Not long ago, the the Republican Party was hitting bottom.
The GOP had lost the presidency and House in November 2020 and would soon squander its Senate majority early in 2021 — then watch with horror as supporters of then-President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol last Jan. 6.
What a difference a year makes.
A resurgent GOP is now poised to reclaim one or both congressional chambers in 2022, while retaining its lock on dozens of state legislatures and governor’s offices. Republican confidence is fueled by President Joe Biden’s underwhelming poll numbers, a Democratic economic and social agenda that’s faltering, intensifying concerns about inflation, and deepening frustration with the pandemic now unleashing yet another infection surge.
At its most basic level, though, GOP optimism is born of the same political headwinds that have shaped U.S. politics for decades. The party that controls the White House has a tremendous disadvantage in the first election of a new presidency.
“We’re going to have a hell of a year,” said Florida Sen. Rick Scott, who leads the national GOP’s Senate campaign arm.
Republican-controlled legislatures have aided the Republicans’ potential House fortunes by drawing new congressional districts that are even more favorable to the party.
Many Republican legislatures have also enacted laws making it more difficult to vote in response to Trump’s false claims of voter fraud. That’s expected to disproportionately affect Democratic-leaning African Americans and Latinos.
The 10 Senate seats most likely to flip in 2022
6. North Carolina
7. New Hampshire
Interactive: 10 Senate seats most likely to flip
Analysis: Virginia election results show Dems falling behind in battle for Senate
"A lot happens in a year." It's a favorite phrase for politicos who don't like the way the winds are blowing.
A year ago, it was Republicans saying that. Democrats had just celebrated winning the White House and holding the House, albeit with a slimmer majority than anyone had expected. (Securing the narrow Senate majority would come a couple of months later.)
But last week's gubernatorial results in Virginia and New Jersey now have Democrats getting behind the mantra as they hope the national environment is more favorable to them this time next year. Republicans already had history on their side heading into 2022, and they're feeling increasingly energized by President Joe Biden's slipping approval ratings. One year out from the midterms, 58% of Americans say Biden hasn't paid enough attention to the nation's most important problems, and a majority disapprove of the way he's handling his job, according to a new CNN Poll released Tuesday.
Biden's party still had a small advantage on the generic congressional ballot among registered voters in the CNN Poll, but the five most competitive Senate seats are all in states that Biden carried by much smaller margins than he won in Virginia (10 points): Pennsylvania (1.2 points), Georgia (0.3 point), Wisconsin (0.6 point), Arizona (0.4 point) and Nevada (2.4 points).
And despite missing out on what would have been their top recruit -- when New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu announced on Tuesday that he would not run for the Senate -- Republicans are bullish on winning the Granite State, which Biden carried by a more comfortable 7 points last year. They're even seriously talking up Colorado, which Biden won by 13.5 points -- more than Virginia but less than New Jersey, which he carried by nearly 16 points.
Of course, the unspoken factor in all this calculating is candidates. With former President Donald Trump drawing Republicans in Senate primaries to the right, there likely won't be a bunch of Glenn Youngkin-like candidates on the ballot next November. Virginia's Republican governor-elect charted a course to winning back the suburbs without alienating Trump's base that could very well work for some candidates in 2022 -- but that's only if they become the nominees. Youngkin was nominated at a party convention that doesn't look much like the Trump loyalty contests that are today's GOP primaries. And beyond perpetuating unfounded claims about election fraud, some of the former President's chosen candidates are facing serious scrutiny over their personal lives.
That's one reason why Pennsylvania -- where one of those candidates is running -- remains the seat most likely to flip partisan control, as it has been all year. GOP Sen. Pat Toomey is retiring, giving Democrats their best pickup opportunity. The 10 Senate seats most likely to flip are based on CNN's reporting and fundraising data, as well as historical data about how states and candidates have performed. As the cycle heats up, more polling and advertising spending data will become factors.
While Republicans grapple with what their future looks like with Trump out of the White House but still very much engaged in politics, some Democrats have been raising huge sums of money as they fight to hold the Senate. That's especially true for the newest incumbents -- Sens. Raphael Warnock of Georgia and Mark Kelly of Arizona, who are running for full six-year terms next fall. Two incumbents first elected in 2016 -- Sens. Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire and Catherine Cortez Masto -- have raised comparatively less money but could be facing contests just as competitive next fall.
After Pennsylvania, the next three seats on the list -- Georgia, Wisconsin and Arizona -- remain unchanged. But things have shifted in the middle of the pack, with Nevada sliding above North Carolina and, now that Sununu is not running, above New Hampshire too.
Despite Americans' concerns about the economy, the administration did get a double dose of good news at the end of last week, with an encouraging October jobs report and House passage of the infrastructure bill. Democrats are optimistic about passing the President's broader social safety net and climate bill in the coming weeks, too, but it'll be up to them and the President to sell it -- especially if the benefits of the two plans won't be fully tangible before November 2022. There's the risk of those measures being overshadowed by headlines like this week's about surging prices.
That there's still a year to go "might be the only sliver of good news for Democrats," Nathan Gonzales wrote in Inside Elections about the aftermath of Virginia and New Jersey. Indeed, as one Democratic strategist noted, the pandemic wasn't even on anyone's radar at this point in the 2020 cycle -- so yes, a lot can change in a year. But the clock is ticking.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer says Democrats have made changes in their giant economic bill that include paring part of their proposed minimum tax on huge corporations. Schumer described some of the revisions Friday as Democrats lined up the votes needed to deliver a campaign-season victory to President Joe Biden on his domestic agenda. Schumer also said bargainers dropped a proposed tax boost on hedge fund executives after pivotal centrist Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona said she would otherwise vote “no.” Schumer said the package would instead levy new taxes on companies that buy back their own stock.
Senate Democrats say they have reached an accord on changes to their marquee economic legislation, clearing the major hurdle to pushing one of President Joe Biden’s leading election-year priorities through the chamber in coming days. Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, a centrist who was seen as the pivotal vote, says she is ready to “move forward” on the bill. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York says lawmakers have achieved a compromise that will receive the support of all Democrats in the chamber. His party needs unanimity and Vice President Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking vote to move the measure through the Senate over certain solid opposition from Republicans.
Facebook owner Meta is quietly curtailing some safeguards designed to thwart voting misinformation or foreign interference in elections even as the U.S. midterms approach. The pivot is raising alarm about Meta’s priorities and how some might exploit the world’s most popular social media platforms to spread misleading claims, launch fake accounts and rile up extremists. Public communication about the company’s plans to combat election misinformation has gone quiet. Ahead of the 2018 and 2020 elections, the company released more than 30 statements about how it would stifle U.S. election misinformation and divisive hate speech. Menlo Park, California-based Meta says policies developed around election misinformation or foreign interference are now hard-wired into company operations.
President Joe Biden’s legislative victories have aimed to position the U.S. to “win the economic competition of the 21st century,” but his investments to boost the nation’s technology, infrastructure and climate resilience over the next decade are set against a 90-odd-day clock until the midterms. From turbocharging the U.S. computer chip sector to shifting the nation to a greener economy, the achievements from Biden will take years to come to fruition. Yet Democrats are gambling that the rapid clip of recent accomplishments will persuade a downcast electorate to vote in their party’s favor. Democratic Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii says, “It’s a vibe, and the vibe is winning."
One of Washington’s favorite punching bags, the Internal Revenue Service, may finally get the resources it’s been asking Congress for if Democrats get their economic package focused on energy and health care over the finish line. The deal worked out by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin looks to spend an extra $79.6 billion on the beleaguered agency over the next 10 years. Democrats are framing the IRS investment as necessary to ensure that corporations and wealthier Americans pay what they owe in taxes, but Republicans are warning the investment will lead to increased scrutiny of small business owners and others.
Democrats call it the “Inflation Reduction Act.” Republicans say it's a “tax and spending spree.” And everyone has a study they say proves one or the other. Recent bipartisan action in Congress on matters ranging from producing computer chips to expanding NATO isn’t extending to the latest economic package from Democrats. For President Joe Biden, the $739 billion plan can help lower inflation, cut the budget deficit, address climate change and lower medical bills. That's a message he’s trying to sell amid intense Republican criticism. GOP lawmakers counter that the 15% minimum corporate tax included in the proposal would hit U.S. factories and middle-class workers. They say energy costs will increase, while innovations in health care would decline.
Republicans see inflation, taxes and immigration as Democratic weak spots worth attacking in the upcoming battle over an economic package the Democrats want to push through the Senate. They're also targeting two Democratic senators, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Joe Manchin of West Virginia. The measure embodies some of the top environment, health care and tax policy aspirations that President Joe Biden and party leaders want to enact as voters start tuning in to this fall’s congressional elections. The GOP would like to derail or weaken the measure or, at the very least force Democrats to take votes that would be painful to defend in reelection campaigns.
In a surprise victory for Republicans, the Senate on Thursday voted to overturn a Biden administration rule requiring rigorous environmental review of major infrastructure projects such as highways, pipelines and oil wells — a victory enabled in part by Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia. Manchin, a key player on energy and climate issues and a swing vote in the closely divided Senate, joined with Republicans to support the measure, which was approved 50-47. The vote comes as Manchin has proposed a separate list of legislative measures to speed up environmental permitting for major projects in return for his support of a Democratic bill to address climate change.
French lawmakers have approved a 20 billion-euro ($20.3-billion) package of measures to help struggling households cope with rising energy and food prices. The vote comes after a heated debate at the National Assembly, where French President Emmanuel Macron no longer has a majority. The bill was approved 395 to 112. The Senate also voted the text. The bill was a key promise from Macron, who was reelected for a second term in April. The bill keeps the price cap on gas and electricity and limits rent increases to 3.5%. It also includes increasing French pensions and some welfare payments by 4% and raises the government rebate on gas purchases.
In one of the biggest days of this year's primary campaign season, red-state Kansas rejected a measure that would have made it easier to restrict abortion, and voters in Missouri repudiated a scandal-tarred former governor seeking a Senate seat. Meanwhile, a Republican congressman who voted to impeach former President Donald Trump after the Jan. 6 insurrection lost to a Trump-backed opponent early Wednesday, while two other impeachment-supporting House Republicans awaited results in their primaries in Washington state. In Michigan, a political newcomer emerged from the state’s messy Republican gubernatorial primary, setting up a rare woman-vs.-woman general election matchup between conservative commentator Tudor Dixon and incumbent Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.