Can Democrats keep the Senate?

A donkey.
A donkey. Illustrated | Getty Images

With midterm elections right around the corner, Democrats are fighting hard to hold on to the Senate. What can we expect in tomorrow's races?

What do the polls look like?

Usually, midterm elections tend to favor the party not currently holding the presidency. Some of the reasons for this are lower turnout for those in the president's party, the president's approval rating, or even major events or legislation that come out of the first half of the administration, Vox reports.

Earlier this year, the polls seemed to veer in favor of Republicans, notably in a number of states that Biden won by under 3 points, including Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Arizona, Georgia, and Nevada. However, polling numbers have shifted over the course of the year — in June, polls predicted that Republicans would take control of the Senate, but by mid-October, numbers looked better for Democrats.

However, as the election draws closer, it appears the showdown will be even tighter than previously predicted. As of Nov. 7, there is a 54 percent chance that Republicans will take control of the Senate, with 51 seats to 49, according to FiveThirtyEightThe race has now been deemed a dead heat.

According to a new poll by The New York Times and Siena College, Democratic control of the Senate will come down to only four key races: Arizona, Pennsylvania, Georgia, and Nevada. This comes in the wake of the John Fetterman (D) and Mehmet Oz (R) debate in Pennsylvania, which tightened the race, as well as Herschel Walker's (R) abortion allegations.

Arizona, Georgia, and Nevada have Democratic incumbents, which could tank the Senate lead if the seats flip. While the Pennsylvania candidates are even in the polls, Arizona's Democratic incumbent Mark Kelly is slightly leading, Georgia, and Nevada currently have the Republican candidates slightly leading, but all the races are within two points.

What factors could be playing in the Democrats' favor?

Just how did the polls shift so quickly against historical advantages? Since the turn started in June, one of the biggest contributors has been the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade (1973). The decision raised President Biden's approval rating by 9 points and improved Democrats' polling margin by 2 points when people were asked which party should control Congress, The Economist reports.

Abortion has proven to be a bigger issue for voters than Republicans may have anticipated. For example, Kansas overwhelmingly voted against a proposed anti-abortion law, despite being a state that overwhelmingly votes Republican. A number of swing states, including those currently in a tight race listed above, are more likely to be impacted by the abortion issue, The New York Times reports. Many Republican candidates have either softened their stance on abortion or not drawn attention to their opinions on it in response to the backlash.

Another contributor is former President Donald Trump's conduct, including the Justice Department's investigations into mishandled classified documents and his involvement in the Jan. 6 insurrection. In the final Jan. 6 hearing on Oct. 13, the committee unanimously voted to subpoena Trump. A poll conducted by Fox News showed that 65 percent of Americans believed it was wrong for Trump to take classified documents, reports USA Today. While normally, the actions of a former government official wouldn't necessarily affect current elections, Trump's case is different. Dozens of candidates in the running gained prominence after being backed by Trump. While Trump himself hasn't lost popularity amongst the GOP, many Republican candidates have, USA Today continues.

Veteran Republican political consultant Christopher Nicholas said that Trump's investigation "takes away from our efforts to talk about all of Biden's failed policies." It became enough of a concern that Justice Department officials considered halting the investigation due to an unwritten rule that the department should avoid taking any steps in the 60 days before elections that could affect how people vote. In the end, they did not halt investigations.

In October, Biden also pardoned thousands of people convicted of simple marijuana possession and announced he had asked the attorney general to reassess marijuana's classification as a Schedule I drug. A majority of Americans back the president's decision, according to a Politico poll; however, whether the efforts will translate into votes for Democrats is up for debate.

What isn't in the Democrats' favor?

The biggest issue that could harm Democrats' chances of winning is inflation. Inflation has continued to grow over the past year, and the Federal Reserve once again raised interest rates. All of this contributes to fears of a recession in the coming years. The issue is a top concern in many states and is the number one concern in Wisconsin and Georgia, according to polls.

Republicans have been trying to push the issue of inflation as much as possible to better their chances, the Times reports. To combat this, Democrats, including President Biden, have focused less on inflation and more on abortion and the potential loss of democracy. This messaging has been working, leading to less inflation concern, and leaving the GOP to focus on other issues, like crime, The Washington Post explains.

However, the inflation issue may potentially be getting better as third-quarter reports show that the economy grew 2.6 percent breaking a six-month slump. Despite this, the Federal Reserve opted to raise interest rates by 0.75 percent once again and also indicated that there would likely be more raises in the future. This was in an attempt to cool the market as job growth continued to stay high in the most recent report.

Overall, the Senate race is still largely uncertain even if polls are favoring the Democrats, and despite Republicans' fears for the Senate, they still have been predicted to take back the House in current polls. Democrats have been heavily fundraising for campaigns in anticipation of a difficult election. This includes Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) funneling his own campaign money into other candidates' funds, especially in close elections.

Schumer said in a statement, "Keeping and growing the Democratic majority in the Senate is my top priority."

Update November 7, 2022: This piece has been updated throughout to reflect the most recent poll numbers.

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