The FiveThirtyEight forecast shows Democrats have a 67% chance to keep control of the U.S. Senate after this year’s midterm elections. But that’s just a number. There’s an easier way to look at the Senate battleground.
Two Democratic incumbents — Raphael Warnock in Georgia and Catherine Cortez Masto in Nevada — are in races deemed to be too close to call by the Cook Political Report. One Republican incumbent — Ron Johnson in Wisconsin — is in the same position. That would seem to give Republicans an edge. But the GOP’s exposure this year comes from open seats, since history shows it’s much harder to defeat an incumbent.
Republicans are defending three competitive open seats — in North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Overall, that means four GOP seats are in danger of flipping, compared to just two Democratic seats. Finally, the status quo favors Democrats since they already control the upper chamber. If none of these seats flip, Democrats remain in charge.
A new AARP poll finds an overwhelming majority of women voters age 50 and over say they are certain to vote this November (94%), however half (51%) of this swing voter group say they have still not decided which candidates to support.
Gallup: “Americans’ views of the two major U.S. political parties remain more negative than positive, but the Republican Party’s favorability is now slightly better than the Democratic Party’s.”
“Both parties’ images have shifted slightly since last year, with the GOP’s favorable rating edging up four percentage points to 44% and the Democratic Party’s rating slipping by the same amount, to 39%.”
Charlie Cook: “We’ve seen two major shifts in the political momentum already this year, something highly unusual in a midterm election. More importantly, there is no reason to be sure that all of that volatility is in our rearview mirror. That’s because so many voters feel cross-pressured: They are concerned about (if not mad at) one party for one or more reasons, but also have anxieties or alarm about the other party for entirely different reasons.”
“The question is which set of trepidations will be top of mind when they make their final voting decision. The spotlight of anger that long focused primarily on Democrats has now become a floodlight illuminating shortcomings in each party, with several issues having the potential to be the Achilles’ heel that cripples that party.”
- AZ-Sen: SSRS for CNN: Mark Kelly (D-inc): 51, Blake Masters (R): 45
- AZ-Gov: SSRS for CNN: Katie Hobbs (D): 49, Kari Lake (R): 46
- IA-Sen: Cygnal (R) for Iowans for Tax Relief: Chuck Grassley (R-inc): 54, Mike Franken (D): 40
- IA-Gov: Cygnal (R) for Iowans for Tax Relief: Kim Reynolds (R-inc): 59, Deidre DeJear (D): 38
- MN-Gov: SurveyUSA for KSTP: Tim Walz (D-inc): 50, Scott Jensen (R): 40
- NV-Sen: SSRS for CNN: Adam Laxalt (R): 48, Catherine Cortez Masto (D-inc): 46
- NV-Gov: SSRS for CNN: Joe Lombardo (R): 48, Steve Sisolak (D-inc): 46
- PA-Sen: Monmouth: Josh Shapiro (D) 54, Doug Mastriano (R) 38. Said pollster Patrick Murray: “Shapiro’s support has solidified with Democrats over the past few weeks, but it’s unlikely that Republicans who are unsure about Mastriano will actually switch sides. The bigger question may be whether they will vote at all.”
- RI-02: Roger Williams University: Allan Fung (R) 46, Seth Magaziner (D) 40
- CO-Sen: Joe O’Dea (R): $2 million raised, additional $1 million self-funded
- GA-Sen: Herschel Walker (R): $12 million raised, $7 million cash-on-hand
- OH-Sen: Tim Ryan (D): $17.2 million raised
- PA-Sen: John Fetterman (D): $22 million raised
- WI-Sen: Mandela Barnes (D): $20 million raised
- GA-Gov: Brian Kemp (R-inc): $29 million raised, $15.4 million cash-on-hand
- OH-Gov: Mike DeWine (R-inc): $1.5 million raised (in September), $12.5 cash-on-hand; Nan Whaley (D): $1.2 million raised (in September), $3.9 million cash-on-hand
- CA-22: Rudy Salas (D): $1.2 million raised
- CO-08: Yadira Caraveo (D): $1.5 million raised, $550,000 cash-on-hand
- FL-15: Alan Cohn (D): $400,000 raised
- IA-02: Ashley Hinson (R-inc): $1.25 million raised, $1.7 million cash-on-hand
- IL-17: Eric Sorensen (D): $1.5 million raised
- MT-01: Monica Tranel (D): $1.1 million raised
- NH-02: Annie Kuster (D-inc): $1 million raised, $2.6 million cash-on-hand
- NM-02: Gabe Vasquez (D): $1.55 million raised
- NY-18: Pat Ryan (D-inc): $2.25 million raised, $600,000 cash-on-hand; Colin Schmitt (R): $500,000 raised, $500,000 cash-on-hand
- PA-17: Chris Deluzio (D): $1.4 million raised
- VA-02: Jen Kiggans (R): $1 million raised
- VA-07: Abigail Spanberger (D-inc): $2.2 million raised
Pennsylvania U.S. Senate candidate John Fetterman (D) raised $22 million in the third quarter, CNN reports. That far surpassed rival Mehmet Oz (R), who raised $17 million — including a $7 million loan to his campaign — over the same period.
“Stacey Abrams (D) continued her dominating fundraising streak by collecting more than $36 million over the latest three-month disclosure period for her rematch against Republican Gov. Brian Kemp,” the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports.“That’s nearly $9 million more than the Democrat raised during her entire 2018 campaign against Kemp, who narrowly defeated her four years ago and is now seeking a second term.”
Washington Post: “Top Democratic strategists have concluded that they lack the funds needed to fully contest all of their potentially winnable House races this cycle, people familiar with the situation said, forcing tough decisions about where to spend on television ads as Republican outside groups flood the airwaves.”
“Donald Trump is jumping into the midterm-election ad wars with a pair of spots in the hotly contested Pennsylvania and Ohio Senate races, the first wave in what is expected to be millions of dollars in spending from the former president’s new political-action committee,” the Wall Street Journal reports. “Mr. Trump, who has faced pressure to use his fundraising resources to help Republican candidates, had before this week spent modestly—and not on TV ads for candidates. He preferred instead to stage boisterous rallies in battleground states.”
GEORGIA U.S. SENATOR. Herschel Walker held a gaggle with reporters yesterday and it did not go well.
“Herschel Walker’s Senate campaign cut ties with its political director on Wednesday, the move coming just days after The Daily Beast reported that the Georgia Republican paid for a woman’s abortion more than a decade ago,” CNN reports.
“Two people familiar with the matter said Taylor Crowe was fired after suspected leaking to members of the media. It is unclear if there were any other factors at play.”
While Republican Herschel Walker has spent days insisting that he did he not pay for his then-girlfriend to have an abortion in 2009 and that he also doesn’t know who his accuser could be, the Daily Beast reported Wednesday night that the woman in question had a child with Walker a few years after her abortion. The woman, whose identity the publication has withheld, said of Walker’s denials, “Sure, I was stunned, but I guess it also doesn’t shock me, that maybe there are just so many of us that he truly doesn’t remember.” She continued, “But then again, if he really forgot about it, that says something, too.”
The next day, Walker held a press conference where he again denied that he even knew who this woman was. However, the Daily Beast further reported that back in June, when the site first broke the news that Walker was father to three previously undisclosed children, the candidate himself had confirmed she was the mother of one of them.
Just before these latest developments, Walker released an ad against Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock that played footage of a Democratic commercial focused on reports that the Republican had threatened to kill his ex-wife. “As everyone knows, I had a real battle with mental health—even wrote a book about it,” Walker declared. CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski quickly noted that this spot, which was aired “presumably in response to Daily Beast story,” mentioned Walker’s 2008 memoir, which was published the year before the candidate allegedly paid for the abortion.
Herschel Walker’s denials of the allegation that he had paid for an abortion 13 years ago aren’t holding up, Aaron Blake reports. Specifically — unless he has children other than the four he’s already admitted to fathering — he should know exactly which woman is making the allegation.
Daniel Dale: “Herschel Walker has been running a TV ad in which he looks into the camera and falsely claims that Raphael Warnock cut funding to the police. This assertion is so imaginary that Walker’s campaign hasn’t even responded to requests to identify what he’s talking about.”
Nate Cohn: “It’s too soon to look to polling to judge the political fallout. So far, there has been only one survey fielded entirely since the allegations, covering only one day. That poll, an Insider Advantage survey, showed the Democrat Raphael Warnock up by three points, which does happen to be an improvement for Mr. Warnock compared with its prior poll. Mr. Walker led that one by four points. (State polling is infrequent, so it’s hard to say when we’ll get a better sense from the polls about how or whether the allegations have changed voters’ views.)”
“But regardless of what the next surveys say, I think my short answer to the familiar ‘will this matter’ question is ‘yes’ — or at least a version of ‘yes.’”
Andrew Sullivan: “There are times, I confess, when I decide to pass on writing another column on how degenerate the Republican Party is. What else is there to say? It’s not as if the entire media class isn’t saying it every hour of every day. And it’s not as if the depravity of the party hasn’t been a longtime hobbyhorse of mine. Unlike most of the Never-Trumper set, I was writing about this derangement on the right in the 1990s. I tore into George W. Bush’s spend, borrow and torture policies. I wrote a book on what I thought conservatism really was in 2006 — and why the GOP was its nemesis. I couldn’t have been clearer about what Palin represented — even as Bill Kristol selected her to be a potential president.”
“But then you come across the Senate candidacy of one Herschel Walker, and, well, words fail. No magical realist fiction writer could come up with something so sickeningly absurd.”
Georgia Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan (R) told CNN he blames Donald Trump for Herschel Walker’s (R) Senate candidacy. Said Duncan: “We didn’t ask who was the best leader. We didn’t ask who had the best resume. Unfortunately, Republicans looked around to see who Trump supported and he was a famous football player and so he became our nominee and now we’re paying the price.”
He added: “Donald Trump led us down a rabbit trail post-election because he was too consumed with trying to save face from losing his election. And he ran us down a trail and we screwed up.”
PENNSYLVANIA U.S. SENATOR. “In what continues to be an incredibly puzzling campaign, Dr. Mehmet Oz attended a $5,000-a-plate fundraiser hosted by sex pest Matt Gaetz’s in-laws on Thursday night at the Lyon Air Museum and stood in front of one of Adolf Hitler’s cars, which made it into the background of attendees’ photos,” Jezebel reports. I mean, at this point, should we just call the Republican party the NAZI party? Hitler’s car at their fundraisers??
ARIZONA GOVERNOR. Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake (R) used stock footage of Russian soldiers marching in her campaign ad, falsely claiming they were the Arizona National Guard.
CNN: “The nomination of polarizing candidates aligned with the former President in key swing states, including Georgia, New Hampshire, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, has complicated the GOP’s ability to appeal to more moderate and independent voters in Senate and governors races across the country.”
“The potential for disaffected Republicans to cast ballots for Democrats may be especially prevalent here – as is the possibility for ticket-splitters, once a dying breed – in a state where Trump’s imprimatur elevated a full slate of election deniers for the top four offices in the state. The former President, who lost the state by less than 11,000 votes, plans to campaign with them Sunday at a rally in Mesa.”
OREGON GOVERNOR. Nike co-founder Phil Knight has donated an additional $2 million to independent Betsy Johnson, which is the largest individual donation to any candidate on record in Oregon and brings his total support for her up to $3.75 million this cycle. Knight’s support makes up a hefty part of the $14 million Johnson has raised since January 2021, and she finished September with $3.7 million on hand. During the 2018 cycle, Knight had previously been the biggest donor to Republican nominee Knute Buehler, who is also backing Johnson this time.
Since the beginning of 2021, Democrat Tina Kotek brought in $11.9 million and had $1.6 million in the bank in late September, while Republican Christine Drazan raised $11.1 million and had $500,000 on hand.
Thanks in part to her unusually well-funded campaign, polls this cycle have found Johnson, who was a longtime conservative Democratic state senator until she resigned last year, with significant support for an independent. However, recent surveys still have her in a distant third place and indicate she could play spoiler for Kotek by helping Drazan win with less than 40% of the vote.
Republican Christine Drazan has debuted a commercial accusing Democrat Tina Kotek of blocking an investigation into sexual abuse allegations, but The Oregonian’s Jamie Goldberg writes, “Even by the traditionally loosened standards for political ads, that assertion is untrue, according to independent investigations and news reports.”
Drazan’s commercial declares that as speaker of the state House, Kotek “blocked an investigation into repeated sexual abuse because she was worried about how it would make her look.” The complaints in question were about Republican Jeff Kruse—a member of the state Senate, not the state House. Unsurpirsingly, the speaker noted after the allegations became public that she had no influence over members of the upper chamber and said she did not have knowledge of the complaints against Kruse.
Goldberg writes, “No subsequent news reporting has showed Kotek covered up sexual abuse, although she did provide privacy to some victims who spoke up after 2018 to allege harassment by House members.” The speaker was one of several lawmakers who initially refused to comply when the state Labor Bureau issued subpoenas after legislative attorneys argued the requests documents could reveal the identity of Kruse’s accusers, but Goldberg says that a court order ultimately led Kotek and others to comply.
WISCONSIN U.S. SENATOR. New York Times: “Democrats in Wisconsin are wringing their hands about how Mandela Barnes’s political fortunes have sagged under the weight of the Republican advertising blitz.”
“Grumbling about his campaign tactics and the help he is receiving from national Democrats, they worry that he could be one of several of the party’s Senate candidates whose struggles to parry a withering GOP onslaught could sink their candidacies and cost Democrats control of the chamber.”
The Economist: “On the one hand, it retains a large blue-collar workforce—19% of the state’s GDP comes from manufacturing—who have been drifting more towards Republicans in recent years, making the state look more like Indiana or Ohio, which are now both solidly Republican. On the other hand, it also has a vast and growing progressive vote, particularly around Madison, the home of the largest University of Wisconsin campus. About 7% of the state’s adult population consists of students, who are well organised, and who this year especially, have been fired up by the Supreme Court’s decision to undo abortion rights (it helps that Wisconsin now has, by virtue of a law passed in 1849, one of the strictest bans on abortion in the country.)”
“This helps to explain why the Badger State is so weird. Essentially, when Democrats can motivate their electorate (which also includes the large black population of Milwaukee, and a surprising rural redoubt in the north-west) they can win. The state’s junior senator, Tammy Baldwin, is a lesbian progressive who wants America to introduce universal health care. But when they fail, Republicans, with their more unified base, can also get in their own radicals. Ron Johnson thinks global warming is fake, covid-19 vaccines are dangerous, and that the Trumpist riot on January 6th 2021 was no big deal.”
NEW HAMPSHIRE U.S. SENATOR. For those of us trying to keep track, New Hampshire GOP Senate nominee Don Bolduc is now at the ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ phase of his dizzying election denialism journey.
“I can’t say that it was stolen or not,” Bolduc said when asked about the 2020 election during a town hall on Monday, claiming that he doesn’t “have enough information.”
Flashback to less than three weeks ago, when Bolduc declared on Fox News that the election “was not stolen,” a conclusion he supposedly came to after doing “a lot of research” (the best part of that declaration was when he said he was being “definitive” on the issue).
The problem is that Bolduc’s having trouble sticking to his own messaging strategy. Several days after the Fox interview, the Senate hopeful told a QAnon podcaster (yup) that he knows the MAGA stolen election narrative that he peddled during his entire primary campaign “doesn’t fly” with regular New Hampshire voters. Yet here he is at the town hall, inching back to the election denialism he claimed to have abandoned. Pick a lane, bro.
UTAH U.S. SENATOR. Put Utah First, a group funded by Democratic megadonor Reid Hoffman, has dropped another $900,000 to aid conservative independent Evan McMullin, which takes its total investment here to $2.65 million.
Conservative independent Evan McMullin’s latest ad hammers Republican Sen. Mike Lee over a recent spot from his allies at the Club for Growth that had heavily edited statements from McMullin and taken them out of context to misrepresent his message. Without repeating the substance of the deceptive attack, McMullin’s spot includes clips of local news coverage such as one from the Salt Lake Tribune calling the Club ad one of the “Most Dishonest … Ever.” McMullin then bashes Lee for his support from special interest groups, whom McMullin says are lying about him because he won’t take their money.
The Club ad in question had recently gotten pulled off the air by a local TV station after it presented the edited footage to falsely portray McMullin as having called the entire GOP base racist. In reality, he was condemning a segment of the far-right in response to the 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia and had specifically said, “Not all Republicans, of course, are racist,” which the Club, of course, had omitted.
LOUISIANA GOVERNOR. On Wednesday, state Attorney General Jeff Landry made his long-anticipated campaign official when he announced that he would run for governor next year, making him the first heavyweight Republican to join the contest to succeed term-limited Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards.
Landry first came to prominence in 2010 when he flipped a Democratic-held House seat in southeastern Louisiana, and he quickly acquired a reputation as a Tea Party hardliner. However, the loss of a House seat in reapportionment the following cycle meant Landry was redistricted into the same district as longtime GOP Rep. Charles Boustany, and Landry lost the intra-party general election runoff by a wide margin in 2012. However, Landry made a comeback in 2015 when he won the race for attorney general in the November runoff by ousting two-term incumbent Buddy Caldwell, who had switched from Democratic to Republican four years prior, and Landry was re-elected in 2019.
Landry is likely to face major competition in the GOP lane for governor, though, as Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser has previously said he is “planning on running” with an expected decision in January 2023. Several other potential contenders have said they’re considering the race, including Sen. Bill Cassidy, Rep. Garret Graves, state Treasurer John Schroder, state Sen. Rick Ward, and state Rep. Richard Nelson.
Under Louisiana’s all-party primary system, every candidate will run on the same ballot in the October 2023 primary, and if no candidate takes the majority needed to win outright, there would be a November runoff between the top two candidates regardless of party.
MICHIGAN GOVERNOR. MI-Gov: With Republican nominee Tudor Dixon still not having run any TV ads since she won the August primary, her allies at Michigan Families United, which is partly funded by the wealthy and influential DeVos family, have ponied up $650,000 over the last two weeks for TV ads supporting Dixon. However, that amount pales in comparison to what Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and her allies have spent over that same time frame, with Democrats having collectively outspent Republicans $6 million to $700,000.
Politico: “The campaigns in Michigan show Democrats are not just leaning on abortion policy to juice turnout amongst the party’s base, especially the large portion of it composed of college-educated women. Abortion is also a key part of the effort to persuade blue-collar women to switch sides, particularly in states where their Republican counterparts advocate a ‘no exceptions’ approach to abortion access.”
Washington Post: “Nationally, recent Google News searches for inflation have run about even with inquiries on abortion. And in Senate battleground states such as Nevada, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Georgia, that has also been the case.”
“For almost 40 years now, I’ve been voting Republican. I don’t know that I have ever voted for a Democrat, but if I lived in Arizona now, I absolutely would for governor and secretary of state.” — Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), quoted by the Arizona Republic.
NEBRASKA U.S. SENATOR. Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse announced on Thursday that he would resign to become president of the University of Florida, which has named the Republican as the sole finalist for the post. Multiple media outlets report that Sasse’s departure will occur before the end of the year, which would allow Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts, who will leave office in early 2023, to appoint a successor. The Nebraska Examiner says that a special election would take place for the final two years of Sasse’s term in 2024, when fellow GOP Sen. Deb Fischer will also be up.
Sasse held the post of president of Midland University in Nebraska when he entered the 2014 primary to succeed Sen. Mike Johanns, a fellow Republican who unexpectedly decided to retire after one term. Sasse had the backing of the deep-pocketed Club for Growth but still looked like the underdog for most of his campaign against former state Treasurer Shane Osborn, a retired Navy pilot who was detained by China in 2001 after his plane collided with a Chinese fighter.
Osborn’s bid, however, began to fall apart weeks before the primary after the media reported that he’d distributed a bogus Navy memo to defend his decision to land in China. Sasse soon pulled ahead in the polls, while his allies took action late in the campaign to stop a third contender, wealthy banking executive Sid Dinsdale, from sneaking through. Ultimately, Sasse beat Dinsdale by a convincing 49-22 margin, and he easily won the general election in this red state.
The new senator became a media favorite in D.C., especially after he emerged as a loud Donald Trump critic during the 2016 campaign, saying at one point that “if the Republican Party becomes the party of David Duke, Donald Trump, I’m out.” Sasse, though, was anything but out after Trump took the White House, and while he still vocally trashed him at times, the senator nevertheless loyally voted the administration’s way.
There was talk in 2020 that Sasse could be on the receiving end of a Trump-inspired primary challenge, but no one serious emerged even before Trump himself endorsed the incumbent. Sasse had no trouble winning a second term, though he went on to become one of seven Senate Republicans to vote to convict Trump the next year following his second impeachment. The Nebraskan, though, still voted the party line on all other major issues.
NEVADA GOVERNOR. Nevada gubernatorial candidate Joe Lombardo (R) “used his official police department email to communicate with his campaign team and direct department employees to conduct research later used by his campaign,” the Nevada Independent reports.
NORTH CAROLINA U.S. SENATOR. NBC reports that Senate Majority PAC has booked an additional $4 million to help Democrat Cheri Beasley, a move that will bring its total spending here to $10.5 million. The reservation comes at a time when Republican outside groups have been deploying considerably more money here than Democrats: While Politico reported Tuesday that Beasley has outspent Republican Ted Budd by $9 million in advertising, data from OpenSecrets shows that Budd’s super PAC allies have outpaced Beasley’s supporters $34.9 million to $7.8 million.
COLORADO U.S. SENATOR. Ron Hanks, a far-right state representative who lost the June Republican primary to Joe O’Dea 54-46, announced this week that he was endorsing Libertarian Brian Peotter as “the only conservative on the ballot.” Hanks made it clear exactly what he thought of his former intra-party rival in his statement, declaring, “There is only a fake Republican, a pay-to-play opportunist with no conservative values or agenda. He merits no support, and he’s not likely to get much.” Hanks added, “Let the COGOP know we will have a party with conservative principles, not squishy candidates with a power fetish.”
GEORGIA GOVERNOR. Molly Ball: “Trump put more money and effort into unseating Kemp this year than any other Republican who has crossed him, even Liz Cheney, the crusading anti-Trump congresswoman. When he turned on Kemp, many figured the governor’s career might as well be over.”
“But Trump’s attempt to oust Kemp failed spectacularly. The governor clobbered Trump’s handpicked candidate, former Senator David Perdue, by more than 50 points in the May primary. And far from damaging Kemp, the feud with Trump may have left him better off politically than he was before, burnishing his brand with Trump-skeptical independent voters. That makes Kemp the rare—perhaps the only—GOP pol to have used Trump better than Trump used him.”
Kemp’s feud with Trump has allowed him to elevate his profile among moderate voters who were skeptical of him four years ago.