POLITICO Playbook: The final forecasts of the 2022 election

With help from Eli Okun and Garrett Ross

ALMOST THERE — 1 day left until Election Day. … 40,114,753 early votes cast as of 3:33 p.m. Sunday, per the United States Elections Project.

FINAL FORECASTS — Steve Shepard’s final predictions were posted overnight. The big takeaway: “Republicans have a grip on the House majority. But the Senate is firmly up for grabs.” You can read his breakdowns of the Senate and gubernatorial races, but we want to dig into the House forecasts this morning.

We were also fortunate to get a preview of both DAVID WASSERMAN’s final House forecast over at The Cook Political Report and KYLE KONDIK’s final House forecast over at Sabato’s Crystal Ball. Add FiveThirtyEight’s model into the mix, and we see handicappers predicting that the GOP will gain between one and 35 seats, with most emphasizing gains in the twenties. The scenario of Democrats retaining control — something that was seen as a modest longshot late in the summer — is now viewed as exceedingly unlikely.

Steve’s final House prediction:

“Including the latest shifts, 216 seats are now in the ‘Solid,’ ‘Likely’ or ‘Lean Republican’ category — meaning Republicans are only two seats away from the majority, according to the forecast. By comparison, just 194 districts are in the ‘Solid,’ ‘Likely’ and ‘Lean Democratic’ categories. There are 26 seats rated as ‘Toss Up’ — races where neither party has a significant advantage.

“The current breakdown of the House (allocating vacant seats to the party that last won them) is 222 Democrats and 213 Republicans. Even if Republicans fail to win any of the 26 ‘Toss Up’ races — just 2 of the 26 would give them the majority — they are currently projected to gain 3 seats. An even, 50-50 split of the ‘Toss Up’ districts would translate to a 16-seat Republican gain.

“A GOP sweep of those ‘Toss Up’ races would represent a gain of nearly 30 seats, and it’s not unusual for one party to win the lion’s share of competitive contests. In 2020, Republicans won 26 of the 27 seats rated as ‘Toss Up’ by POLITICO. In 2018, Democrats won 15 of POLITICO’s 22 ‘Toss Up’ contests in their 40-seat wave election.

Wasserman’s final House prediction: “Heading into Election Day, 212 seats are at least Lean Republican, 188 seats are at least Lean Democrat and there are 35 Toss Ups. If those Toss Ups were to split evenly down the middle, Republicans would wind up at around 230 seats (+17). We believe a Republican gain of 15 to 25 seats is most likely, but it wouldn’t be terribly surprising if the Toss Ups broke mostly their way, pushing GOP gains even higher.”

Kondik’s final prediction: Republicans +24 seats. (See here this afternoon for his final analysis.)

FiveThirtyEight’s House model: Republicans have an 80% chance of winning between 1 and 33 seats.

IS IT A WAVE? — In the House, the most likely outcome is that this will be a typical midterm in which the president’s party loses seats. The modern average is a loss of 27 House seats. Three of the last four presidents did much worse in their first midterms: BILL CLINTON lost 54 seats, BARACK OBAMA lost 63 seats, and DONALD TRUMP lost 40 seats.

In a review of several political science models of how Democrats should fare in 2022 given fundamentals like the state of the economy and JOE BIDEN’s approval rating, Vanderbilt’s John Sides notes that Democrats’ expected losses should be about 40-45 seats, which is well above the range predicted by major handicappers.

There’s no agreed upon definition of what constitutes a wave. But given these historical trends, here’s our rough guide:

  • Democratic losses below 20 House seats would be a subpar night for Republicans.
  • Losses in the 20-30 range would be a normal midterm, but below what would be expected given Biden’s unpopularity and voters’ views of the economy.
  • Losses of 30-40 seats would be an above-average midterm drubbing, though well short of what Biden’s recent predecessors faced.
  • We wouldn’t use the W-word unless Biden got into Clinton-Obama-Trump territory of losing over 40 House seats. (None of the four forecasts above contemplates a Republican gain of more than 35 seats.)

Not everyone sees it this way. “I think it’s a little unfair to Republicans to say that a gain in the high teens, for instance, would be some sort of big disappointment,” Kondik told Playbook. “A majority is a majority.”

Kondik thinks it’s better to look at the overall number of seats Republicans win rather than the net increase. “Perhaps a good marker for measuring how well the Republicans do is 235, which is the number of seats Democrats won in 2018 (and would represent a net gain of 22). A gain under that probably means the Republicans would have left at least a little bit of meat on the bone. A gain over that would surpass the Democrats’ recent high mark and represent them breaking into some bluer turf.”

A RED ‘RIPPLE’ CAN STILL BE A BIG DEAL — We’ve been doing this long enough to know that the most common mistake that analysts make after an election is to over-interpret the results.

Every election brings with it confident predictions of some enduring new majority. GEORGE W. BUSH and Obama were both seen as ushering in eras of dominance for their respective parties. Trump’s election supposedly meant the end of the Democratic Party’s presidential prospects. Some liberals say that the 2018 and 2020 anti-Trump surges prove that a stable center-left coalition exists to extinguish MAGA.

The winning party on Tuesday, likely the GOP, will point to the results as evidence of a new unstoppable movement that will sweep away the other side. It won’t be true.

We may get caught up in some of the over-interpretation ourselves. It’s a fairly normal reaction to two of the trends that define our political era: hyper-polarization and partisan parity. The two parties keep drifting further apart ideologically, so they increasingly see every election as an existential threat to the future of the country. But Democrats and Republicans are also closely matched when it comes to voter support, which means control of the House, Senate, and White House is always up for grabs. The Senate has changed control eight times since 1980 (after 26 years without a change). The House has changed five times since 1994 (after 40 years without a change).

It doesn’t take much to flip a chamber or switch presidents. Tiny changes in vote totals create massive changes in the ideological direction of those institutions — Trump vs. Biden, KEVIN McCARTHY vs. NANCY PELOSI.

This combination of both parties being resistant to change while also being highly competitive with each other “raises the stakes of politics — and makes them more explosive,” political scientists John Sides, Chris Tausanovitch and Lynn Vavreck write in “The Bitter End: The 2020 Presidential Campaign and the Challenge to American Democracy” ($29.95), which documented how seemingly significant convulsions in national politics, such as the Covid pandemic and the BLM protests, did not translate into major changes in overall voting patterns, though were enough to dislodge Trump.

The challenge after Tuesday is to keep two things in mind: There can be a massive change in policy direction (the House flipping) with only a small change in the electorate (less than 5% of House seats changing hands).

Good Monday morning. Thanks for reading Playbook. Drop us a line with your final predictions: Rachael Bade, Eugene Daniels, Ryan Lizza.

Biden has often cast the stakes of the 2022 election as verging on existential for democracy.

“You can’t call yourself a democracy or supporting democratic principles if you say, ‘The only election that is fair is the one I win,’” he said at a campaign stop this weekend, referencing the many Republican candidates who deny the outcome of the 2020 election.

“Come January, he may find himself needing to govern with those he’s cast as democracy’s threats,” Jonathan Lemire writes this morning. “Tuesday’s midterm elections will likely dramatically shape Biden’s next two years in office. … [I]t’s very possible that the election deniers that Biden is warning about will soon take over critical government posts, raising even more complicated questions about the path his presidency will chart.”

“If Democrats don’t do well, the party has to take a really hard look at our messaging. These losses would be a huge setback,” JAMES CARVILLE tells Lemire. “It’s going to be a disaster for democracy. It’s going to be a disaster for Social Security and Medicare. It’s going to be a disaster for everything.”

If the GOP wins the House: “First, Biden’s legislative agenda would grind to a halt. White House aides believe the GOP would likely be as obstructionist as possible. Funding to support Ukraine could dry up, or at least be slashed. And a Republican-controlled House would be armed with subpoena power and unleash an onslaught of investigations and perhaps even impeachments of Cabinet officials or, eventually, the president himself.”

If the GOP also wins the Senate: “Biden would face major challenges in confirming Cabinet members, picks to the federal judiciary and, were a seat to open, a selection for the Supreme Court. For the White House, that would be just the beginning of the hurdles.”

One of many things gnawing at Dems in those scenarios: “Having described a Republican wave as a gateway to democracy’s peril, Biden and his fellow Democrats would have to grapple with the likelihood that voters did not feel similarly aghast,” writes Lemire.


CLOSING TIME — “Democrats look to centrists in final hours while GOP amps up its base,” by WaPo’s Annie Linskey, Cara McGoogan and Colby Itkowitz

For Republicans: “As Republican candidates make their final appeal in key states, they’re tapping some of the most polarizing figures in their party and turning to messages centered on cultural division and at times pushing racial discord.”

For Democrats: “At the same time, many Democrats are scrambling to highlight more moderate themes, overlooking the far left of their party and bringing in surrogates who appeal to middle-of-the-road voters, including former president Bill Clinton, Transportation Secretary PETE BUTTIGIEG and Sen. AMY KLOBUCHAR (Minn.).”

“Confidence, Anxiety and a Scramble for Votes Two Days Before the Midterms,” by NYT’s Lisa Lerer, Jennifer Medina and Jonathan Weisman in Delaware County, Pa.: “As candidates sprinted across the country to make their closing arguments to voters, Republicans entered the final stretch of the race confident they would win control of the House and possibly the Senate. Democrats steeled themselves for potential losses even in traditionally blue corners of the country.”

TRUST ISSUES — “Midterms pose fresh test for American democracy after two years under fire,” by WaPo’s Amy Gardner and Rosalind Helderman: “Two years after Donald Trump tried to overturn a presidential election, Tuesday’s midterms will test American democracy once more, with voters uncertain whether they can believe in the process, Republican election deniers poised to take positions of power and the mechanics of voting itself under intense scrutiny.” “A spiral of violence and fear is creating angst for many voters ahead of the midterm elections,” by NBC’s Alex Seitz-Wald and Jonathan Allen: “Three-quarters of Americans say they worry about the future of the country as a threat of violence chills the air.”

DEMOGRAPHIC DIVES — “In Final Push for Votes, Both Parties Court Black Men,” by NYT’s Clyde McGrady and Maya King … “Indigenous Voters, Gaining Influence, Look to Mobilize,” by NYT’s Emily Cochrane and Mark Walker in Anchorage …  “Asian Americans in Nevada are highly sought-after voters,” by AP’s Sam Metz

DISINFORMATION DIGEST — “This year, GOP election deniers got a free pass from Twitter and Facebook,” by WaPo’s Naomi Nix, Jeremy Merrill and Hayden Godfrey


GEORGIA ON MY MIND — “A Quarter-Billion Dollars for the Walker-Warnock Georgia Senate Race Buys Toss-Up,” by WSJ’s Joshua Jamerson and Cameron McWhirter in Atlanta: “To win a single Senate seat, Republicans and Democrats have spent the equivalent of $30.83 on every one of the 7.8 million eligible voters in Georgia. That comes to somewhere north of $241 million and counting.”

“Warnock, Walker get personal in Georgia’s closing arguments,” by AP’s Bill Barrow and Jeff Amy in Atlanta

“In Georgia’s midterms, a slow-burning health care crisis takes a back seat to the economy,” by NBC’s J.J. McCorvey: “Democrats are trying to motivate voters on Medicaid and abortion in a state where health services are dwindling, most recently in Atlanta. But in an election fueled by inflation, other issues struggle to break through.”

RALSTON’S NEVADA PREDICTIONS — “Crystal ball says Cortez Masto hangs on, Sisolak doesn’t and Dems retain two of three House seats,” by the Nevada Independent’s Jon Ralston

ON WISCONSIN — “Ron Johnson pushes racial divisions in his closing message to Wis. GOP voters,” by WaPo’s Annie Linskey in Black River Falls, Wis.: “As he made his final pitch to voters in western Wisconsin last week, Sen. RON JOHNSON told a story about a truck driver who got stuck while navigating a tricky road. … Johnson said he is typically impatient but was not in this case because he witnessed something ‘heartwarming’: The people of the small community in central Wisconsin sprang into action to help the truck driver get going again.

“He ended the story with this reveal: ‘You know, one little point really — really doesn’t factor in the story at all. But the driver was an African American gentleman. So now why would I add that little detail? I happen to be running against MANDELA BARNES,’ Johnson said. …

“Race has played a central role in the Wisconsin senatorial election, which is among the closest in the country and could determine the partisan balance of the Senate. Supporters of both candidates have accused the other side of unfairly injecting race into the campaign. For weeks, outside GOP groups have financed an onslaught of ads, including a spot that showed Barnes’s name styled in graffiti, and others that have labeled him as ‘dangerously liberal’ and ‘different.’ In some advertisements Barnes’s skin has been darkened.”

KEYS TO THE KEYSTONE — “Battle for Bucks County: Oz, Fetterman converge on must-win Philly suburb,” by Jessica Piper and Holly Otterbein in Philadelphia: “Bucks County, which stretches along the Delaware River north of Philadelphia and has a population of roughly 650,000, represents the swingiest of the Philadelphia suburbs. … The county has thousands of potential ticket-splitters, a group [MEHMET] OZ urgently needs on Election Day. Republican gubernatorial nominee DOUG MASTRIANO, who has struggled to fundraise and largely been abandoned by national Republicans over far-right ties, is poised to lose to [JOSH] SHAPIRO.”

“For Fetterman, Campaign Trail Doubles as Road to Recovery,” by NYT’s Katie Glueck in Collegeville, Pa.: “In the final days of the extraordinary Pennsylvania Senate race, in which a stroke survivor is running against a celebrity television physician, [JOHN] FETTERMAN is proactively acknowledging that his recovery remains a work in progress, leaning into the issue with a mix of humor, sarcasm and notes of empathy for others struggling with health challenges, as he competes in one of the most consequential contests in the nation.”


GET SMART ON THE GOV RACES — “A guide to every key governor’s race on Tuesday,” by Zach Montellaro

NEW YORK STATE OF MIND — “Kathy Hochul’s campaign to prove her place in New York,” by WaPo’s Ruby Cramer: “In a state of brutal machine politics and big, strange, beguiling personalities, KATHY HOCHUL keeps an understated profile, making the governor an unlikely fit for 2022. Across the country this year, candidates rose to the top of the ticket with a modern set of political qualities: pugilistic loyalty, polarizing rhetoric, the skills to command a television camera and commandeer a room. Hochul is a politician carved from a previous era.”

HOOSIER HEADS UP — “A potential bright spot for Dems in Indiana,” by Adam Wren: “Indiana Democrats, shut out of statewide offices for a decade in the solidly red state, could change that on Tuesday thanks to an unexpectedly competitive secretary of state race. Republican nominee DIEGO MORALES, a former gubernatorial aide to MIKE PENCE who has called the 2020 election a ‘scam,’ has been dogged by controversy in recent months, including allegations of sexual improprieties, voter fraud and misuse of campaign funds. That has created an opening for his Democratic opponent, DESTINY WELLS.”

MEANWHILE IN ARIZONA — “In Arizona, GOP leans into immigration as Democrats plead for ‘sanity’ in final midterms push,” by NBC’s Alicia Victoria Lozano … “Suspicious envelope with ‘white substance’ found at Kari Lake’s campaign headquarters,” by the Arizona Republic’s Ellie Willard and Lillian Boyd



THE 30,000-FOOT VIEW — “After a Life of Struggle, Biden Faces One More Inflection Point,” by NYT’s Peter Baker in Albuquerque, N.M.: “Mr. Biden has been spreading the faith across the country in recent days, undaunted by the polls and prognosticators forecasting a devastating defeat for his party in Tuesday’s midterm elections. Faith has been Mr. Biden’s calling card in his nearly two years in office — faith in the system in which he has been a fixture for more than half a century, faith that he could repair the fissures of a broken society, faith that he and he alone could beat former President Donald J. Trump if they face off again in 2024.

“It is not a faith shared by everyone, not even among fellow Democrats, not even among his own advisers and allies, some of whom view the coming days with dread. After turning to Mr. Biden for a sense of normalcy two years ago following the turmoil of Mr. Trump, voters now appear poised to register discontent that he has not delivered it the way they expected, regardless of whether it was realistic in the first place.”


HOW IT AFFECTS THE HILL — “5 big congressional contests that won’t get settled on Election Day,” by Burgess Everett, Sarah Ferris and Olivia Beavers: “While the midterms are coming to a close, leadership races on Capitol Hill are just getting started.”

DIDN’T SAY NO — “Rick Scott doesn’t rule out run for majority leader if GOP takes Senate,” by NBC’s Summer Concepcion: “Sen. RICK SCOTT, R-Fla., the chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, declined Sunday to say whether he would run for majority leader if Republicans gain control of the Senate in the midterm elections. ‘I’m not focused on anything except getting a majority Tuesday night,’ Scott said in an interview on NBC News’ ‘Meet the Press.’ After host CHUCK TODD replied, ‘That’s a non-answer,’ Scott repeated his line that he is solely ‘focused’ on Tuesday’s elections.”


2024 WATCH — “Cotton passes on 2024 presidential run after considering campaign,” by Alex Isenstadt: Sen. TOM COTTON (R-Ark.) “has been reaching out to donors, supporters and senior Republicans over the last few days to inform them of his plans, according to two people familiar with his deliberations. Cotton has attributed his decision to family concerns, saying that a national campaign would take him away from his two young sons, who are seven and five years old.”

TRUMP VS. DeSANTIS — The shadow campaign between Trump and Florida Gov. RON DeSANTIS played out in Florida on Sunday as the two held dueling rallies. “Bruised egos are commonplace in politics. But rarely has a rift at the top of a party spilled so fully into view at such a pivotal moment,” NYT’s Michael Bender and Patricia Mazzei write. The duo also got the deets on how Trump landed on “Ron DeSanctimonious” as a new nickname for the governor: “some people close to him said the decision to cast Mr. DeSantis as hypocritically pious solidified itself after the governor’s team released a video Friday aimed at infusing his candidacy with a sense of the divine.”

Our colleagues Matt Dixon and Gary Fineout write from Miami that Trump largely held his fire on Sunday night. Despite not formally endorsing DeSantis for reelection, he said the governor should be reelected. But it was clear he wasn’t over-the-moon about it. Here’s what Trump said: “You’re going to reelect the wonderful, the great friend of mine MARCO RUBIO to the United States Senate, and you are going to reelect Ron DeSantis as your governor.”


BUT WHO’S COUNTING — “Trump Is Calling Republicans to Ask ‘How Many’ Times They’ll Impeach Biden,” by Rolling Stone’s Asawin Suebsaeng and Patrick Reis

NEWS ANALYSIS — “Trump May Pose a Test No Special Counsel Can Pass,” by NYT’s Katie Benner: “Should Mr. Trump declare his candidacy, legal experts say that investigating a sitting president’s top political opponent in a coming election could present more of a conflict for Biden’s Justice Department than it has so far faced in its investigations.”


HEADS UP — National security adviser JAKE SULLIVAN “has engaged in recent months in confidential conversations with top aides to Russian President VLADIMIR PUTIN in an effort to reduce the risk of a broader conflict over Ukraine and warn Moscow against using nuclear or other weapons of mass destruction,” WSJ’s Vivian Salama and Michael Gordon report. “The aim has been to guard against the risk of escalation and keep communications channels open, and not to discuss a settlement of the war in Ukraine, the officials said.”

THE VIEW FROM KYIV — “Kyiv prepares for a winter with no heat, water or power,” by AP’s Sam Mednick

THE VIEW FROM MOSCOW — “Russia Looks to Private Militia to Secure a Victory in Eastern Ukraine,” by NYT’s Andrew Higgins and Matthew Mpoke Bigg


PSAKI BOMB — “‘My Job In This Role Is To Not Guess’: Jen Psaki’s TV Career Is Getting Off The Ground,” by Vanity Fair’s Charlotte Klein: “The ex–White House press secretary will be breaking down the midterms Tuesday night in the MSNBC studio and has been sounding out MIKA [BRZEZINSKI], RACHEL [MADDOW], and ARI [MELBER] as she prepares to launch her own Peacock show. Vanity Fair caught up with [JEN] PSAKI about her new gig — and what she thinks of all the Biden 2024 chatter.”


MUSK READS — “Twitter Is Said to Delay Changes to Check Mark Badges Until After Midterms,” by NYT’s Ryan Mac, Kate Conger and Mike Isaac: “Many Twitter users and employees raised concerns that the new pay-for-play badges could cause confusion ahead of Tuesday’s elections because users could easily create verified accounts — say, posing as President Biden or as lawmakers or news outlets and publishing false information about voting results — which could potentially sow discord.”

“Musk threatens to boot Twitter account impersonators,” by AP’s Frank Bajak

“These are the men running Elon Musk’s Twitter,” by WaPo’s Gerrit De Vynck and Hamza Shaban

“Twitter Now Asks Some Fired Workers to Please Come Back,” by Bloomberg’s Kurt Wagner and Edward Ludlow

MOVE FAST AND BREAK THINGS — “Facebook Parent Meta Is Preparing to Notify Employees of Large-Scale Layoffs This Week,” by WSJ’s Jeff Horwitz and Salvador Rodriguez

Amy Klobucharworked the crowd in Nashua.

Jack Dorsey and Elon Musk had an argument about Twitter on Twitter.

Kathy Griffingot kicked off Twitter for impersonating Elon Musk.

SPOTTED: Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and husband George Akerlof having an early Saturday lunch at Pete’s New Haven Style Apizza in Tenleytown. She was a generous tipper, per our tipster.

MEDIA MOVE — Xochitl Hinojosa will join CNN as an political on-air commentator. She currently is managing director at Bully Pulpit Interactive. Full announcement

STAFFING UP — Corey Jacobson is joining the Pentagon as special assistant to assistant secretary of Defense for space policy John Plumb. He previously was legislative director for Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) and is a Henry Waxman alum.

FIRST IN PLAYBOOK — David Castagnetti is joining Dentons Global Advisors as a partner. He previously was co-founder of Mehlman Castagnetti Rosen & Thomas.

TRANSITION — Jalen Drummond is now director of public affairs at GoFundMe. He previously was senior media relations manager at Leidos and is a Trump White House alum.

WEEKEND WEDDING — Jim Warren, a government affairs, strategy and development analyst at Martin Marietta, and Madeleine Fennell, marketing and accounting manager at Emily Daws Textiles, recently got married in Charleston, S.C.. Pic Another picSPOTTED: Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), Rep. Dan Bishop (R-N.C.), Jo Bishop, Saat Alety, Shay Hawkins, Alex Smith, John Partin, Lucas West, Kirsten West, Jude Al-hmoud and Clara Cargile.

WELCOME TO THE WORLD — Elise Flick, global comms director for Vice World News, and Nick Hatcher, senior publishing editor for speed and trending at the Wall Street Journal, welcomed Charlie Bruce Hatcher on Nov. 1. PicAnother pic

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Reps. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), Sam Graves (R-Mo.), Susie Lee (D-Nev.) and Rick Allen (R-Ga.) (7-0) … Sheila Nix of the Education Department … Liz Allen … POLITICO’s Jose Fernandez, Elena Schneider and Sean Reilly … Protocol’s Claire Uhar … NBC’s Jen FriedmanCaroline Tabler of Sen. Tom Cotton’s (R-Ark.) office … Kate O’Connor of the House Energy and Commerce Committee … Jose Diaz-Balart Donald Kohn (8-0) … Brunswick Group’s Siobhan Gorman Brad Woodhouse of Protect Our Care … Aanchal Sahay of Planned Parenthood Federation … former Sen. Rudy Boschwitz (R-Minn.) (92) … Michael Kratsios … former CIA Director David PetraeusGeorge Thompson of FleishmanHillard … David GrossmanJeff BjornstadPat Devlin 

Send Playbookers tips to [email protected] or text us at 202-556-3307. Playbook couldn’t happen without our editor Mike DeBonis, deputy editor Zack Stanton and producers Setota Hailemariam and Bethany Irvine.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *