At The Cook Political Report Charlie Cook explains why “The Midterm Elections Are a Jump Ball“:
With the Senate 50-50 and the current House split 218 to 212, with five vacant seats we’re headed toward another compelling cycle.
Republicans have more exposure in the Senate, as they’re defending 20 seats, against just 14 for Democrats. Republicans are also trying to hold onto five open seats, versus Democrats’ none.
Yet history is on Republicans’ side. In the House, the party holding the presidency has had a net loss of seats in 37 (95 percent) out of 39 midterm elections. The two exceptions were 1934, Franklin Roosevelt’s first midterm election when voters were not yet finished punishing Herbert Hoover’s party, and 2002, when George W. Bush still had an unusually high 63 percent Gallup job-approval rating 14 months after the Sept. 11 attacks.
In the 26 midterms since the direct election of senators began in 1914, the president’s party has lost seats in 19 (73 percent), remained even in one (Bill Clinton’s second midterm), and gained in six midterms, most recently 2018, when President Trump’s GOP picked up seats.
How President Biden is faring on Election Day in 565 days is the great unknown. But at this stage, he’s at 53 percent approval in both the RealClearPolitics and FiveThirtyEight polling averages, and 54 percent in Gallup. Biden is doing better than Trump was at this point in his presidency, roughly on par with Clinton, and slightly below Bush 43, and Obama.
While most voters cast ballots straight down party lines, the economic picture will be important. Right now, the forecasts are for very strong growth through next year but if some of the warnings about Biden’s spending initiatives overheating the economy come to pass and result in a round of inflation, it is pretty safe to assume that this would tank Democratic hopes to retain their majorities….While there are some struggles between the progressive and establishment wings of the Democratic Party, the potential for strife between the Trump acolytes and legacy Republicans looks potentially graver. Most critically, will the GOP nominate “exotic” nominees in critical races, which hurt its chances of winning.
Given that the current Democratic Senate majority was basically determined by their narrowest win in the last election—Sen. Raphael Warnock’s 55,354-vote victory in the Jan. 5 special runoff election in Georgia—and the House by a total of 31,751 votes in a handful of districts around the country, just about any factor could be determinative. Anyone who professes certainty at this stage is just blowing (or inhaling) smoke.
As usual, hold your bets to the closing weeks of the midterm elections.