The Race for the House of Representatives

Six days to go. Elections for the House of Representatives are unique. All 435 seats are up for election. In the Senate, only about one-third of the body is up for election at any one time. The House is a national election, like the presidential election. At the same time, there are 435 separate elections – with candidate quality, experience, and fitting a particular constituency all acting as important factors.

From 1955 through 1992, the race for control of the House was pretty much a foregone conclusion – Democrats were going to win. Some election cycles were better for one party or the other, but there was never a doubt that the final outcome would leave the Democrats in control. That all changed in 1994 when Republicans won a net 54 seats and the majority for the first time in forty years. Control of the House suddenly became a thing in American politics. Including 1994, control has shifted 4 times since then – and the odds favor a fifth change after the midterm elections next week.

House Republicans have believed they have an excellent chance to win back control of the House since almost the day after the 2020 elections. They were predicted to lose up to 15 seats but surprisingly won a net 14 seats – putting them within single digits of control. Given that a first-term president loses an average of 26 seats in the midterm, Republicans have been confident about taking back the majority in this election cycle. They made small gains in the redistricting process – less than initially expected, but still redistricting moved them closer to a majority.

A few things, however, happened along the way. January 6th, the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v Wade, the Mara Largo papers, and Biden Administration legislative successes on guns, infrastructure, domestic semiconductor production, and the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). The Democrats came roaring back in the Summer and regained the lead in the generic congressional ballot. A Republican victory looked less certain as we approached Labor Day.

If you believe the polls, the race turned back again towards Republicans in September and October. What happened? Long-time readers of “EGA In Session” and its predecessor “The Daily News Summary” know we put a great deal of importance and emphasis on the politics of inflation. The 2022 midterm election will be the first time since 1980 that Americans will go to the polls with inflation as a top-tier voter concern. The economy always matters – but high inflation is different. It impacts everyone. People see it every day at the check-out counter or the gas pump. At best, it’s annoying. But for many Americans, it creates a daily struggle. Their real incomes have fallen. Making ends meet is harder. The inflation reports in September and October were bad – voters see this as a problem that isn’t going away any time soon.

But the only thing worse than inflation is fighting inflation. Ronald Reagan learned this in 1982 when his administration and Paul Volker’s Federal Reserve caused a severe recession to get inflation under control. Republicans lost 26 seats in the House that year. In March of this year, the Federal Reserve began fighting inflation. They have been raising interest rates and tightening the money supply ever since. Monetary policy generally works – it is a blunt instrument – but there is a lag – a very uncertain lag in terms of timing. The downsides of fighting inflation started to appear with force in September – while the inflation it is designed to bring down hasn’t moved much yet. The Housing market is in a recession. Economic growth has slowed. Financial markets became unstable and saw rapid declines (although they have rebounded in October)

Politically, all of that creates some headwinds for the party in power – some might call it a Nor’easter, but we will know better next week.

A new Gallup survey released November 1st showed, “Current ratings of the U.S. economy and national satisfaction are the lowest Gallup has measured at the time of a midterm election over the life of these polling trends, starting in 1994 and 1982, respectively. Congressional and presidential job approval are near their historical low marks.”

Republicans need a net 5 seats to win back the majority.  The RealClear Politics site currently projects Republicans will win between 15 and 48 seats with an average pickup of 31 seats.  FiveThirtyEight gives Republicans an 82 in 100 chance of regaining the majority.  The Cook Political Report currently rates 35 seats as “tossups” – an increase of ten seats in this category in the past month.  All the increase has come from Democratic-held seats.  Of the 35 tossups, 25 are held by Democrats and 10 by Republicans.  The math looks increasingly difficult for the Democrats. 

But voters have to vote and again – these are 435 separate elections.  Candidates matter.  Campaigns matter and yes, money matters too.  Democrats hold leads on some key issues like abortion, the future of Democracy, and Climate.  We will see what happens.

Tomorrow we will take a closer look at the campaigns at the center for the control of the U.S. Senate. 


Biden, in Midterm Campaign Pitch, Focuses on Social Security and Medicare

In a whirlwind tour of Florida, the president sought to paint Republicans as a threat to the two retirement programs. But his campaign swing did not go without bumps.  President Biden pressed his argument on Tuesday that a Republican victory in next week’s midterm congressional elections would endanger Social Security and Medicare, bringing his case to the retirement haven of Florida, where the politics of the two programs resonate historically.


One week out, Democrats have little reason for optimism about Congress.  Essentially from the moment Joe Biden won the presidency in 2020, his party faced a difficult cycle in the 2022 midterms. Recent history is pretty consistent here. New presidents trigger a backlash two years later.  For a while this summer, though, it seemed like Biden’s party might buck the trend to some extent. Democratic activists rallied around the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, though the party’s electoral fortunes may have been more directly linked to the overlapping plunge in gas prices. Regardless, by August, a brutal election had become a blurry one.


White Suburban Women Swing Toward Backing Republicans for Congress

New WSJ poll shows key group of midterm voters favors the GOP by 15 percentage points.  White suburban women, a key group of midterm voters, have significantly shifted their support from Democrats to Republicans in the closing days of midterm campaigning because of rising concerns over the economy and inflation, according to the latest Wall Street Journal poll.  The new survey shows that white women living in suburban areas, who make up 20% of the electorate, now favor Republicans for Congress by 15 percentage points, moving 27 percentage points away from Democrats since The Journal’s August poll. It also suggests that the topic of abortion rights has faded in importance after Democrats saw energy on that issue this summer in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.


GOP’s Cheney visits Michigan to support Democrat Slotkin bid. 

Republican Rep. Liz Cheney visited Michigan on Tuesday to support Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin, who the the Wyoming representative crossed party lines to endorse last week in a first.  “If we want to ensure the survival of our republic, we have to walk away from politics as usual,” Cheney said. “We have to stand up, every one of us, and say we’re going to do what’s right for this country. We’re going to look beyond partisan politics.”  Slotkin is a two-term House member competing against Republican state Sen. Tom Barrett in Michigan’s redrawn 7th Congressional District, which includes Lansing. The contest is among the most expensive House races in the country and is considered a toss-up.


Patty Murray Faces Stiff Challenge in Senate Re-election Race

The five-term Washington senator is concerned about complacency among Democratic voters, who have come to regard her as a fixture who will always be there. She faces a Republican newcomer, Tiffany Smiley.  Since she first won her seat in 1992, Ms. Murray has steadily climbed the ranks to wield heavy, though understated, influence as a senior member of leadership and the chairwoman of the Senate committee that focuses on health, labor and education. Should she win a sixth term next week, she will be the fourth most senior senator and in line to be the top Democrat on the powerful Appropriations Committee that controls government spending.