Two prominent election forecasting models now give Democrats a 70% or better chance of retaining their Senate majority in November, a major shift that suggests the fight for control may no longer be the toss-up that it has long been considered.
The FiveThirtyEight election model finds that in 70 out of 100 election simulations, Democrats emerge from 2022 in the majority. The Economist’s model is even more optimistic for the party, finding that in 78 out of 100 simulations, Democrats retain their majority in November.
Both models take into account polling, demographic, fundraising and historical data to produce a prediction of what will happen in two months’ time. It’s worth noting that these forecasts are built on probable outcomes and their predictive power depends on how good the underlying data are. So, in 30-ish percent of the scenarios each models runs, Republicans win the Senate majority. In interpreting those numbers, FiveThirtyEight characterizes that probability as Democrats being slightly favored to win the Senate. In short, be wary of taking these models as fact.
In explaining why Democrats’ chances have improved of late, both FiveThirtyEight and The Economist note the disparity in candidate quality between the Democrats and Republicans as playing a significant role in the broader fight for the majority.
That assessment aligns with one offered by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell recently. McConnell said that Republicans have a better chance of flipping the House than the Senate (he’s right), and added this: “Senate races are just different. They’re statewide. Candidate quality has a lot to do with the outcome.”
That brought a not-so-subtle rebuke from Sen. Rick Scott, who runs the Senate Republicans’ campaign arm.
“Unfortunately, many of the very people responsible for losing the Senate last cycle are now trying to stop us from winning the majority this time by trash-talking our Republican candidates,” Scott wrote in an op-ed published in the Washington Examiner last week. “It’s an amazing act of cowardice, and ultimately, it’s treasonous to the conservative cause.”
(Sidebar: Scott said he wasn’t writing about McConnell. If you believe that, I have some Blockbuster stock you might be interested in buying.)
A look at some of the most competitive Senate races in the country tell the story.
* Arizona: GOP nominee Blake Masters has been scrambling away from positions he took in the primary ever since he won the party’s nomination in early August with former President Donald Trump’s support. Masters removed some his more extreme positions on the issue of abortion from his website, for example, with his campaign insisting that the policy section of his website is a “living document” that the candidate updates himself. Uh huh.
* Georgia: Republican Herschel Walker cruised to a primary win thanks to the celebrity granted by his time as a football player and Trump’s endorsement. But this is Walker’s first run for any sort of elected office – and it has shown. Questions about his resume have been a regular feature of the general election, and Democrats are just now opening up the opposition research book on Walker’s controversial past.
* Ohio: The Trump-backed J.D. Vance has been seemingly AWOL from the campaign trail since his primary victory and has effectively ceded considerable ground to Democrat Tim Ryan, who has run a barrage of TV ads seeking to paint himself as a centrist problem-solver. All you need to know about Republican concerns about the race can be summed up with this: a McConnell-aligned super PAC is planning to spend an additional $28 million on TV and radio ads in an attempt to keep the seat in GOP hands.
* Pennsylvania: Dr. Mehmet Oz, who – stop me if you’ve heard this before – won the Republican nomination thanks to an endorsement from Trump, has been on the defensive for most of the general election As a result, The Cook Report with Amy Walter recently shifted its rating of the race from “toss-up” to “lean Democratic.” Oz has regained his footing in recent weeks with attacks on John Fetterman’s refusal to debate after suffering a stroke in mid-May. But Fetterman may have defused that issue with his pledge on Wednesday to appear with Oz sometime in October.
The saving grace for Republicans is that there is still plenty of time before Election Day. The average voter is only now – post-Labor Day – beginning to dial into the campaign season. And candidates can improve on the trail. (Walker, for instance, now has a more professional team around him and has cut down on what once seemed like near-daily gaffes.)
But what’s clear as of today is this: Democrats are on the front foot in the race for the Senate majority, a major shift and surprise from even three months ago.