There’s still a lot of talk making the rounds about a red wave in November, or perhaps even a red tsunami. But how real are the possibilities at this point? Even the talking heads on CNN and MSNBC and the opinion writers at the Washington Post have begun to grudgingly agree that things don’t look great for the Democrats. (Which is why they so desperately want to keep talking about Donald Trump and January 6.) They all know that if the GOP takes control of either chamber in Congress, Joe Biden’s presidency is effectively over. He won’t be able to do a thing aside from issue executive orders, most of which will be immediately tied up in court challenges. If there is somehow another vacancy on the Supreme Court, he will likely be unable to fill it.
The House is still a mess in terms of how many seats may flip in either direction, but the Senate can be boiled down to a relative handful of races that will wind up making the difference. The Hill has a pretty good breakdown of where things stand with a little more than four months to go. And as the rest of the primaries finish playing out, we’ll have a better picture of what the final betting odds will look like. Let’s take a look at some of the more decisive ones today, starting with Pennsylvania.
Sen. Pat Toomey’s (R) retirement and President Biden’s narrow victory in the Keystone State in 2020 have transformed Pennsylvania into perhaps the most competitive battleground of the midterm elections, offering Democrats one of few opportunities this year to take control of a GOP-held Senate seat.
If we’re being honest, I’ve been getting a sinking feeling about Pennsylvania for weeks, despite the national polling showing many advantages for Republicans. The state Democrats there have been very organized and quickly began building fundraising efforts and messaging to get all of their voters in line behind Lt. Gov. John Fetterman. But the GOP primary was a bloody mess, and when Mehmet Oz finally secured the nomination, a lot of bad blood was left behind. Fetterman is already showing a significant though not insurmountable lead in the early polling. Oz may still have time to unify the GOP behind him and potentially even squeak out a win, but if the Democrats flip that seat, that’s one more hurdle standing in the path toward a GOP Senate Majority.
Georgia is shaping up to be almost the opposite scenario. Raphael Warnock’s numbers have been razor-thin from the beginning and recent trends in Democratic approval there have shown him backsliding. Of course, Herschel Walker has done almost everything imaginable to shoot himself in the foot with various claims he has made turning out to be untrue and other rookie mistakes. The Democrats are trying to capitalize on that and Warnock has banked a lot of money, but if the winds continue to blow in the same direction, the seat could still turn red. That would wipe out the loss in Pennsylvania if Oz goes down.
The analysis from The Hill about the Nevada race between Incumbent Catherine Cortez Masto and Adam Laxalt hints at an increasing chance for another blue seat to flip back to red.
While Cortez Masto is an adept campaigner in her own right – she’s a former chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) and a political mentee of the late Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) — she’s also facing a tough environment in a state that in many ways epitomizes some of the biggest challenges facing Democrats this year.
Nevada has some of the highest gas prices in the country and the state’s economy — which depends heavily on tourism — took a hit as the COVID-19 pandemic prompted shutdowns of hotels, bars and restaurants.
They go on to point out that the Democrats have long taken Nevada’s sizable Latino population for granted, but that’s been changing all across the country lately, including in the Silver State. Laxalt may try to distance himself a bit more from Donald Trump in the final, general election push to avoid any excessive polarization. But if he can keep the GOP base in the corral, this looks like the next best shot for a GOP pickup.
North Carolina is looking more and more like it will be out of reach for the Democrats as Ted Budd has been consolidating his base support nicely. In Arizona, Mark Kelly is facing an electorate that has soured on Joe Biden and the Democrats considerably over the past year. We won’t be able to get a good sense of how tough his fight will be until we know which Republican he’s running against. In Wisconsin, Republican Ron Johnson looks to have a tough fight on his hands against whichever Democrat comes out on top in August. That one will likely end up close, but it could be a second Democratic flip if Pennsylvania blows up on the GOP. Maggie Hassan might hold on to her seat in New Hampshire, but it’s far from a sure thing.
So where does that leave us at this stage of the game? So many of these races look like they will be very close calls that the stars will need to align on election night for one of the parties to score any sort of sweeping victory. Pennsylvania, Georgia, Arizona, and New Hampshire are looking like they will make the difference. If the GOP can take three of those four, they should end up with a Senate majority. But if the Democrats can pull off the same feat, it’s not only possible that they could hang on to their majority, but could even potentially expand it by a couple of seats. In other words, there may indeed be a red wave coming, but in the Senate at least, it may wind up being a very small wave. But yet again, it only takes one additional seat for the GOP to essentially end the Biden presidency in January.