Democrats' Worst Case Scenario for the Midterms

Democrats are widely expected to suffer defeats in the upcoming 2022 midterm elections, with Republicans aiming to retake the House of Representatives and the Senate.

The serving president's party usually performs poorly during midterms and while it seems likely President Joe Biden will see major losses this November, it's not clear just how bad things will be for the Democrats.

Polls suggest the Democrats are on course for disappointment and that the party could potentially lose control of both chambers of Congress and see newly empowered Republican majorities stymying Biden's agenda in the run up to the next presidential election.

A GOP gain in either chamber would hamstring the Biden administration, but the worst case scenario would see comfortable Republican majorities in both chambers, potentially leading to a slew of investigations and possibly even impeachment of the president.

Losing the Senate

Poll tracker FiveThirtyEight's 2022 election forecast rates the Senate as a toss up with 35 seats up for re-election. Fourteen are currently held by Democrats and 21 by Republicans.

FiveThirtyEight gives Republicans an 80 percent chance of holding between 47 and 54 seats. If that latter figure is reached, it would represent a major defeat for Biden's party.

The Senate is currently divided between 50 Republicans, 48 Democrats and two independents who caucus with the Democrats. Vice President Kamala Harris has had to use her casting vote on a number of occasions and a single Democratic loss in the midterms would hand control to the Republicans.

FiveThirtyEight rates the Senate races in Arizona, Georgia, Nevada and Pennsylvania as toss-ups. If Republicans can win all four, it would be a major loss for the Democrats.

Three of those seats are held by incumbent Democrats, while Republican Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania is retiring.

However, it's highly unlikely that Republicans could gain enough seats in November to secure a 60-vote, filibuster proof majority. This means Democrats are likely to deploy the filibuster if the GOP retakes the chamber.

Nonetheless, a Republican-led Senate could hold up Biden's judicial nominees and potentially prevent him filling any vacant seats that might arise on the U.S. Supreme Court, as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell did in 2016 when he was majority leader.

Biden Approval Low Poll
A new poll found that nearly 60 percent of Americans disapprove of the job President Joe Biden is doing as president. Above, Biden bows his head in prayer Tuesday before presenting the Medal of Honor to four Army soldiers who fought in the Vietnam War. Getty Images/Win McNamee

A Republican House

Republicans are favored to win the House, according to FiveThirtyEight, while Democrats currently hold 220 seats to Republicans' 210, with five seats vacant.

The poll tracker's analysis gives Republicans an 80 percent chance of holding between 215 and 258 seats. If the larger figure proves accurate, that would be a huge gain for the GOP, though it remains an outside possibility.

The single worst midterm loss of House seats occurred in 2010 when Democrats lost 63 seats under then President Barack Obama. However, Obama's party retained control of the Senate until the 2014 midterms.

It seems likely that Republican gains this year will be more modest but that the GOP will still win the House. That will allow House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to become speaker for the first time and possibly mean the end of Speaker Nancy Pelosi's political career.

FiveThirtyEight's generic congressional ballot shows Republicans with 44.8 percent support to the Democrats' 43.2 percent, as of July 6 - a margin of just 1.7 percent.

Investigations

If Republicans retake the House, recent reporting suggests they will launch a series of investigations into the Biden administration.

Those probes could include the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, the business dealings of Hunter Biden and even an investigation into the House Select Committee currently examining the events of January 6, 2021.

Republican investigations could dominate the political agenda heading into the 2024 presidential election. Democrats may also be concerned about potential impeachment charges against President Biden, as some Republicans have previously suggested.

An impeachment push could center on the withdrawal from Afghanistan or accusations relating to Biden's involvement in his son's business. He has denied any involvement with Hunter Biden's foreign business affairs.

If the GOP controls both the House and Senate, investigations could multiply and the possibility of impeachment could be even greater.

'Wrong Lessons'

Losses in the midterms will prove disappointing for Democrats and politically difficult for Biden, but Thomas Gift, founding director of University College London's Centre on U.S. Politics, told Newsweek the president's party may have even bigger problems.

"For Democrats, the worst case scenario isn't just that they lose big in November. It's that they lose big—and learn the wrong lessons about why they got beat," Gift said.

"There's a certain faction within the Democratic Party that will argue that its looming defeats in the midterms are the result of not leaning hard enough into the progressive agenda. That's not just wrong. It's delusional," he said.

Gift said that data showed centrist positions "poll well with American voters. Far-left positions don't."

"If Democrats continue to embrace policies that most voters perceive as unacceptably liberal, 2022 will only be the harbinger of more losses in 2024," he said.

"The sooner Democrats realize that what earns likes on Twitter doesn't earn votes in swing states, the sooner they'll figure out what it takes to beat the eminently beatable Republican Party," Gift added.

Joe Biden
President Joe Biden (inset) holds a press conference on the last day of the NATO Summit at the IFEMA Convention Center, in Madrid on June 30, 2022, and supporters of former President Donald Trump attend a campaign rally. Democrats could lose both the House of Representatives and the Senate in November.