2022 Senate Odds: Resetting The Midterms Landscape After 2021 Election Day

Written By Evan Scrimshaw on November 8, 2021
senate midterm election odds

Given the results of last week’s elections, now is as good a time as any to dig back into the 2022 midterms, and see where the value can be found, especially in 2022 Senate odds. With both parties having a combination of offensive targets and defensive priorities, the Senate is a leading source of intrigue leading up to next year.

2022 Senate Odds: Overall Control

2022 Senate ControlNov. 8, 2021 PriceEquivalent Odds
Republicans$0.69-223
Democrats$0.33+203

Analysis

The markets have flipped since Republicans won the Virginia gubernatorial race, with GOP odds to win the Senate rising all the way to 69 cents in the last week. In some ways, this rise reflects the (correct) conventional wisdom that the GOP are in a very good spot, but is also likely to be an overreaction to the bad results Democrats experienced last week.

Given it’s a 50/50 Senate, the GOP just need to gain one seat net to gain the majority, and at this point they have to be viewed as the favorites to gain the chamber, given their dominant position on Election Day 2021. While Democrats did win New Jersey, both New Jersey and Virginia showed swings big enough to bury Senate Democrats, if replicated in a year from now.

Are they nearly 70% likely to win the Senate? Almost assuredly not, and this is where the market is overreacting.

Democrats did horribly last week – nobody serious is disputing this – but they did so in Governor’s races, which are notoriously less partisan than federal races. If you want a good example of this, Democrats won Kansas by 5% in 2018, and proceeded to lose it by double digits in 2020.

The GOP are favorites at this point, but not prohibitive ones, and the market overreactions are very real, for two reasons:

  1. Biden is likely to be more popular in a year than he is now, especially with the passing of a signature bill this past week
  2. A seat-by-seat analysis is more optimistic than a broad analysis

2022 Senate Odds: Democratic Seats

Georgia

Democrats actually had a good night in local elections in Georgia last week, continuing to gain representation in local elections, and incumbent Raphael Warnock is a strong incumbent after winning in January.

The main reason for Democratic optimism in Georgia is in who the GOP will be running, with former Georgia Bulldog Herschel Walker as the overwhelmingly likely GOP candidate. The combination of his long tenure living in Texas, political naivety, and abuse allegations against his ex-wife are a dastardly combination for the former NFL rushing back. With a black pastor who has invigorated black turnout in the state, Warnock still needs to be considered the favorite at this point.

Nevada

Democrats have reason to be optimistic in Nevada as well, with the GOP likely to nominate failed 2018 Governor nominee Adam Laxalt, in a state where the GOP don’t have too much to gain in rural areas.

A large part of why the GOP won in Virginia last week was overwhelming rural strength that far exceeded even the Trump performance of 2020, but there is less room for the rural regions to fall in Nevada. Combined with Democrats running an incumbent Senator of a Hispanic heritage, Nevada’s close 2020 result is unlikely to end up with the GOP gaining the seat. It’s not impossible, but Democrats are favored in Nevada.

Arizona

The GOP might be favored to win here against ex-astronaut Mark Kelly, but even here, they’re not certainly favored as the markets suggest. Kelly showed a real ability to outrun Joe Biden in 2020, and between that and the chance that the national environment improves for Democrats, Democrats should be optimists about the left-trending state.

The other reason Democrats should be optimistic is the fact that Mark Brnovich, the candidate favored by many in the GOP establishment, would be rather unlikely to win a primary. He is a reasonable (or, at least, not insane) Republican, but he has to win a primary, and it is somewhere between plausible and likely he will lose that primary, meaning Blake Masters, a Trumpian 2020 Election truther, will be the nominee – and if it’s Kelly v Masters, Democrats should be ecstatic.

New Hampshire

This is the seat that should terrify Democrats, with New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu highly likely to run for this seat. The most Democratic of the 4 states that Democrats are seriously defending, Democrats are however likeliest to lose it, if Sununu runs.

The Sununu name is a dynasty up there, and Sununu has managed huge crossover votes in all his runs for Governor. It’s possible he will be wounded by the extreme reputation that the New Hampshire GOP are currently formenting for themselves, but he is personally popular in a red-leaning environment, and he clearly starts this race as a favorite, if he runs against Democratic incumbent Maggie Hassan.

2022 Senate Odds: Republican Seats

There are a lot of GOP seats that, in theory, could be interesting, but there are only three which have any potential to be competitive – Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and North Carolina.

The necessary corollary to that, of course, is that Dems’ hopes of winning in Ohio, Florida, and Missouri – all rated as non-safe GOP seats at this point – are functionally non-existent. Florida is a red-trending state with a Cuban GOP incumbent, and therefore Democrats have no hope of getting a revival in their fortunes in Miami such that they could win.

Missouri is thought to maybe be competitive because the GOP could nominate a former Governor of the state who resigned over allegations of abuse in his romantic life, but the state’s too red for a Democratic to win.

And Ohio is a trap, with Democrats thinking they could win because they find Josh Mandel to be so obviously odious as to mean he might lose. Even if you accept that descriptor, Democrats will not win the Buckeye State, given how well Trump did in it in 2020.

I wrote about Pennsylvania last week, and that analysis holds, so let’s focus on the two other races. Wisconsin Republicans still have no idea who their candidate will be, as Ron Johnson still dithers on whether he’ll run again or not, but whether he runs again or is replaced on the ballot by Mike Gallagher, the GOP are favorites so long as Joe Biden’s approval is this bad. A recovery in his fortunes could save Democrats, but there is still a lot of room to fall in rural Wisconsin, which should scare Dems.

North Carolina is also probably a bridge too far for Democrats these days, even if they’re smart and nominate Cheri Beasley. The path for her to flip this Trump state is simple – boost Black turnout and run even with Biden with white North Carolinians – but the Virginia results suggest she is going to have a very hard time doing the second half of that equation. The GOP have to be considered the favorites here.

Conclusions

The GOP are favorites in enough seats to give them a 51-49 majority, but that projection is fragile on both ends. If Biden’s approval stays bad for the next year, the GOP are looking at up to 54 seats, but if he manages to secure a recovery, 51 Democratic seats is very much in play.

Democrats are underdogs right now, but not to the extent that the market is saying, and any analysis where the GOP get the majority will be necessarily fragile, because winning the majority means flipping Biden won states.

They might look to be in a strong position to do so now, but cautious Republicans should remember 2019, when Democrats lost Mississippi by less than usual and won Kentucky from the GOP. These results augured the possibility of an imminent Blue Wave, and by election day 2020, the Blue Wave gave way to a protracted, unpredictable election week.

The GOP are in the driver’s seat for the Senate, but be careful what you wish for in these betting markets.

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