Midweek Midterm Election Update – September 21st, 2022
Bottom Line: Since the advent of the current two-party system (40 midterm elections) we've averaged the President's party losing 4 Senate seats and 30 seats in the House in midterm election cycles. If that were to happen this cycle, Republicans would retake control of both chambers of Congress. Republicans need only flip one Senate seat and 5 seats in the House to gain complete control of Congress entering next year. History is solidly on the side of Republicans reclaiming control of at least the House going into this cycle.
There are only three times that the incumbent President's party has gained seats (1934 during FDR's first term, 1998 during Bill Clinton's second term and 2002 during George W. Bush's first term) thus only 3 out of 40 midterm elections have resulted in the President's party gaining seats. Here's another way of looking at it... History suggests there's a 93% chance Republicans will gain Congressional seats this cycle. The question is how many? That's where it's helpful to look at the history of generic ballot polls and outcomes. There’s been one polling indicator which has been 100% accurate in midterm election cycles. The generic ballot. Since the advent of the polling age in the 1930’s, the party favored on Election Day on the generic ballot has fared best in every cycle. So what party is currently favored?
As of today, the generic ballot says (average of accredited polling over the past week)
- DEM + 1
32 Congressional Democrats have announced their retirements – including two surprises in Florida. Stephanie Murphy and Ted Deutch. That’s the 2nd highest total from one political party in one cycle in American history. The average number of Democrats to retire in a cycle has been 14. The record is 35 in 1992. That raises the stakes of the conversation from one in which we may be talking about Republicans being positioned to gain control of Congress, into one where perhaps a historic number of seats might be in play to be flipped this cycle.
The red wave of 2010 resulted in a record 69 Congressional seats flipping from Democrats to Republicans. If history is to be challenged this cycle – that one is the comp. The best temperature check is the mood of the country as reflected on the questions as to our view of the direction of the country and generic ballot. What does the survey say...
September 21st of 2010:
September 21st of 2022:
- Direction of the Country: 27% (+3% vs last week)
- Generic Ballot: DEM +1 (DEM +1 vs last week)
For the first time since October of last year Democrats are holding an advantage on the generic ballot in an average of national polling. This seemingly reflects the increased optimism articulated by many Democrats about their prospects this November. The country is 7% more disapproving of the direction of the country today, as compared to the history making cycle 12 years ago. Meanwhile, Republicans are performing four points below the same time as that cycle. The divergence shows that despite an environment which is potentially even more favorable than it was twelve years ago, Republicans aren’t as well positioned to capitalize politically on the perceived failures of the Biden administration and Democrats generally. We’re quickly coming up on the time in which actual votes via vote by mail ballots, will soon be able to be cast, including in key and closely watched states like Pennsylvania. That means what happens from here politically has the potential to impact actual outcomes. To be continued...