2022 Midterms are a Referendum on Biden


The results of 2022 midterm elections, though usually not as well-attended as presidential elections every four years, can tell us a lot about how the electorate feels about a president’s policy agenda. The 2022 midterms, and even some elections taking place in 2021, will show the public sentiment of President Joe Biden’s policies as well as the lingering impact of former President Donald Trump.

Trump has continued to make headlines for his endorsements and attacks of different elected officials or potential candidates who have been correlated with changing poll numbers or fundraising success – showing that he still holds significant power in Republican circles.

State-level races, especially for the governor, play a key role in the policies in states, but they’re also important because the office can be a high-profile launching pad for potential national political stars and presidential candidates. Arguably the biggest election in 2021 will be for the governor of Virginia, which has quickly become known as a blue state and elected Biden by a 10-point margin in 2020. So, Democrats enter the race as the favorites, but with a strong Republican history, that could quickly change if the national environment turns against the President. Adding to the intrigue, both Democratic and Republicans primary nominations in Virginia are expected to be competitive. The online political betting platform, PredictIt, is measuring support in the primaries as well as which party will win the general election. Democrats have maintained a significant lead in the market measuring which party will win the general election, with a consistent gap around 70¢.

Another regularly scheduled gubernatorial election in 2021 in New Jersey is also expected to go to Democrats, according to PredictIt, by around 80¢. Biden won in New Jersey by 16 points and Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy, who is running for reelection, has a relatively high approval rating. The incumbent effect makes this race less of a question than the Virginia race.

On the national state, there are four vacant seats in the U.S. House of Representatives that will be filled by special election in 2021 – Louisiana’s 2nd District, Texas 6th, New Mexico 1st and Ohio 11th. House Democrats have an extremely narrow margin as it is, so any additional elections bring added stress to the leadership, but all except Texas are expected to go for Democrats.

On to the 2022 midterms, where the electorate will not only decide the fate of control over the House and Senate, but the governors in 36 out of 50 states. Historically, FiveThirtyEight has found that a significant number of governorships switch parties during midterm elections, in align with a similar trend in Congress. But experts are questioning if that trend will hold this year because 23 of the 36 seats will likely have an incumbent running, which usually holds an advantage. This narrows the number of states that are likely to switch which party holds the governor’s office.

The sitting president’s approval rating plays a role in down-ballot races during midterm elections, and the 2022 midterms will likely be no different. Since taking office, Biden’s approval rating has been in the low-to-mid 50s, but his standing next November will be critical for the control of Congress as well as local elections.

For election in 2021 and the 2022 midterms, the results will come down to a midterm penalty, where the Democrats are likely to lose ground, and incumbency advantage where Democrats have the upper hand.