By Esther Fultz
Predicting political outcomes is, at best, challenging. Election results are influenced by a myriad of dynamic and complex factors, and what seems likely one day could prove inaccurate the next.
This past May, a red wave in Congress seemed probable. Economic and supply chain issues, the crisis at the southern border, and the United States’s response to international conflicts in Afghanistan and Ukraine all contributed to President Biden’s low approval ratings. This gave Republican representatives and senators a greater chance for success in the 2022 midterm elections. Five months later, the political environment of the United States has shifted dramatically. Traditionally, political parties in power lose seats in Congress during midterm elections, but recent events seem to favor the Democratic Party over the Republicans.
This past June, the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey. This event had great political significance, as mainstream media focused heavily on the decision and publicized the Democratic viewpoint that Republicans are out to take away women’s rights.
“Kamala Harris has referenced several times that women’s reproductive rights are lost forever and the President has said things that are similar,” Dr. Kevin Sims, Senior Professor of Political Science at Cedarville University, said. “Republicans really haven’t had a good answer to that other than they continue to be pro-life.”
Rather than focusing on their opinions on abortion in their campaigns, Republicans would benefit from emphasizing the responsibility of individual states to create legislation regarding abortion, established by the Dobbs v Jackson Supreme Court decision. They’d also benefit by reassuring voters that, if elected, they will respect the Dobbs v Jackson decision and not push for national legislation outlawing abortion.
Republicans should also recognize that, contrary to media portrayal, abortion is not the primary issue on the minds of voters. According to public opinion polls, the number one issue concerning voters is inflation and the economy, followed by immigration and possible threats to democracy. Abortion ranks number 10 on this list. Rather than focusing on the abortion issue, Republicans would be more successful if they emphasized solutions to these issues.
Despite the negative implications Dobbs v Jackson is assumed to have for the election of Republicans, it may increase participation among conservative voters.
“The media’s portrayal of the abortion decision could motivate pro-life people to go to the polls, not so much becasue they’re voting for Congress in the midterm election but because they are voting for local elections,” said Dr. Robert Clark, Assistant Professor of History at Cedarville University. “State legislators are now going to carry the ball for pro-life into the state debate and try to bring about more regulation.”
Another election influencing factor is Biden’s recent legislative victories, particularly in the area of pandemic stimulus.
“The results of this legislation are being felt around the country in the form of money flowing to projects, states and organizations,” said Clark. “While it was not everything the left wing of the Democratic Party wanted, he can say he found a way to get something done in Congress, which is what he promised when he came on board.”
The same is true of the gun control bill Congress passed in June. While the left wing of the Democratic Party and Biden himself expressed disappointment regarding how little was accomplished, it was the first major piece of regulatory legislation to come from Congress in decades.
Another important factor is Donald Trump’s continued presence in politics. The August 2022 FBI search of Trump’s residence in Mar-a-Lago, Florida sparked national attention and put Trump back in the spotlight.
“The Mar-a-Lago search gave Trump the opportunity to make this election all about him,” Sims said. “The Democrats want that because independent voters really aren’t interested in Trump. The Trump personality has worn out its welcome, so this allows the Democrats to remain secure in the midterms.”
While current events favor the Democratic party, that is not to say Republicans don’t have a chance at taking seats in the House and the Senate. Historically, parties in power tend to lose seats in the midterm elections, and following this trend is not out of the question. In the House, the Republicans are likely to pick up 15 to 20 seats, putting them in the majority.
“The Senate is where the fight will take place,” Sims said. “I think the Republicans still have the ability to gain control, but by two or three seats rather than a huge margin. But I think there’s less of a chance that will happen. It may even be hard for them to maintain the seats they currently have.”
A lot is still up in the air with the midterm elections.
“The electorate can be greatly swayed within a short period of time closely associated with the election,” said Clark. “It’s very hard to predict.”
Esther Fultz is a junior Social Work major and an Off-Campus and On-Campus writer for Cedars. She enjoys writing songs, spending time outdoors, drinking coffee, and hanging with friends.
Photo Credit: David Maiolo, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en>, via WikimediaCommons