What’s going to happen?!? Predicting the midterm elections

Pluribus News asked a dozen smart political operatives and observers, from both parties and those who aren’t aligned with a party, to tell us what they think is going to happen in the midterm elections. Here’s what they told us.
Image credit: Ohio Secretary of State’s Office.

Voters head to the polls Tuesday — unless they are among the millions who have already cast a ballot — in critical midterm elections in every state. One of the more bizarre midterm cycles in living memory appears to be reverting to the historic mean, as Republicans seize the advantage in key races over the last several weeks.

But in this era of hyper-partisanship, hyper-polarization and extreme enthusiasm for politics, who are we to make predictions?

Pluribus News asked a dozen smart political operatives and observers, from both parties and those who aren’t aligned with a party, to tell us what they think is going to happen. To make matters more interesting, we asked them to give us a surprise — some twist they see coming that the rest of us have missed.

Here’s what they said, lightly edited for style and clarity:

Adam Kincaid, president, National Republican Redistricting Trust: “Republicans are going to win healthy majorities in the House (at least 240) and the Senate (at least 53) and net a couple governorships. If this wave crests in the blue states, as some data suggests, then the GOP may see totals a notch lower than Democrats’ majorities after 2008.”

Republican congressional seat counts in the blue states will be higher than they’ve been in the past decade. Democrats’ problems stemming from their failures to address crime and inflation were compounded by making so many seats winnable through their overly-aggressive gerrymandering.”

Jesse Ferguson, a New York-based Democratic strategist and former top official at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee: “In the House, Republicans are over performing in blue states and underperforming in red states.  That may pad their numbers after 2022 but [it will] make their caucus even more vulnerable in 2024.”

Cam Savage, an Indianapolis-based Republican strategist: “I think people are starting to see it coming, but Republicans [are going to] have a huge night in blue states – New York and California while also stealing blue districts in New England. Education voters will continue their move toward Republican candidates who are focused on school reform, especially school choice and parental freedom.”

Savage’s surprise races to watch: New York’s 3rd and 4th districts, both Long Island seats left open by retiring Reps. Tom Suozzi (D) and Kathleen Rice (D).

Mike Fraioli, a Democratic strategist, predicted voters will punish candidates who mocked the violent attack on Paul Pelosi — especially Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake (R) and New York Rep. Lee Zeldin (R), running for governor.

“It changed the debate. How anyone could mock another person, whether Democrat or Republican, or whatever, for damn near dying … is beyond me, and, quite frankly, beyond most people.”

Jimmy Keady, a Richmond-based Republican strategist: “Republicans are going to win the Senate, and Republicans are going to win the House. This has gotten out of control for the Democrats really quickly. The Democrats have run this very much social agenda and this is boomeranging back on them and it’s all about the economy, and inflation and crime, that’s really what voters care about.”

His surprise is in Washington State, where Republicans haven’t won a U.S. Senate race since Slade Gorton in 1994: “You’ve got massive crime out of Seattle, a lot of stuff happening at the governor’s level. When you look at it from that perspective and turn around you’ve got a Senate race that is especially competitive.”

A’Shanti Gholar, president of Emerge, a group that recruits and trains Democratic women to run for office: ““If Democrats find success on Tuesday, it will be because women made it happen, and because women voters trusted Democrats to defend democracy. After the fall of [Roe v. Wade], women outpaced men’s voter registration by double digits and today, we’re seeing that trend continue as women’s early voting numbers outpace men in key states across the country. And women aren’t just showing up to vote, we’re also supporting other women on the ballot.”

Gholar’s surprise: Democrats making headway in states where they haven’t held state legislative majorities for decades. “We have a chance to flip chambers in Arizona, Michigan and Pennsylvania and talking with our Emerge alums on the ground in these states, it’s clear they think Democratic women can make it happen.”

Tom Bonier, Democratic strategist and chief executive of TargetSmart Consulting: “This will be the least nationalized election we’ve experienced in two decades. Democrats will overperform in some unexpected red areas and Republicans will do the same in some blue areas.” 

“Also,” he wrote in an email, “half of the polling will be wrong (that’s an easy one).”

Bonier thinks the expectation that it will take days — or maybe months, if Georgia’s U.S. Senate race heads to a runoff — to figure out who controls Congress misses the mark.

“I believe we’ll have a good sense of which party won much earlier,” he said.

Former Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.): “Republican inroads in New England and Northwest go against the grain. Also GOP minority members will increase significantly.”

Ken Spain, Republican strategist and former top NRCC official, predicts a bad night for California Democrats — specifically, Reps. Julia Brownley (D) and Katie Porter (D).

“The overall environment is unforgiving for candidates who falter this late in the game,” he said in an email.

Connor Lounsbury, Democratic strategist working for Maryland gubernatorial candidate Wes Moore: “When the dust settles, America will get their first look at the next generation of political talent. And I think what will be clear is that the fence is being built in governors’ mansions.”

Jake Weigler, a Portland-based Democratic strategist: “I think there is a good chance Democrats pull out [Oregon’s governor’s race] and lose Oregon’s 5th and 6th U.S. House districts. But it all depends on who turns out in the last 96 hours.”

For some historical context, the last time Oregon voters elected an even number of Republicans and Democrats to the U.S. House of Representatives was in 1972, when the state only had four seats.

Robert Griffin, Research Director for Democracy Fund’s Voter Study Group: “We’re essentially one normal polling error from Democrats holding the House and Senate and it being a Republican wave election. On the whole, available evidence makes me think the latter is the more likely kind of outlier outcome but I’m cautious about being too confident these days.”

And he sounds a smart note of caution: “The days after an election are a mad dash to explain why everything happened. In many ways, this is also the worst time to try and make sense of it. We have access to very little hard data that might help with why it happened and we might not even have a full picture of what happened. My ‘surprise’ for everyone – every cycle – is that we don’t get to know right away. It’s just not the way of the world.”