Deciphering the 2022 Midterm Elections
After a week of counting votes, it appears that there are some solid results.
However, like the quote from Shakespeare’s Macbeth, there was “sound and fury signifying nothing.”
Or as close to nothing as possible.
Nationally, the Republicans and Democrats switched control of Congress. The Republicans have narrow control of the House of Representatives, while the Democrats have narrow control of the Senate.
Few things changed at the state level either. Republicans control 56 chambers of state legislatures, while Democrats control 39 chambers. Democrats lost 16 state senate seats, while Republicans gained 24.
There was little to show a general trend. In Arizona, which took over a week to release results, the Democrats won the highly visible governor’s race and Senate race. However, Republicans retained the state senate and legislature despite the amount spent by Democrats. Three Democratic House of Representatives seats were flipped to Republican so the Arizona congressional delegation going to Washington is now controlled by the GOP.
The same trend was seen nationwide, with voters seemingly splitting their votes.
However, the flipping of the House and Senate will have an impact. The narrow Senate Democratic majority will allow Biden to nominate judges without trouble or relying on the VP’s tie breaking vote. And, if Biden dies during his term, it will be easier for Harris to nominate and receive confirmation of her choice for Vice President.
Meanwhile, the Republican controlled House will have some unique powers. Since all budget and revenue bills must originate from the House, Republicans can restrict funding for agencies that have abused their powers like the FBI. They also get to pick the Speaker of the House, who is second in line for the presidency.
While there is little Democratic leadership change in the Senate, Senator Schumer (D. NY) is expected to remain Senate Majority Leader. However, the Democratic minority leadership in the House of Representatives is expected to change dramatically.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer have announced that they will step aside to allow younger leadership to head the new Democratic minority. The expected Democratic leadership is expected to be Hakeem Jeffries, Katherine Clark, and Pete Aguilar. The new Democratic leader, Jeffries is a member of the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Progressive Caucus – which indicates a move to the left by congressional Democrats.
However, a more progressive Democratic leadership will count for little with a Republican majority.
There may very well be a fight over who the new Speaker of the House will be, since the Republican majority is so slim and some Republican members have announced they will not vote for Representative Kevin McCarthy.
In an attempt to limit the power of a McCarthy speakership, the Republican members have voted for new rules that limit the speaker’s power, which increased dramatically during Pelosi” speakership. It allows a majority of the GOP caucus to remove the speaker, instead of giving that power solely to the House Majority Leader.
Since the Republican majority is so slim, the new rule says the Republican Caucus must agree to a motion to remove the Speaker, which prevents the Democrats from joining a few dissident Republicans to elect a different Speaker.
Other rules that will come up before the Republican Caucus will strip more of the powers garnered by the Speaker under Pelosi.
Given the sharing of power, don’t expect any major and controversial legislative bills to pass in the next two years. In some cases, Biden may try to rule through executive action, although the Supreme court has ruled that these changes in regulations are a violation of Congress’ constitutional power to pass laws.
This leads us to the 2024 election. While Democrats had the advantage in 2020 with fewer Democratic senators up for reelection, 2024 has changed the mathematics. Only 10 Republican seats are up in 2024, while 21 Democratic seats are up in 2024. In addition, two independent senators that caucus with the Democrats are up for reelection.
One of the independent seats up in 2024 is held by Senator Bernie Sanders, who is a potential presidential candidate for the Democrats. If he decides not to run for reelection to pursue the presidency, that makes the open seat more competitive. Democratic leadership may try to dissuade him for another presidential run to protect the seat and lessen a fight for the presidential nomination.
While the Sander’s seat is far down on the list of presidential issues, the top of the list belongs to Trump and DeSantis.
Although Trump announced that he was running for reelection as president this week, the chemistry has changed dramatically. DeSantis’ dramatic victory in Florida on Election Day has many Republicans looking at his potential as a presidential candidate.
In what must worry Trump, his popularity has dropped like a stone, while DeSantis has gained in polls of Republican voters.
An Economist poll taken this week showed that 51% of Republicans prefer DeSantis, while 33% preferred Trump. Both Trump and DeSantis are viewed favorably by Republicans.
A primary poll in Texas showed Trump dropping 14% between October 23rd and November 13th. Meanwhile DeSantis gained 14% and is now at 43%.
The runner up is former VP Pence at 5%.
Of course, it is the primary elections in each state which will have the greatest impact and Trump doesn’t look any better at the state level.
Iowa, which has the first in the nation caucus, has Desantis at 48% and Trump at 37%. Trump has lost 15% since August 13th, while DeSantis has gained 11%.
New Hampshire, which holds the first primary has DeSantis at 56%, while Trump is at 30%. DeSantis has gained 7%, while Trump has lost 8%.
DeSantis can count on the delegate rich Florida. DeSantis gets 56%, while Trump gets 30%.
In what may be a harbinger of the December 6th runoff election for Senate, Trump gets 35% versus DeSantis’ 55%. Since Republican senate candidate Walker is a good friend of Trump, it appears that Trump may not have the popularity in Georgia to help Walker win.
It’s early in the 2024 GOP presidential race and there are no popular candidates outside Trump and DeSantis. Even Texas favorite sons Senator Cruz and Governor Abbot couldn’t break 4% in their home state.
It appears that Republican voters are willing to move away from Trump if the alternative appeals to them and the candidate has a chance to beat the 2024 Democratic nominee.
However, two years are a long time in politics. Right now, DeSantis is the Trump alternative, but we don’t know who will inspire Republican enthusiasm a few months from now.
Since Trump has the most enthusiastic base now, as more candidates jump into the race, expect DeSantis’ polling numbers to sink as the “lukewarm to Trump” base is split between several candidates.
Currently DeSantis is ignoring Trump and focusing on running Florida. That makes sense as there are two years until the presidential election. That freezes other presidential contenders as they wait to see how DeSantis moves in the polls. Will he stay in competition with Trump, or will he fade? If he fades, we can expect other Republicans to join the race for the GOP presidential nomination.
Unlike Shakespeare’s quote from Macbeth, the 2024 presidential race will be “Sound and Fury,” signifying something.