Senators in the US are elected for 6 years, with a renewal of one-third of the Senate every 2 years – in the Midterm Elections of November 8, 2022, there will be 35 Senatorial posts in play (including special elections for vacated seats), 21 seats held by Republicans and 14 by Democrats. Primary elections for each Party to choose candidates have been completed.
In contrast to many European countries, the US Senate is very powerful: the Senate must approve all legislative acts, “advises and consents” to all treaties entered into by the US and confirms major presidential nominations, including justices of the Supreme Court and other high-level government positions. Control of the Senate is critical for the ruling Administration and for both Parties.
The Senate is not a democratic body since every US state, regardless of its size, has two Senators, which means that the two Senators representing the 576,851 population of Wyoming (2020 Census) have as much weight and power in the Senate as the two representing California’s population of more than 39.5 million, and this imbalance is growing as larger states are growing more rapidly than smaller ones. Given the coincidence of US demographics, the structure of the Senate today gives much more power to rural (white) voters than the overall population of the country, and this bias is reinforced by the practice in the Senate of the “filibuster”, requiring 60 votes to pass most legislation.
There is a strong predisposition in Senatorial elections in favor of incumbents (86.8% have been re-elected over the last 14 elections), but there is an even stronger trend: the Party of the President loses Senate seats in Midterms, and with the Senate currently split 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans, some months ago Republicans were confident they would win Senate control easily, with Biden’s low approval ratings and Americans suffering from rapidly growing inflation. Since then: i) Biden’s ratings have improved (although still low), ii) in several key races Republicans have chosen Trump-supported candidates who may be vulnerable in a general election, and iii) Democratic voters have been energized by the recent Supreme Court ruling permitting states to ban abortions.
The outcome of the Senate Midterm Election is a toss-up, with control to be decided by tiny margins in a few Senate races. I will risk being wrong by predicting that in 31 states the incumbent Party will win re-election; control of the Senate will be decided by only four races, two held by each Party:
- Pennsylvania, where the Republicans are likely to lose a seat,
- Georgia, a traditionally Southern Republican state where in 2020 Democrat Raphael Warnock won a surprising victory in a runoff election. If the Democrats hold Warnock’s seat, they will control the Senate. If they lose it, which is not unlikely, they may still maintain control if they win:
- Either Ohio or Nevada, which I think is likely.
I predict the Democrats will keep control of the Senate, ending up with either 50 or 51 seats. If they have 51 or more, this will mean less power to individual Democratic Senators, who can alone nullify a Democratic vote in a 50-50 Senate.