When Republicans likely take control of the House and Senate, nobody should be surprised: Historically — and by the numbers — this is the result that everyone should have expected long ago. In September, I wrote that the benchmark of success for Republicans should be 230-235 House seats and 52 Senate seats. That benchmark is based on historic performance by the party that does not hold the presidency and recent election results.

As Election Day approaches, there is nothing that contraindicates that prediction.

President Biden is unpopular, and large majorities think the country is on the wrong track.

Republicans, in fact, are likely to get to the upper end of expectations with 235-240 House seats and 53-54 Senate seats. Democrats are being overwhelmed by the big issues, sweeping away Republicans’ problems of uneven, inexperienced candidates, Trump and abortion.

The macro-environment continues to be awful for Democrats, with 70 percent considering the country on the wrong track and Biden at 55 percent to 43 percent disapproval. The economy and inflation consistently top voters’ concerns.

House of pain

As of Oct. 31, Cook Political Report and Sabato’s Crystal Ball both predict a Republican tilt. At this writing, Sabato has the GOP at 218 seats and Democrats at 195 seats with 22 tossups. Cook is more cautious with 211 Republican seats, 191 Democratic seats and 33 tossups. Given both the issue environment and the fact that undecideds tend to break away from incumbents — and, in the midterms, the president is the de facto incumbent — an 80-20 break to the GOP would be reasonable, which would result in 235-240 seats. It is not out of the question for a 90-10 break with a major upset or two.

And Republican control was never really in doubt. For Democrats to maintain control, they have to limit their losses to four seats. That has happened to the president’s party just three times in the last 144 years: in 2002 when George W. Bush’s approval was favorable 67-32 percent; in 1962 when President Kennedy’s approval was moving to 74-14 percent favorable post-Cuban Missile Crisis, and in 1934 when the GOP was laboring under blame for the Great Depression.

Before that you have to go back to 1878, when Democratic votes were split off by a third party. Unfortunately, the “Greenback Party” is no longer around to bail out Biden like it did Rutherford Hayes.

In sum, the idea that Democrats could hold the House was always fantasy, not reality.

Senate slips away

In spite of their mid-term advantage, Republicans were facing some headwinds. Defending 21 seats left few pick-up targets. If Democrats simply won all the competitive races in states Biden won (Arizona, Georgia and Pennsylvania), they would get to 51. Republicans helped by nominating flawed, inexperienced candidates in each.

But it’s looking like Republicans will pick up 3-4 seats. Taking the most recent RealClearPolitics polling average and assigning three-quarters of the undecideds to the GOP (reasonable given the “wrong track” number and Biden approval), they get to 53 seats. Republicans lead outright in all their open seats outside Pennsylvania and in Nevada. With an undecided break, their candidates take the lead in Arizona and Pennsylvania. A four-fifths break in New Hampshire wins the race for Republican Donald Bolduc (54 seats).

And those results come from a logical move by undecided voters. If the polls are wrong at the state level, as they were in 2020, Republicans could take Washington and Colorado, as neither Democratic incumbent is polling over 50 percent, a dangerous position for an incumbent.

All in all, it seems highly likely Republicans will get to a majority with an end result of 53-54 Senate seats, winning all the tight battlegrounds and scoring a modest upset in either New Hampshire, Washington or Colorado.


These predictions are based on public polling which has been a risky bet, mostly for Democrats. After adjusting for 2016, 2018 and 2020 polling error, RealClearPolitics projects 52 Republicans and a run-off in Georgia. But this estimate itself may be a problem in that, as I wrote in my last column, trust in the media is falling among both Republicans and independents and reaching voters is more and more difficult.

In spite of their claims that they have improved their techniques, the indirect evidence points to more trouble for the pollsters and more likely than not, bias in favor of Democrats. With just the past few elections to go by, it is not really possibly to make a judgment that survives rigorous statistical analysis. But given that the traditional coalitions for each party are undergoing a significant shift, it will take several elections to make what could be considered scientifically justified conclusions.

As a result, we have to make educated guesses based on recent polling performance and increasing difficulties in collecting representative samples of voters. Unfortunately, the polling industry rejects these facts and I believe is deluding itself into believing its own statistical superiority.

But the reality is that a whole additional layer of error now surrounds standard statistical sampling error. Even worse, they are clearly ignoring the fact that their consistent errors in favor of Democratic candidates — even though within the putative sampling margin of error — reveals an incontestable bias.

It is possible that Democrats are polling as well as the media and academic polls say. It is possible that the biases have been fixed or even over-corrected (RealClearPolitics does rate polling in Nevada and Washington having a small bias against Democrats). For that to be true, it would mean the 2022 election results will go against all historic precedent and the current polling and political trends. For Democrats to win, it would mean the public decided that the current inflationary shock is no big deal and their dislike of President Biden is unimportant.

That seems unlikely, to say the least. For Democrats to hold their Senate majority, 2022 would have to fly in the face of everything known about American politics. But if wishful thinking is all you have, you might as well hold on to that.

Keith Naughton, Ph.D., is co-founder of Silent Majority Strategies, a public and regulatory affairs consulting firm. Naughton is a former Pennsylvania political campaign consultant. Follow him on Twitter @KNaughton711.

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