Arizona, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and other states with important midterm races: Why do they matter?
Less than two weeks before Republicans and Democrats go head-to-head at the ballot box, only a handful of state elections will decide which party controls the 118th United States Congress.
Polling data indicates that Republicans will likely regain a majority in the House; however, the battle over the Senate is much closer as Democrats fight to maintain control.
For Republican leaders, such as former President Donald Trump, the midterm elections are important because candidates who received his endorsement in crowded primaries will be put to the test. As for President Joe Biden, his stagnating poll numbers may hurt Democrats in crucial swing states that he previously won in 2020, resulting in a Republican majority likely to oppose his legislative agenda.
On November 8, 35 Senate seats will be up for votes, with 14 seats filled with Democratic incumbents and 21 held by Republican senators. Meanwhile, 36 states will hold gubernatorial elections.
Arizona is a crucial election in the upcoming midterm and historically has been an essential state for presidential contenders looking to reach the 270 electoral vote threshold. The two main contenders for governor are Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, and former news anchor Kari Lake. Current Republican Gov. Doug Ducey cannot run for re-election again due to term limits; however, during the Republican primary, Ducey endorsed Lake’s opponent Karrin Robson before endorsing Lake in the general election.
Lake, who is backed by former President Donald Trump, is less moderate than Ducey and her former primary rivals. She campaigned on border security, restricting immigration, banning critical race theory, and has endorsed Trump’s claims of fraud surrounding the 2020 presidential election. If Lakes defeats Hobbs, she could be one of the most pro-Trump governors in a swing state. Currently, Lake is leading Hobbs by 3.2%, according to a polling average by RealClearPolitics.
One of the most important elections that will determine which party has a majority in the Senate is the race between Republican contender Blake Masters and incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly. Masters, a longtime protégé of billionaire Peter Thiel, was endorsed by President Trump during the primary, and Kelly, a former astronaut, won his seat in 2020 during a special election to fill the seat vacated by the late Sen. John McCain.
Masters’ super PAC has received millions from Thiel over the course of the election and was once considered an underdog against Kelly, who has established name recognition in the Grand Canyon State. However, in recent months Kelly’s lead over Masters has slowly dwindled from 6% to a polling average of just 1.5%, according to RealClearPolitics. Moreover, the Cook Political Report changed its rating in Arizona’s Senate race from ‘Lean Democrat’ to toss-up, indicating Democrats may not hold onto their slim majority come November.
Stacey Abrams is one of the most outspoken Democrats in the country regarding voting rights. She is running against Republican incumbent Brian Kemp for the gubernatorial seat in Georgia after narrowly losing against him in 2018. Georgia was another critical seat Republicans lost in 2020 during the presidential and senate elections. Kemp, along with other Georgia officials, was criticized by Trump for not doing more to crack down on alleged voting fraud. During the Republican gubernatorial primary, Trump endorsed Kemp’s opponent David Perdue, who lost to him by over 600,000 votes.
Since 2005, Republicans have maintained a majority in Georgia’s state legislature and controlled the governor’s mansion. A loss here could shift the balance of power in a state Biden won narrowly in 2020. However, Kemp maintains a solid lead over Abrams by a polling average of 7.4%, according to RealClearPolitics. A potential victory for Kemp could inspire more sitting Republican governors to reject Trump’s claims of voter fraud.
The race between Democratic incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock, a pastor, and Republican contender Herschel Walker, a former NFL running back, is an election that could decide the fate of the Senate. For months, Warnock maintained a consistent lead over Walker, who multiple women have accused of asking them to receive abortions. However, polling in recent weeks across the country has seen Democrats lose support in key elections, including Georgia.
Just over a week before the election, Walker lead the incumbent Democrat by 0.6%, according to RealClearPolitics average of all polls in the race. A loss for Democrats in this election would likely push Republicans across the finish line to take back the Senate.
JD Vance, author of the bestselling book ‘Hillbilly Elegy,’ is the Republican contender running for Ohio’s Senate seat against Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan, a longtime Ohio congresswoman, and former Democratic 2020 presidential primary contender. The seat is open after current Republican Ohio Senator Rob Portman announced he would not be running again. Vance, similar to Masters, is backed financially by Thiel and received Trump’s endorsement during a contentious Republican primary.
Ohio is a critical state that Republicans must hold onto in order to stop Democrats from advancing their current majority in the Senate. In addition, Vance is the second candidate running in a Senate swing state that is bankrolled by the Paypal founder, Peter Thiel. If Vance wins, it could expand the billionaire’s influence within the GOP and change the partisan makeup of the Senate. During the Trump administration, Portman was generally viewed as a moderate Republican; however, Vance has firmly endorsed Trump’s positions on trade, immigration, and voter fraud.
Currently, Vance has a slim but consistent lead over Ryan, with a polling average of 2.2%, according to the RealClearPolitics polling average.
To fill the seat of outgoing incumbent Gov. Tom Wolf, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro is running as the Democratic gubernatorial contender against Republican state Sen. Doug Mastriano. Mastriano is another Trump-backed candidate who received the former president’s endorsement in the midst of a tight Republican primary. A victory for Mastriano would give the GOP a complete control of the state’s political offices as they already control both chambers of the Pennsylvanian legislature.
However, Shapiro has a commanding lead over Mastriano, who is viewed as less moderate than prior Republican contenders, at 6.7% in RealClearPolitics’ latest polling average.
The Senate election in Pennsylvania has generated an interesting race between two political outsiders: retired surgeon and former daytime television host, Dr. Mehmet Oz as the Republican contender, and the state’s lieutenant governor John Fetterman. During the Democratic primary, Fetterman caused an upset by defeating Rep. Conor Lamb, with 58% of the vote. In the Republican primary, the results were much tighter. Oz beat out a crowded field of Republicans with 31.2% of the vote, coming ahead of businessman David McCormick, after receiving an endorsement from Trump.
Fetterman has maintained a steady lead over Oz in the months since the primary, reaching a polling average of 8.7%, but his lead has recently shrunk after a number of missteps. In May 2022, Fetterman suffered a stroke while on the campaign trail that has made it difficult for him to speak and follow conversations. In the first and only debate with Oz in October, Fetterman struggled to form coherent sentences while being assisted with a closed captions screen. Fetterman’s campaign has also declined to release his medical records.
The RealClearPolitics average shows Fetterman leading by 0.3%, with Oz continuing to gain momentum. Pennsylvania is considered an essential seat that Republicans need to hold in order to have any chance at regaining a majority.
In Wisconsin, incumbent Democratic Gov. Tony Evers is fighting to hold onto the governor’s mansion against his Republican challenger, businessman Tim Michels. The race is important because a potential Republican victory would give the GOP full control of the state government, which has not occurred since Evers defeated former Governor Scott Walker in 2018.
Michels is nearly neck and neck with Evers, who has a slight polling average lead of 0.5%. Fox News’ Power Rankings, as well as Cook Political Report, consider the race to be a toss-up.
In November, Wisconsin Republican incumbent Sen. Ron Johnson is looking to be re-elected by defeating the state’s Democratic Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes. However, Johnson has a comfortable lead over Barnes with an RealClearPolitics polling average of 3.3%. During the 2020 presidential election, Biden defeated Trump by less than one percentage point after Trump carried the state for the first time in decades against Hillary Clinton in 2016. This is a crucial seat that Democrats need to pick up in case the GOP gains a victory in one of the Democratic incumbent-held battleground states.
While there are no Senate elections taking place this cycle in Texas, the battle for the governor’s mansion is bringing longtime state Democrat Beto O’Rourke center stage against Republican incumbent Gov. Greg Abbot. Previously, O’Rourke shot into the national spotlight after mounting a campaign against the state’s Republican Sen. Ted Cruz during the 2018 midterms.
One of the most critical issues for O’Rourke’s campaign has been gun control, especially following the shooting at a school in Uvalde, Texas, which left 22 people dead, including 19 children. A day after the shooting occurred, O’Rourke interrupted a press conference being held by Abbott to state, ‘This is on you… Somebody needs to stand up for the children of this state or they will continue to be killed just like they were killed in Uvalde yesterday.’
However, Abbott maintains a comfortable lead over O’Rourke with a polling average of 8.3%, according to RealClearPolitics. For years, political analysts believed Texas had the potential to shift blue, but the GOP’s recent advances with Hispanic populations in southern Texas are making that difficult.