the polling gap throughout the summer, hoping for a much closer race.
For much of the year, the US midterm elections were considered as a landslide victory for Republicans, with President Joe Biden’s favour ratings plummeting amid spiralling inflation, record migrant arrivals, and escalating violent crime.
The Democrats closed the polling deficit over the summer and were anticipating for a much closer race after a string of legislative victories and lower gas costs, but momentum appears to have shifted back to the right shortly before the November 8 elections.
The midterm elections do not receive the attention that presidential elections do, but they are critical in determining which party controls Congress – and hence the power to advance or stymie the president’s agenda.
All 435 House of Representatives seats (the lower chamber) are up for grabs, while one-third of senators are running for re-election.
The upper chamber, with its statewide constituency and six-year terms, is regarded more powerful and prestigious, and is controlled by Democrats courtesy to Vice President Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking vote.
At least eight of the 35 Senate races are considered competitive, but the battle for control of the chamber will most likely be decided in five important states.
Democrat John Fetterman’s strong advantage over Republican celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz has all but vanished, turning the contest into a squeaker.
Fetterman is recovering from a stroke suffered in May, and his weak performance in the campaign’s only debate has slowed his momentum even further.
The two are competing for the seat of a retiring Republican, which remains Democrats’ top aim for flipping a seat.
Democrats have painted Oz as an opportunistic New Jersey carpetbagger with shaky local ties and a penchant for gaffes that show he is out of touch.
Meanwhile, Fetterman is under examination for his health and has been chastised for his law enforcement record as lieutenant governor, which opponents claim was too lenient.
In Nevada, the country’s tightest contest for some time, Republican candidate Adam Laxalt leads Democratic Senator Catherine Cortez Masto by 0.6 points in the RealClearPolitics polling average.
Democratic strategists have raised concerns about turnout, with many Latinos vowing to boycott the election despite Cortez Masto being the first Latina woman elected to the United States Senate.
“It’s what keeps me awake at night,” said Melissa Morales, president of the pro-Cortez Masto Somos PAC.
“What I’m interested in is whether or not Latinos vote this year. We will win in Nevada if there is a large turnout.”
In the summer, the National Republican Senatorial Committee released Spanish-language ad messaging emphasising the Democratic candidate’s criminal justice record as the state’s attorney general.
In Georgia, Republican contender Herschel Walker appeared to be the GOP’s best shot to defeat incumbent rookie Democrat and pastor Raphael Warnock.
Despite a series of gaffes, Walker’s name recognition as a former football star has kept him in the race, and he leads Warnock by 1.4 points in the polling average.
Warnock has prioritised lowering prescription drug costs, tackling climate change, and assisting in the restoration of abortion rights.
Walker has concentrated on the economy and anti-abortion rhetoric.
However, his campaign has been dogged by allegations of past domestic abuse, an overstated resume, fathering children outside of his marriage, and paying to have the pregnancies of two former girlfriends aborted.
The battle to replace retiring Republican Rob Portman was previously thought to be the Democrats’ greatest chance for a pickup, but Republican J.D. Vance has held a solid, if tiny, advantage since a shaky start to his campaign.
Democrat Tim Ryan, who has represented the Buckeye State in the US Congress for the last two decades, has won only two of 15 major surveys against the Silicon Valley venture entrepreneur and author, who leads by an average of two points.
Economic issues are at the top of the list of voters’ concerns, as they are across the country, with inflation and the cost of living energising Ohioans the most, followed by abortion.
“Right now, it’s considerably better to be a Republican candidate than a Democratic candidate,” said Brent Buchanan of polling firm Cygnal.
“Voters are scrutinising the issue landscape and their candidate alternatives, emphasising topics that directly touch them, which is driving more undecided voters to the (Republicans).”
In Wisconsin, Republican Senator Ron Johnson battled during the summer but moved ahead of Democratic rival Mandela Barnes in mid-September and is now leading by 3.3 points in a poll average of the latest 16 polls.
Barnes, like Fetterman, is a lieutenant governor who has been accused of being soft on crime, especially due to his lobbying for less stringent bail terms.
“Wisconsin has released 784 violent offenders back into our community under Mandela Barnes,” Johnson tweeted.
“There have been 270 murders and attempted murders. Mandela Barnes’ policies endanger our neighbourhoods. He’s too far out for Wisconsin.”
In the final days of the campaign, former President Barack Obama criticised Johnson as someone who “understands granting tax benefits for private planes more than he understands ensuring that seniors who’ve worked all their lives can retire with dignity and respect.”
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