9 min read

One week to go

The Senate is 50-50, the House is leaning GOP, and more observations as Election Day approaches.
One week to go

Good morning! It’s Tuesday, November 1, 2022. The midterm elections are 7 days away. The 2024 elections are 735 days away.

Happy November! Per presidential proclamation, this month is National Native American Heritage Month, National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, National Entrepreneurship Month, National Adoption Month, and National Diabetes Month.

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Notes on the midterms, with one week left

With just one week to go until Election Day, let’s roundup where the key 2022 races and dynamics stand:

The battle for the Senate is razor-thin.

This one should be obvious to anyone who’s looked at a Senate poll in the past few days. But if you need proof that control of the chamber is truly a tossup at this point in the campaign, the FiveThirtyEight forecast moved on Tuesday from giving Democrats a slight edge to giving both parties 50-50 odds of winning a majority.

The races in Georgia and Nevada are seen as pure coin-flips, while Democrats have a slight edge in Arizona and an even narrower one in Pennsylvania. However, precious few polls have been conducted in the Keystone State after Democrat John Fetterman’s halting debate performance, which some Democrats privately believe may have doomed him. Arizona also brought good news for the GOP this morning, as the Libertarian Senate candidate dropped out and endorsed Republican Blake Masters, which could provide a boost in a close race.

In the end, it may just come down to the fact that Republicans have something of an easier task before them on Election Night: all they have to do to coast into the majority is pick up a single seat (or two if Pennsylvania falls). Between Georgia, Arizona, and Nevada, they have plenty of strong opportunities to do it.

Democrats, meanwhile, need to play defense across the map. They have their alluring pickup opportunity in Pennsylvania, but other than that: GOP-held seats in Ohio, North Carolina, and Wisconsin that Dems had hoped to make competitive are seen as out of reach for them (barring some sort of miracle night).

Don’t be surprised if we don’t have a Senate winner next Tuesday night. None of the most recent polls have shown Democrat Raphael Warnock or Republican Herschel Walker above 50% in Georgia; if neither reaches that threshold, the race will go to a runoff on December 6 — which means control of the Senate may be decided by a Georgia runoff for the second consecutive cycle.  

Republicans are growing confident about the House.

While FiveThirtyEight has been nudging its Senate forecast in Republicans’ favor, the site’s House forecast has been galloping in that direction. It now shows 82-in-100 odds of Republicans taking over the majority.

Again, they are simply faced with an easier task: All they need to do to lock in a majority is pick up five seats, well within the historical expectations for an out-party in a midterm year.

With those odds in mind, the House battleground has begun to push into deeply Democratic territory, as Republicans begin dreaming of an expansive majority. According to Axios, the National Republican Congressional Committee is spending the final week pouring millions of dollars into three districts that President Biden won by 20% in 2020 — showing you how confident they are headed into Election Day.

In one of them, New York’s 25th, a deep-blue seat where the Republican nominee (a former police chief) has made crime into a key issue, national Democrats are being forced to expend resources as well, far from an ideal situation at this point in the campaign. In fact, Democrats are engaged in a rescue mission across New York, as well as in blue states like Rhode Island, Oregon, and California.

Hold up. Why the blue-state blues for Democrats?

About a month ago, I wrote about how weird this election cycle has been — with so much uncertainty and so many indicators pointing in different directions.

Another source of weirdness in the final weeks has been the fact that so many blue-state seats seem up for grabs for Republicans — even while Democrats are holding their own in some notable red- or purple-state seats.

The Washington Post presented a compelling theory for this weirdness that I found interesting: “Fear of losing the right to abortion” — which many Democrats have centered as their No. 1 issue — “is proving to be a less motivating factor in blue states,” many party strategists said, because voters there aren’t particularly worried about their Democratic-led state governments changing abortion laws.

So, if this theory is true, you have a unique situation where Democratic messaging works well in red states (where pro-choice voters have an obvious reason to be motivated) but not in blue states (where they might be secure in the safety of their abortion rights, and therefore more motivated by the economy or crime).

Elections analyst Jacob Rubashkin has noted another dynamic that could explain why Democrats have had little trouble in some places but are in deep jeopardy elsewhere: Democratic incumbents are doing relatively well, while open seats (even in blue districts) are largely flipping against them.

If this dynamic holds up on Election Night, you can bet that Nancy Pelosi will not be happy with the 22 Democratic incumbents who opted to retire this year — possibly costing her the House majority.

One week to go. (Gabe Fleisher and DALL-E)

Keep an eye on the state races.

Control of Congress is always important: this year, for example, it will dictate the difference between President Biden possibly passing the rest of his legislative agenda or possibly being impeached.

But state-level races have taken on a heightened prominence this cycle as well, with a nationwide slate of Trump-endorsed election-denying candidates seeking to move into positions with power over election administration ahead of 2024.

Many of these races appear razor-thin as well, with recent polling showing Republican secretary of state nominees in Arizona, Michigan, Minnesota, and Nevada — all of whom have questioned the 2020 vote — in striking distance of winning, per Politico. Nevada Democratic secretary of state nominee Cisco Aguilar is fuming that his party has largely forgotten about the race, even as Republican nominee Jim Marchant — the ringleader of Trump’s secretary of state slate — contemplates a large-scale transformation of how Nevada elections are run.

Republicans also appear ascendant in many gubernatorial races — which also carries implications for election certification in some states, as well as for abortion in others. Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul has declared herself an “underdog” in deep-blue New York, as polls show Republican Lee Zeldin closing in on her. Oregon may also be headed toward electing its first Republican governor in 40 years.

Both parties bring in their closers.

This weekend, former President Barack Obama campaigned in three of the most pivotal states on the 2022 map: Georgia, Wisconsin, and Michigan.

Meanwhile, his former running mate Joe Biden? He was at home in Delaware. His only election-related activity — during the penultimate weekend of a campaign that could decide the fate of his presidency — was casting his own ballot, with his granddaughter Natalie (a first-time voter) in tow.

Biden will pick up his campaigning a bit this week — he’s headed to Florida today, then New Mexico on Thursday, and teaming up with Obama in Pennsylvania on Saturday — but his absence from the trail in key states is still notable. He’s due to spend the last night of the campaign in Maryland, close to home but not exactly the pivotal battleground of the 2022 election.

And then there’s Vice President Kamala Harris, whose approval rating lingers even lower than her boss’ She’ll be hitting Massachusetts and New York this week, yet another sign of how few Democrats outside of Blue America want to attach themselves to the Biden-Harris brand.

Which leaves Democrats looking backward to Obama, widely seen as the party’s most talented communicator 10 years after running his last campaign, not exactly a vote of confidence in the party’s bench.

Republicans, meanwhile, have an array of younger pols hitting the trail, already jockeying in the 2024 shadow primary: Chris Christie, Mike Pence, Ron DeSantis, Tim Scott, Tom Cotton, and the list goes on. Interestingly, Democrat-turned-Independent Tulsi Gabbard has also emerged as a sought-after GOP surrogate, going everywhere from Michigan to Illinois to Arizona to South Carolina.

The GOP also has a former president of its own on the map, of course, although he’s gone notably underutilized in this final stretch, also left to hold rallies in fairly safe states (Iowa on Thursday, Florida on Sunday, Ohio next Monday). Several Republicans in tough races who have received Trump’s endorsement in this final stretch have mainly tried to ignore it, like Senate candidate Don Bolduc in New Hampshire and House candidate Yesli Vega in Virginia.

Stay safe out there.

Finally, a word of caution. Republicans are gaining confidence by the day, buoyed by the polls... but many of those polls are coming from partisan Republican outfits. And I’m seeing plenty of Democrats crowing about the early voting numbers... but the early vote is showing mixed signals, and it’s often not a great predictor of how the final results will end up.

None of that makes those indicators totally untrustworthy. But it means you should be extra careful in this final week. Take in all the data, but don’t give any of it — or how it’s being spun to you — too much weight.

Does that mean we’re sorta flying blind heading into Election Day? Sorta! But that’s OK. We know the rough fundamentals of the election (which suggest the Senate is a tossup and the House is likely GOP); everything beyond that will be revealed in a week’s time. Or, um, a few weeks after that. We hope.

🚨 What else you should know

➞ Both state and federal prosecutors filed charges against David DePape, who is accused of attacking House speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband, on Monday. The Justice Department charging documents are worth a read: they include an FBI interview with DePape, which pretty comprehensively debunks nearly all of the right-wing conspiracy theories I wrote about yesterday.

In the interview, DePape said that he broke into the Pelosi home because he viewed the House speaker as the “leader of the pack” for Democrats wanted to break her kneecaps as an example to other members of Congress. He now faces the possibility of decades in prison.

Meanwhile, efforts by some Republican pols to make light of the attack have not let up. Here’s video of Arizona gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake drawing laughs yesterday at Pelosi’s expense:

More news to know:

  • NBC: “Supreme Court leans toward ending affirmative action in college admissions”
  • Politico: “Brazil’s brash President Bolsonaro mum after election loss”
  • CNN: “Biden issues a warning as he accuses oil and gas companies of ‘war profiteering’ off Russia’s invasion of Ukraine”
  • Axios: “Russian missile strikes leave most of Kyiv without water”
  • NBC: “Biden lost temper with Zelenskyy in June phone call when Ukrainian leader asked for more aid”

And a story I enjoyed: “The Kornacki Paradox,” via the Washington Post

🗓 What your leaders are doing today

All times Eastern. Click on an event’s time to watch or listen to it.

Executive Branch

President Biden will receive his daily intelligence briefing (9 am) and then travel to Florida. He’ll deliver remarks in Hallandale Beach on “protecting Social Security and Medicare and lowering prescription drug costs” (3 pm) and participate in a fundraiser for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist in Golden Beach (4:45 pm).

Finally, Biden will hold a rally in Miami Gardens for Crist and Democratic Senate candidate Val Demings (7 pm) before returning to Washington.

Vice President Harris will participate in political radio interviews (4:30 pm).

First Lady Biden will attend Game Four of the World Series in Philadelphia to take part in the MLB’s annual Game Four tradition of honoring those affected by cancer (7:30 pm).

Second Gentleman Emhoff will attend economic meetings with female leaders (12:30 pm) and youth leaders (3:30 pm).

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre will hold a press gaggle aboard Air Force One during the flight to Florida.

Legislative Branch

The House and Senate are not in session.

Judicial Branch

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in two cases related to the rights of prisoners to challenge their convictions: Jones v. Hendrix (10 am) and Cruz v. Arizona (11 am).

👋 Before I go...

The race in Oregon’s 5th congressional district has gotten a fair amount of attention this year.

The Democratic incumbent, moderate Kurt Schrader, was ousted in a primary challenge by progressive Jamie McLeod-Skinner in May. Now McLeod-Skinner faces a tough race against Republican Lori Chavez-DeRemer. Millions of dollars have been poured into the contest, which is rated a tossup by Cook Political Report.

But here’s another reason this race is interesting: “All five lawmakers who have held the seat over the past 40 years have gotten divorced while in office,” according to the Washington Post.

The trend is so noteworthy — a 100% divorce rate, compared to a 17% combined divorce rate for the state’s other four congressional districts in the same period — that Oregon political hands have begun to regard the seat as cursed.

This piece from the Post dives into theories for why this odd pattern might exist, and looks at the marriages that are competing to hold the cursed seat next.

That’s all for today. If you enjoy Wake Up To Politics, it’s always appreciated if you donate to support the newsletter or buy some merch. Or if you tell your friends and family to sign up at wakeuptopolitics.com.

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Thanks for waking up to politics! Have a great day.

— Gabe