Reading the political tea leaves 18 months in advance is as tricky as making a weather forecast for the same timeframe. But every so often, circumstances combine to increase the odds in the forecaster’s favor. Looking ahead to next year’s midterms is one of them. Because if things continue on their current course, Nov. 8, 2022, will be a very good night for Republicans around the country.
For starters, history is on the GOP’s side going into the campaign. There’s a long track record of the incumbent president’s party losing seats during a midterm election. In fact, since 1934, only two presidents have enjoyed an increase in their party’s numbers in the House and Senate: Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1934 and George W. Bush in 2002.
Excluding those two exceptions, losses are big for the party that occupies 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Especially for first-term presidents and particularly in the House. Consider Presidents Donald Trump (minus 40 in 2018), Barack Obama (minus 63 in 2010), Bill Clinton (minus 52 in 1994), Ronald Reagan (minus 26 in 1982), and Gerald Ford (minus 48 in 1974). All were shellacked at the ballot box, resulting in significantly fewer members of their party in the House of Representatives.
According to FiveThirtyEight, the GOP also has a turnout advantage in midterms. Under Republican presidents since 1978, the GOP has enjoyed a plus-one shift toward party identification for those who vote in midterm elections. That margin swells to plus-five under Democratic presidents.
Contemporary history doesn’t bode well for Democrats, either. Expectations for the left aren’t nearly as high going into 2022 as they were just a year ago. The 2020 election was supposed to deal a crushing blow to Republicans up and down the ballot. Instead, the GOP defeated 12 incumbent House Democrats and successfully defended every incumbent Republican seat.
If historical trends weren’t enough, Democrats are dealing Republicans a winning hand, too. The Democratic-backed plans to pack the Supreme Court and to end the Senate filibuster are wildly unpopular. A recent Mason-Dixon poll found 65% of Americans and a whopping 72% of independents opposed court-packing. The same survey showed only 37% of Americans supported ending the filibuster while 69% of independents opposed it.
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Mason-Dixon pollster Brad Coker concluded that “moderate and unaffiliated voters did not vote for Joe Biden in 2020 ‘to turn the government upside-down’ or ‘remake America.’”
But that’s exactly what Democrats are trying to do. And it will inevitably hurt them on Election Day, especially when 56% of independents said they would be less likely to re-elect their senator if he or she supported those two disliked and radical Democratic priorities.
Beyond seeking to alter dramatically fundamental government mainstays that have been around for more than 150 years, Democrats must also answer for the crisis at the border, pushing citizenship for undocumented immigrants, trillion-dollar spending bonanzas, D.C. statehood, radical gun control measures, defunding the police, and increasingly rising fuel and food costs. Whatever hope there was for governing from the middle is gone. Once again, Democrats are overplaying their hand.
But Republicans’ biggest advantage in 2022 might come from redistricting. Topline 2020 census numbers show both New York (Biden won by 23.2%) and California (Biden by 29.2%) losing seats in 2022 while Texas (won by Trump by 5.6%), Montana (Trump by 16.4%), North Carolina (Trump by 1.6%), and Florida (Trump by 3.3%) will all gain seats.
Republicans also enjoy governing trifectas in 23 states, meaning the GOP controls all three branches of state government. Democratic trifectas exist in just 15 states. This will have a substantial effect on the soon-to-be-drawn congressional districts.
As political commentator Hugh Hewitt pointed out in a recent Washington Post column, the “GOP will enjoy complete control of drawing new boundaries for 181 congressional districts, compared with a maximum of 74 for Democrats.”
Finally, don’t forget about Donald Trump. He turns out the base like no one else can, whether he’s on the ballot or not. The same can’t be said for Joe Biden.
The 2022 election is shaping up for one big collective “You’re Fired!” to Democrats across America.
R.J. May III is a Republican representative in the South Carolina House and president of Ivory Tusk Consulting, a marketing and political strategy firm.