The House is in play for the first time this cycle as Democrats continue to build momentum, but the GOP remains the favorite to take control. This edition of the Fox News Power Rankings looks at shifts toward Democrats in nine battleground House races and two key Senate races. Meanwhile, the GOP makes gains in the Georgia and Oregon governor races.
House: Republicans expected to take a 13-seat majority, but Democrats now have pathways to win
Republicans can expect a 13-seat majority in the latest House forecast (a total of 231 seats), leaving the Democrats with a 14-seat deficit (204 seats). These numbers reflect a shift of three seats away from the GOP since August. While the trend line favors Democrats, 13 seats means the Republicans would hold a comfortable governing majority. House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy will want to keep that figure in the double digits as election day approaches.
(You may notice that the chart above looks different compared to previous editions. This chart now shows the number of Democratic and Republican seats if each party wins half of the 30 most competitive races. Below each number, you will now see a “±15 seats” label, which indicates how many seats above or below the headline number that each party could take.)
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For the first time this cycle, these rankings give Democrats pathways to retain control. The “best case” scenario for the left, which assumes that Democrats win all 30 of the most competitive races, would give them a razor-thin two-seat majority (219 seats). Remember, though, that almost every other scenario puts the GOP in control. Indeed, the best-case scenario for Republicans gives them a commanding 28-seat majority (246 seats).
Democrats continue to gain ground in national polls. Generic ballot averages now have the party up by around a point, within the margin of error. At the same time as that shift, voters across the nation have highlighted abortion policy and the future of U.S. democracy. Those made up two of the top four issues voters were “extremely concerned” about in the latest Fox News Poll. Voters prioritizing abortion and democracy prefer the Democratic Party candidate by 29 points and seven points, respectively. If Democrats can keep those voters motivated until election day, this will be a close race.
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Republicans are also making unforced electoral errors. As inflation reached its highest level in 40 years on Tuesday, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., proposed limits making abortion illegal nationwide after 15 weeks, giving Democrats a stronger argument that the GOP will restrict abortion rights nationwide. When “Fox News Sunday’s” Shannon Bream pressed Graham on the reversal, asking why he pivoted from an earlier position that abortion should be left up to the states, he promised to continue introducing legislation at the national level. Graham’s Senate colleagues are running away from the plan, but 87 Republican lawmakers in the House have signed onto it.
Even so, inflation remains the number one issue in every major poll, and that issue favors Republicans by a wide margin. The GOP leads by 12 points with voters who are extremely concerned about inflation and high prices. A combined 34% of registered voters say that inflation and the economy/jobs are the main issues motivating them. Voters get reminders that basic goods and services are more expensive every time they see a price tag. If the GOP stays focused on this issue, while nudging voters about crime rates and the border, then they will likely keep their advantage.
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For its part, the Biden administration appears to be doing little to quell voters’ economic fears. Last week, the president hosted a celebration for the Inflation Reduction Act, which is designed to lower prescription drug prices and energy costs, but economic modeling shows that the bill would have no discernible impact on overall inflation. Then, on Sunday, President Biden was defensive about inflation in a post-NFL game interview, saying that increases need to be put “in perspective” and that it’s “up just an inch, hardly at all.” Comments like that are unlikely to resonate with moderates and independents, who are critical to any potential Democratic victory.
Finally, a reminder on the Power Rankings methodology. This forecast responds to polling averages, but also to a variety of other data points, like election fundamentals, results from primaries and previous cycles, and candidate strength. As with every forecast you will encounter this election, the Power Rankings represent our best estimate at the outcome, but should never be perceived as a guarantee.
Turning to the individual races, and Democrats now have an edge in Washington’s 8th congressional district. This column previously discussed Abigail Spanberger’s race in Virginia’s 7th district, noting that her centrist message gave her an advantage in exurban areas. Swap out Northern Virginia for Seattle and this race tells a similar story. Incumbent Kim Schrier is running ads featuring local politicians from both sides of the aisle, talks about increasing police funding, and regularly emphasizes that she’s the “only pro-choice woman doctor in Congress.” That issue is likely to have a significant impact here. Larkin is one of the stronger GOP candidates this cycle, telling “Fox & Friends First” he wants to “make crime illegal again,” and both parties are investing significant resources going into November, so it remains competitive. Washington’s 8th district moves from Toss Up to Lean D.
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Illinois’ 17th district is more competitive than ever. Located in the northwestern part of the state, the district is wide open after Rep. Cheri Bustos decided not to run for re-election. That has made it an ideal GOP target. The party has a star candidate in Esther Joy King, an Army reservist and former attorney who calls herself the “battle-ready leader with a heart to serve.” But there’s a catch. While former President Trump won the district by two points under previous lines, it was redrawn in the 2020 redistricting cycle. Under new lines, Biden would have won by eight points. The Democrats have a strong candidate in local news meteorologist Eric Sorensen, so as national polling improves for the left, this race moves from Lean R to Toss Up.
Republicans still have an edge in Arizona’s 1st and 2nd districts. However, statewide GOP candidates are struggling to take the lead in the Copper State, shifting these races from Likely R to Lean R. The GOP is ahead in Wisconsin’s 3rd district, where incumbent Rep. Ron Kind is retiring, but this race is shifting from Likely R to Lean R on similar grounds. In that race, Democratic challenger Brad Pfaff is also targeting his opponent, Derrick Van Orden, for attending the Jan. 6 riot last year. Van Orden, a former Navy SEAL, has counted inflation and the “woke military” among his top issues.
Other changes reflect recent election results. Democrat Pat Ryan’s upset win in New York was in a district that splits into two this November. As a result, the Empire State’s 18th and 19th districts are moving from Lean R to Toss Up. We also learned that Sarah Palin lacked the support she needed to win Alaska’s at-large district in August, bringing moderate Republican Nick Begich down with her. Together, they handed a shock win to centrist Democratic challenger Mary Peltola. With so much uncertainty about voter preferences, Alaska’s at-large district moves to Toss Up.
Finally, primaries in New Hampshire last week revealed that incumbent Annie Kuster, a Democrat, will take on Republican Robert Burns in the general election. Burns is a local businessman and former Hillsborough County treasurer who is closely aligned with former President Trump. New Hampshire’s 2nd district, which contains Nashua and Concord, is the slightly more liberal of the state’s two districts. The race remains competitive, but moves from Toss Up to Lean D. Burns is also one of six pro-Trump candidates this year to benefit from ads funded by a PAC aligned with the Democrats, making it a must-win for the left to avoid embarrassment.
Senate: Neither party has a clear advantage, but Democrats make inroads in New Hampshire and Ohio
Overall, the Senate remains a toss up. The forecast expects Republicans to take 51 seats and the Democrats 49, with a two-seat “margin of error” for both. While that translates to a slight GOP lead, the margin is so tight that the upper chamber could go either way (the Democrats need only 50 seats to retain power, because Vice President Kamala Harris casts the tie-breaking vote).
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Democrats have gained one seat overall, and that is New Hampshire. Democrat Maggie Hassan is one of the most vulnerable incumbents heading into this cycle, but her odds have improved as the opponent field has changed. Moderate Republican candidates like Chris Sununu and Chuck Morse had a strong chance to defeat Hassan in a state that voted for President Biden by seven points in 2020. It will be a tougher climb for GOP nominee Don Bolduc. He told “America’s Newsroom” last week that he has since recognized that Biden won the last election, but had the opposite position less than a month ago. New Hampshire voters also tend to favor abortion rights more than in other swing states. That is another issue in which Bolduc is just now painting himself as a moderate.
There are also lingering questions about Bolduc’s ground game and the status of $22 million in ad buys earmarked by Senate Leadership Fund, the PAC aligned with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. Democrats are certain to pour more resources into the state. This race remains very competitive, but Hassan has an edge. New Hampshire moves from Toss Up to Lean D.
In the Midwest, Ohio looks like more of a battleground than the forecast initially expected. White working class voters in the Buckeye State abandoned the Democrats in 2016, pushing Ohio out of “swing state” territory and giving JD Vance a presumptive lead. This forecast still sees Vance as the winner in November, but Tim Ryan is posting consistently strong polling and even better fundraising figures. Ryan has run a disciplined campaign, focusing on working class issues like jobs and China, and has loudly disagreed with Biden on the trail. He remains the underdog, but has a chance to break through. Ohio moves from Likely R to Lean R.
Two other races shift out of the “Solid” columns in these rankings. First, in Utah, independent challenger Evan McMullin is unlikely to prevail against incumbent Republican Sen. Mike Lee, but the race is competitive. On the Democratic side, incumbent Senator Richard Blumenthal should be running further ahead of Leora Levy than he has in recent polls for a deep blue state, giving the GOP a small opening. Voters are likely to stick with these incumbents in November, but since the “Solid” category is reserved for races that are close to certain, both races move into the “Likely” columns.
Governor: Georgia firms up for the GOP, and the party has an opportunity in Oregon
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Republicans looking for good news will find it in the governor’s races. First, in Georgia, where GOP incumbent Brian Kemp has eked out a lead against Democrat Stacey Abrams in several polls. Kemp has carved out a unique lane in this race. While he has attracted the scorn of former President Trump, he appears to be holding onto the same coalition of right-wing and moderate voters that put him into office in 2018. Abrams’ secret weapon is her ability to register new voters, but that strategy may be faltering. Insiders have quietly complained that Abrams’ campaign isn’t reaching out enough to Black men and other core groups. Georgia moves from Toss Up to Lean R.
Moving west, and Oregon might just be the sleeper race of the season. Independent candidate Betsy Johnson says that the Democratic Party has become too liberal. She left the party and launched a bid to become the state’s first independent governor since 1935. Johnson has a long road ahead of her, but she has enough of a fundraising lead to make this a serious bid. Meanwhile, Democrat Tina Kotek is emphasizing her position on abortion rights, while Republican Christine Drazan is hammering Kotek on her ties to unpopular term-limited Gov. Kate Brown. Given the presence of three viable candidates and the potential for Johnson to peel away Democratic votes, this race moves from Lean D to Toss Up.
7 weeks to go until election night
Primary season is over, so all eyes are now on the general election. Absentee ballots are already available to voters in four states, including North Carolina and Pennsylvania, and at least some voters in 26 states can fill out a ballot by the end of the month (check with your state elections department for information about voting in your area). With an avalanche of polling, debates, and news from the trail every day, it all adds up to a busy election season. Our best-in-class team of reporters and analysts are keeping track of it all. Stay tuned to Fox News Channel as Democracy 2022 continues.
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