Not long ago, the the Republican Party was hitting bottom.
The GOP had lost the presidency and House in November 2020 and would soon squander its Senate majority early in 2021 — then watch with horror as supporters of then-President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol last Jan. 6.
What a difference a year makes.
A resurgent GOP is now poised to reclaim one or both congressional chambers in 2022, while retaining its lock on dozens of state legislatures and governor’s offices. Republican confidence is fueled by President Joe Biden’s underwhelming poll numbers, a Democratic economic and social agenda that’s faltering, intensifying concerns about inflation, and deepening frustration with the pandemic now unleashing yet another infection surge.
At its most basic level, though, GOP optimism is born of the same political headwinds that have shaped U.S. politics for decades. The party that controls the White House has a tremendous disadvantage in the first election of a new presidency.
“We’re going to have a hell of a year,” said Florida Sen. Rick Scott, who leads the national GOP’s Senate campaign arm.
Republican-controlled legislatures have aided the Republicans’ potential House fortunes by drawing new congressional districts that are even more favorable to the party.
Many Republican legislatures have also enacted laws making it more difficult to vote in response to Trump’s false claims of voter fraud. That’s expected to disproportionately affect Democratic-leaning African Americans and Latinos.
The 10 Senate seats most likely to flip in 2022
6. North Carolina
7. New Hampshire
Interactive: 10 Senate seats most likely to flip
Analysis: Virginia election results show Dems falling behind in battle for Senate
"A lot happens in a year." It's a favorite phrase for politicos who don't like the way the winds are blowing.
A year ago, it was Republicans saying that. Democrats had just celebrated winning the White House and holding the House, albeit with a slimmer majority than anyone had expected. (Securing the narrow Senate majority would come a couple of months later.)
But last week's gubernatorial results in Virginia and New Jersey now have Democrats getting behind the mantra as they hope the national environment is more favorable to them this time next year. Republicans already had history on their side heading into 2022, and they're feeling increasingly energized by President Joe Biden's slipping approval ratings. One year out from the midterms, 58% of Americans say Biden hasn't paid enough attention to the nation's most important problems, and a majority disapprove of the way he's handling his job, according to a new CNN Poll released Tuesday.
Biden's party still had a small advantage on the generic congressional ballot among registered voters in the CNN Poll, but the five most competitive Senate seats are all in states that Biden carried by much smaller margins than he won in Virginia (10 points): Pennsylvania (1.2 points), Georgia (0.3 point), Wisconsin (0.6 point), Arizona (0.4 point) and Nevada (2.4 points).
And despite missing out on what would have been their top recruit -- when New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu announced on Tuesday that he would not run for the Senate -- Republicans are bullish on winning the Granite State, which Biden carried by a more comfortable 7 points last year. They're even seriously talking up Colorado, which Biden won by 13.5 points -- more than Virginia but less than New Jersey, which he carried by nearly 16 points.
Of course, the unspoken factor in all this calculating is candidates. With former President Donald Trump drawing Republicans in Senate primaries to the right, there likely won't be a bunch of Glenn Youngkin-like candidates on the ballot next November. Virginia's Republican governor-elect charted a course to winning back the suburbs without alienating Trump's base that could very well work for some candidates in 2022 -- but that's only if they become the nominees. Youngkin was nominated at a party convention that doesn't look much like the Trump loyalty contests that are today's GOP primaries. And beyond perpetuating unfounded claims about election fraud, some of the former President's chosen candidates are facing serious scrutiny over their personal lives.
That's one reason why Pennsylvania -- where one of those candidates is running -- remains the seat most likely to flip partisan control, as it has been all year. GOP Sen. Pat Toomey is retiring, giving Democrats their best pickup opportunity. The 10 Senate seats most likely to flip are based on CNN's reporting and fundraising data, as well as historical data about how states and candidates have performed. As the cycle heats up, more polling and advertising spending data will become factors.
While Republicans grapple with what their future looks like with Trump out of the White House but still very much engaged in politics, some Democrats have been raising huge sums of money as they fight to hold the Senate. That's especially true for the newest incumbents -- Sens. Raphael Warnock of Georgia and Mark Kelly of Arizona, who are running for full six-year terms next fall. Two incumbents first elected in 2016 -- Sens. Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire and Catherine Cortez Masto -- have raised comparatively less money but could be facing contests just as competitive next fall.
After Pennsylvania, the next three seats on the list -- Georgia, Wisconsin and Arizona -- remain unchanged. But things have shifted in the middle of the pack, with Nevada sliding above North Carolina and, now that Sununu is not running, above New Hampshire too.
Despite Americans' concerns about the economy, the administration did get a double dose of good news at the end of last week, with an encouraging October jobs report and House passage of the infrastructure bill. Democrats are optimistic about passing the President's broader social safety net and climate bill in the coming weeks, too, but it'll be up to them and the President to sell it -- especially if the benefits of the two plans won't be fully tangible before November 2022. There's the risk of those measures being overshadowed by headlines like this week's about surging prices.
That there's still a year to go "might be the only sliver of good news for Democrats," Nathan Gonzales wrote in Inside Elections about the aftermath of Virginia and New Jersey. Indeed, as one Democratic strategist noted, the pandemic wasn't even on anyone's radar at this point in the 2020 cycle -- so yes, a lot can change in a year. But the clock is ticking.
Justice Clarence Thomas says that the Supreme Court has been changed by the shocking leak of a draft opinion earlier this month. That opinion suggests the court is poised to overturn the right to an abortion recognized in Roe v. Wade. The conservative Thomas joined the court in 1991 and has long called for Roe v. Wade to be overturned. He described the leak as an unthinkable breach of trust. Thomas said at a conference in Dallas that: “When you lose that trust, especially in the institution that I’m in, it changes the institution fundamentally. You begin to look over your shoulder."
Donald Trump’s choice for Pennsylvania governor has won his primary, and his Senate pick is locked in an exceedingly close contest as the former president works to expand his hold on the Republican Party. Trump’s late endorsement helped put the already surging far-right state senator Doug Mastriano over the top Tuesday in the GOP governor’s primary in one of the nation’s premier battleground states. But Mehmet Oz, the celebrity heart surgeon endorsed by Trump, is locked with former hedge fund manager David McCormick in a race that is too early to call. On the Democratic side, progressive Lt. Gov. John Fetterman easily secured his party's Senate nomination.
Sri Lanka’s defense ministry has ordered security forces to shoot anyone causing injury to people or property to contain widespread arson and mob violence targeting government supporters. The order came after violent clashes a day earlier left eight people dead and prompted the resignation of the prime minister, who is blamed along with his brother, the president, for leading the country into its worst economic crisis. For months, people have been forced to stand in long lines to buy essentials because a foreign exchange crisis has caused imports of everything from milk to fuel to plunge, spawning dire food shortages and rolling power cuts.
First-term U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn has lost to North Carolina state Sen. Chuck Edwards in the Republican congressional primary. Luke Ball, a spokesperson for Cawthorn’s campaign, told The Associated Press late Tuesday that Cawthorn had conceded the race before the AP called it for Edwards. A fast-food franchise owner, Edwards' victory advances him to the November election against Democrat Jasmine Beach-Ferrara. Several GOP leaders had turned away from the 26-year-old, pro-Donald Trump congressman, with some citing a series of unforced errors.
Madison Cawthorn's unexpected victory in 2020 made him the youngest member of the House and a rising Republican star — until the scandals started piling up. On Tuesday, the 26-year-old conservative North Carolina firebrand left his election night party early, and a spokesperson told reporters he was conceding the race to state Sen. Chuck Edwards. Cawthorn faced a slew of problems as he sought a second term — many of his own creation. On Monday, former President Donald Trump had urged voters to give him a second chance.
Okinawa Governor Denny Tamaki has urged Japan’s central government to do more to reduce the U.S. military presence in the southern island group as it marked the 50th anniversary of its return to Japanese rule. Tamaki said Sunday that Okinawa has come a long way since the devastation of World War II and nearly three decades of U.S. rule, which ended when it reverted to Japan on May 15, 1972. But the tiny island group’s yearslong demand for the mainland to share its security burden remains unresolved. Today, a majority of the 50,000 U.S. troops based in Japan under a bilateral security pact and 70% of military facilities are still in Okinawa.
Major energy producing states from Alaska to Pennsylvania are reaping a windfall from soaring oil and natural gas prices, stoked by the war in Ukraine and the U.S.-led ban on Russian oil imports. The boost threatens to increase state and local governments' entrenched reliance on fossil fuels in their budgets, revenue that pays for schools, roads and policing. Officials say they realize the need to move toward cleaner energy sources that don’t contribute to climate change, but also say they will need a way to replace the tax revenue their states and communities receive from fossil fuel extraction.
Doug Mastriano is not the only candidate who won a Republican primary on Tuesday after embracing former President Donald Trump’s lie that the 2020 election was stolen. But no GOP contender did more to subvert that last presidential election -- and no one may be better positioned to subvert the next one -- than Mastriano if he’s elected Pennsylvania’s governor. He has pledged to end no-excuse vote by mail, which hundreds of thousands used in this week’s primary. He also wants to force millions of registered voters to register again. And he would hold additional authority over elections because Pennsylvania is one of the few states where governors have the power to appoint the secretary of state.
President Joe Biden's administration has announced new steps to ease the national shortage of baby formula, including allowing more imports from overseas. Officials also reached an agreement to restart a shuttered baby formula factory from Abbott, the largest in the U.S.. Neither step will have an immediate effect on tight supplies that have left many parents searching for formula online or in food banks. After getting the FDA’s OK, Abbott said it will take eight to ten weeks before new products begin arriving in stores. The company didn’t set a timeline to restart manufacturing.
U.S. Rep. Ted Budd and former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley have won their respective Senate primaries in North Carolina. Budd on Tuesday won the 14-candidate Republican primary over the likes of former Gov. Pat McCrory and U.S. Rep. Mark Walker. Beasley was the front-runner for the Democratic nomination, which 11 people sought. Beasley and Budd will compete in November to succeed retiring Sen. Richard Burr. Voters are whittling down candidates seeking to serve on Capitol Hill, in the General Assembly and on the judicial bench. Primaries were held in 13 of the 14 North Carolina U.S. House districts.