Republicans' Worst-Case Scenario for the Midterms

The Republicans are heading into November's midterms with high hopes they will manage to flip enough seats in the House and the Senate to regain control of both chambers.

Historically, the party in the White House almost always sees losses in the midterm elections, especially the first one they encounter.

In 2002, George W. Bush managed to buck the trend after the GOP gained seats in both the House and Senate, but this arrived after the Republican president was seeing approval ratings as high as 90 percent in Gallup polling in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, before falling to the late 60s by the time the midterms arrived.

In comparison, President Joe Biden is heading into his first midterm elections with his average approval ratings at a historic low of 38.6 percent, according to FiveThirtyEight.

Republicans Midterms
Republicans are expected to do well in the November midterms but several worst-case scenarios could cause key losses. Above, supporters display signs during a Save America Rally with former President Donald Trump at the Adams County Fairgrounds in Mendon, Illinois on June 25, 2022. Getty

With signs pointing to the GOP dominating the midterms, it is easy to suggest that the worst case for the party would be that they fail to regain control of both chambers. However, a number of experts have suggested that there are several other factors at play that could hinder what would be considered successful midterms, including the overturning of Roe v. Wade, and the looming presence of Donald Trump amid the January 6 hearings.

"The worst-case scenario for Republicans would be for Democrats to successfully convey the truly extreme nature of the Republican agenda on abortion rights and gun safety," David Niven, a political science professor at the University of Cincinnati, told Newsweek.

The party may also suffer from having a "surplus of untested candidates"—such as former NFL star Herschel Walker in Georgia, celebrity heart surgeon Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania, and author J.D. Vance in Ohio—all of whom are endorsed by Trump but have never won a general election.

"In the Republican worst-case scenario, Democrats eke out a win in the House, expand their senate majority, and reclaim wayward governor's offices in states like Maryland and Massachusetts," Niven added.

Sean Freeder, an assistant professor of political science at the University of North Florida, suggested that the worst-case scenario for the GOP in November would be if turnout on the left is high due to "anger about Supreme Court rulings, and independents react poorly to Trump-backed Republican candidates across the country."

Freeder said another poor outcome for the Republicans would be if they manage to gain control of the House, but only by a very narrow margin, which would "exacerbate internal party politics for the Republican speaker" in the coming session.

In terms of the Senate, Freeder predicted a realistic worst-case scenario where the Dems hold a number of key seats in states such as Georgia, Arizona and Nevada, with Republican Wisconsin Senator Johnson losing his seat and John Fetterman beating Oz in the Pennsylvania race, giving the Democrats a 52-48 advantage in the upper chamber.

"Furthermore, they see key gubernatorial losses in states like Arizona and Georgia," Freeder told Newsweek. "Losses by governors in Texas [Greg Abbott] and Florida [Ron DeSantis] are very unlikely, but one or both of those would truly be rock bottom for Republicans. The result would still be congressional gridlock, but Republicans would be unable to present a unified Congress against Biden."

Thomas Gift, founding director of University College London's Center on U.S. Politics, believes that the worst-case scenario for the GOP in the midterms could even occur within the next few weeks.

It has been reported that Trump is preparing to finally confirm his intentions to run for president in 2024 in what some pundits believe is an attempt to deflect attention away from the January 6 hearings and to take the limelight from DeSantis' rising credentials for the Republican Party nomination.

Gift told Newsweek that Trump announcing his 2024 race early is perhaps the worst-case scenario for Republicans, given the chaos that usually surrounds the former president.

"The GOP wants smooth sailing heading into November's midterms, that's best achieved by avoiding scandals, and hammering one issue—inflation—over and over and over," Gift said. "Anything that distracts from that core message threatens to blow Republicans off course. And nothing screams distraction quite like a Trump media circus."