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Stirewaltisms: Presenting Your 2022 Senate Race Ratings
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Stirewaltisms: Presenting Your 2022 Senate Race Ratings

We deem only 10 races to be competitive at all, and only six to be up for grabs at this point.


The primaries are done at last, which means the time has come for our Senate race ratings—including rankings for our top five contests, the ones that will almost certainly determine control of the upper chamber.

There are 35 Senate seats in all in front of voters, but only 10 of those look like they will really be competitive. At the start of the cycle, the map favored Democrats but the climate tilted toward Republicans. The map is still good for the blue team: The GOP is defending 21 seats, including six in which the incumbent is not running, compared to 14 seats and just one retirement for Democrats. The climate, however, has shifted. As we discussed last week, you’d still have to say that the Republicans have the edge as the party out of power at a time of high voter dissatisfaction. But it’s also true that Americans aren’t as dissatisfied as they were before and that Republicans have struggled to present themselves as a safe option for fed-up voters to express their dissatisfaction with one-party control in Washington.

First, some caveats.

1) The Senate is less closely tied to the national political climate than the House, which means candidate quality matters quite a bit more than it does in the lower chamber. Republican Susan Collins represents a state that went Democratic on the presidential level by 9 points in 2020, while Democrat Joe Manchin represents a state his party lost two years ago by almost 40 points. 

2) State-level polling is … problematic. Senate polling in 2018 actually performed pretty well, but 2020 delivered another round of cattywampus state-level surveys. Part of the challenge here, aside from the well-established difficulties with Republican voters’ low response rates to polls, is that turnout levels have been very high by historical standards in the past two cycles. With the volume turned up so high, it’s hard to set the levels. It seems so far like voter intensity in both parties remains sky-high, but it’s also very possible that we will see more typical midterm turnout this year of 37 percent, like 2014, than the 50 percent of 2018. Accordingly, in making these assessments we are only lightly leaning on horse-race polling. But that doesn’t mean those polls aren’t useful in making assessments directionally. A poll that misses the real shape of the electorate can still capture movement in voter attitudes. That, combined with historical performance and voter demographics, gives us a good place to start. 

3) This is a most unusual midterm year. Contests like these are usually both obvious and strong in their orientation, and typically voters have settled into their paces by the time summer is over. As we mentioned above, the climate has already changed a few times already, and could change again—maybe more than once—in the next 54 days. Remember, the floodgates of campaign spending have only just opened. Incumbent advantages based on name identification will erode, while lesser-known candidates benefitting from voter appetites for change will soon find themselves buried under mountains of negative advertising. The electorate is unusually volatile, so we add to our prerogative to change or expand this forecast a warning: It’s weird out there, so be ready for an unpredictable fall. 

We have divided the races into five categories: Solid Democratic, Solid Republican, Lean Democratic, Lean Republican, and, the most competitive, Toss Up. You will note that we deem only 10 of the races to be competitive at all, and only six to be up for grabs at this point. Of the 25 races we deem “solid,” none represent a change in party. Of the four “lean” races, all are tilting in favor of the party currently in possession. The partisan parity continues in the most competitive races: Both parties are defending three seats in that group, meaning we could very easily end back at a 50-50 Senate and Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tie-breaking vote for the next two years. On the other hand, we’ve ranked the “toss up” states in order of likelihood of changing parties, and you will notice that Democrats hold two of three most at-risk seats. A good Republican cycle only needs to get halfway down the list to deliver the Senate to the GOP by one vote.

Enjoy, and we will be back soon with in-depth analysis on the top 10 races.

Toss Up

Pennsylvania (open seat): Incumbent: Pat Toomey (retiring); Contest: Mehmet Oz (R) / John Fetterman (D); Republican seat since 2010; 2020 result: Biden +1

Georgia: Incumbent: Raphael Warnock (special election 2021); Contest: Herschel Walker (R) / Raphael Warnock (D); Democratic seat since 2021; 2020 result: Biden +0.2

Nevada: Incumbent: Catherine Cortez Masto (first elected 2016); Contest: Adam Laxalt (R) / Catherine Cortez Masto (D); Democratic seat since 1986; 2020 result: Biden +2

Arizona: Incumbent: Mark Kelly (first elected 2020); Contest: Blake Masters (R) / Mark Kelly (D); Democratic seat since 2020; 2020 result: Biden +0.3

Ohio (open seat): Incumbent: Rob Portman (retiring); Contest: J.D. Vance (R) / Tim Ryan (D); Republican seat since 1998; 2020 result: Trump +8

Wisconsin: Incumbent: Ron Johnson (first elected 2010); Contest: Ron Johnson (R) / Mandela Barnes (D); Republican seat since 2010; 2020 result: Biden +0.6

Lean Republican

Florida: Incumbent: Marco Rubio (first elected 2010); Contest: Marco Rubio (R) / Val Demings (D); Republican seat since 2010; 2020 result: Trump +3

North Carolina (open seat): Incumbent: Richard Burr (retiring); Contest: Ted Budd (R) / Cheri Beasley (D); Republican seat since 2004; 2020 result: Trump +1

Alaska: Incumbent: Lisa Murkowski (appointed 2002, first elected 2004); Contest: Lisa Murkowski (R) / Pat Chesbro (D) / Kelly Tshibaka (R); Republican seat since 1980; 2020 result: Trump +10

Lean Democratic

New Hampshire: Incumbent: Maggie Hassan (first elected 2016); Contest: Don Bolduc (R) / Maggie Hassan (D); Democratic seat since 2016; 2020 result: Biden +7

Solid Republican

Alabama (open seat): Incumbent: Richard Shelby (retiring); Contest: Katie Britt (R) / Will Boyd (D); Republican seat since 1994; 2020 result: Trump +25

Arkansas: Incumbent: John Boozman (first elected 2010); Contest: John Boozman (R) / Natalie James (D); Republican seat since 2010; 2020 result: Trump +28

Idaho: Incumbent: Mike Crapo (first elected 1998); Contest: Mike Crapo (R) / David Roth (D); Republican seat since 1980; 2020 result: Trump +31

Indiana: Incumbent: Todd Young (first elected 2016); Contest: Todd Young (R) / Thomas McDermott (D); Republican seat since 2010; 2020 result: Trump +16

Iowa: Incumbent: Chuck Grassley (first elected 1980); Contest: Chuck Grassley (R) / Michael Franken (D); Republican seat since 1980; 2020 result: Trump +8

Kansas: Incumbent: Jerry Moran (first elected 2010); Contest: Jerry Moran (R) / Mark Holland (D); Republican seat since 1938; 2020 result: Trump +15

Kentucky: Incumbent: Rand Paul (first elected 2010); Contest: Rand Paul (R) / Charles Booker (D); Republican seat since 1998; 2020 result: Trump +26

Louisiana: Incumbent: John Kennedy (first elected 2016); Contest: John Kennedy (R) / Gary Chambers (D); Republican seat since 2004; 2020 result: Trump +19

Missouri (open seat): Incumbent: Roy Blunt (retiring); Contest: Eric Schmitt (R) / Trudy Busch Valentine (D); Republican seat since 1986; 2020 result: Trump +15

North Dakota: Incumbent: John Hoeven (first elected 2010); Contest: John Hoeven (R) / Katrina Christiansen (D); Republican seat since 2010; 2020 result: Trump +33

Oklahoma: Incumbent: James Lankford (first elected 2014); Contest: James Lankford (R) / Madison Horn (D); Republican seat since 1968; 2020 result: Trump +33

Oklahoma (special/open seat): Incumbent: Jim Inhofe (retiring); Contest: Markwayne Mullin (R) / Kendra Horn (D); Republican seat since 1994; 2020 result: Trump +33

South Carolina: Incumbent: Tim Scott (appointed 2012, first elected 2014); Contest: Tim Scott (R) / Krystle Matthews (D); Republican seat since 2004; 2020 result: Trump +12

South Dakota: Incumbent: John Thune (first elected 2004); Contest: John Thune (R) / Brian Bengs (D); Republican seat since 2004; 2020 result: Trump +33

Utah: Incumbent: Mike Lee (first elected 2010); Contest: Mike Lee (R) / Evan McMullin (I); Republican seat since 1950; 2020 result: Trump +33

Solid Democratic

California: Incumbent: Alex Padilla (appointed 2021); Contest: Mark Meuser (R) / Alex Padilla (D); Democratic seat since 1968; 2020 result: Biden +29

Colorado: Incumbent: Michael Bennet (appointed 2009, first elected 2010); Contest: Michael Bennet (R) / Joe O’Dea (D); Democratic seat since 2004; 2020 result: Biden +14

Connecticut: Incumbent: Richard Blumenthal (first elected 2010); Contest: Leora Levy (R) / Richard Blumenthal (D); Democratic seat since 1962; 2020 result: Biden +20

Hawaii: Incumbent: Brian Schatz (appointed 2012, first elected 2014); Contest: Bob McDermott (R) / Brian Schatz (D); Democratic seat since 1959; 2020 result: Biden +29

Illinois: Incumbent: Tammy Duckworth (first elected 2016); Contest: Kathy Salvi (R) / Tammy Duckworth (D); Democratic seat since 2016; 2020 result: Biden +17

Maryland: Incumbent: Chris Van Hollen (first elected 2016); Contest: Chris Chaffee (R) / Chris Van Hollen (D); Democratic seat since 1986; 2020 result: Biden +33

New York: Incumbent: Chuck Schumer (first elected 1998); Contest: Joe Pinion (R) / Chuck Schumer (D); Democratic seat since 1998; 2020 result: Biden +23

Oregon: Incumbent: Ron Wyden (first elected 1996); Contest: Jo Rae Perkins (R) / Ron Wyden (D); Democratic seat since 1996; 2020 result: Biden +16

Vermont (open seat): Incumbent: Patrick Leahy (retiring); Contest: Gerald Malloy (R) / Peter Welch (D); Democratic seat since 1974; 2020 result: Biden +35

Washington: Incumbent: Patty Murray (first elected 1992); Contest: Tiffany Smiley (R) / Patty Murray (D); Democratic seat since 1986; 2020 result: Biden +19

Holy croakano! We welcome your feedback, so please email us with your tips, corrections, reactions, amplifications, etc. at STIREWALTISMS@THEDISPATCH.COM. If you’d like to be considered for publication, please include your real name and hometown. If you don’t want your comments to be made public, please specify.


Biden job performance

Average approval: 42.0 percent
Average disapproval: 54.1 percent
Net score: -12.1 points
Change from one week ago: ↑ 1.3 points
Change from one month ago: ↑ 5.3 points 

[Average includes: NYT/Siena: 42% approve-53% disapprove; NPR/PBS NewsHour: 42% approve-54% disapprove; NBC News: 42% approve-55% disapprove; Fox News: 43% approve-56% disapprove; Ipsos/Reuters: 39% approve-54% disapprove; Wall Street Journal: 45% approve-54% disapprove; Quinnipiac University: 41% approve-53% disapprove]

Generic congressional ballot 

Democrats: 46.2 percent
Republicans: 43.8 percent
Net advantage: Democratic Party +2.4 points
Change from one week ago: Democratic Party ↑ 0.3 points
Change from one month ago: Democratic Party ↑ 0.4 points

[Average includes: NYT/Siena: 46% Democrat, 44% Republican; NBC News: 45% Democrat, 47% Republican; Fox News: 44% Democrat, 41% Republican; NPR/PBS NewsHour: 48% Democrat, 44% Republican; Wall Street Journal: 47% Democrat, 44% Republican; Quinnipiac University: 47% Democrat, 43% Republican]


Atlantic: “At the center of the controversy was a cat. Specifically, a dropped cat that had, in midair, twisted to land on its feet. The fall wasn’t the problem, nor was the touchdown. The scandal was sparked by what happened in between. … For years, scientists had assumed that cats could land on their feet only if they first launched themselves off a surface. The idea hewed to a physical concept known as conservation of angular momentum, which states that bodies that aren’t rotating won’t start unless some external force is applied. Without a push, a cat would have no leverage, nothing to induce it to turn right side up. But [physiologist Étienne-Jules Marey’s] images revealed a cat that commenced its contortions after its descent had begun, pivoting, it seemed, off of nothing at all. … The implications are bonkers: There may not actually exist a true limit, [Rhett Allain] told me, to the elevation from which a cat can plunge and survive.”


Wall Street Journal: “Latino voters are among the fastest-growing groups in the electorate, accounting for some 16 million voters in 2020—or more than 10% of the voter pool. Once a solidly Democratic bloc, Latino voters are emerging as a swing group available to both parties, with its voting preferences splitting along economic and class lines. … Voters and analysts say the economic boom during much of Mr. Trump’s presidency, as well as today’s high inflation under Mr. Biden, have continued to lead to a more favorable view of the Republican Party… Both parties are watching this year’s midterms for a continued shift, an especially important question in Nevada. Nonpartisan analysts say that nearly every major race in the state is a tossup or highly competitive, including the elections for U.S. Senate, for governor and for three of the state’s four House seats.”

Beware the low-quality poll: New York Times: “That warning sign is flashing again: Democratic Senate candidates are outrunning expectations in the same places where the polls overestimated Mr. Biden in 2020 and Mrs. Clinton in 2016. Wisconsin is a good example… The polls have exceeded the wildest expectations of Democrats. … But in this case, good for Wisconsin Democrats might be too good to be true. The state was ground zero for survey error in 2020, when pre-election polls proved to be too good to be true for Mr. Biden. … The Wisconsin data is just one example of a broader pattern across the battlegrounds: The more the polls overestimated Mr. Biden last time, the better Democrats seem to be doing relative to expectations. And conversely, Democrats are posting less impressive numbers in some of the states where the polls were fairly accurate two years ago, like Georgia.”

Graham’s abortion bill offers Dems new ammunition: Politico: “Lindsey Graham’s anti-abortion legislation once unified the Republican Party. The 15-week abortion ban he pitched Tuesday had the exact opposite effect. … And some fellow Republicans said they were highly perplexed at Graham’s decision to introduce a new abortion ban — more conservative than his previous proposals — at a precarious moment for the party. … Graham’s past pitches for a 20-week abortion ban attracted most Republicans’ support and even the votes of some Senate Democrats. His latest effort would leave in place state laws that are even more restrictive while also imposing new limits in blue states that currently have none. Coming less than 60 days before the midterms, it’s riled some Republicans, who are watching their once-dominant polling advantage shrink since the Roe reversal. … While public polling shows majority opposition to the Supreme Court’s decision in June, it also shows support for some limits on abortion.”

Far-right candidates complicate McCarthy’s speaker bid: Politico: Kevin McCarthy’s allies and like-minded groups have neutralized his potential detractors in GOP primaries across the country… And some skeptics of the California Republican aren’t going quietly. … The New Hampshire battles have taken on added significance as the political environment has shifted. Few Republicans now expect to net the huge number of seats as they projected months ago. … The smaller the majority, the bigger the threat a small group of critics would pose for McCarthy in a simple majority vote for speaker. But the GOP leader has worked diligently to build up strength on his right flank since conservatives played a role in blocking him from rising to the role in 2015. While members like Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) and Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) have signaled opposition to McCarthy, former prominent critics like Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) have become loyal supporters.”


Dems’ big-money bet on MAGA candidates proves risky—Washington Post

As population booms, Texas Hispanics search for political power—Houston Chronicle

Still underwater, Biden’s approval rises in September—Associated Press

Gen Z arrives in Congress—New York Times


“Every once in a while, if there is an activity that interests her, we ask if she can attend.” — Lori Ulrich, attorney for Riley Williams, the Pennsylvania woman on house arrest await trial for allegedly stealing Nancy Pelosi’s laptop during the Jan. 6 riot, explaining why a court is allowing Williams to attend a Renaissance Faire this weekend.  

You should email us! Write to STIREWALTISMS@THEDISPATCH.COM with your tips, kudos, criticisms, insights, rediscovered words, wonderful names, recipes and, always, good jokes. Please include your real name—at least first and last—and hometown. Make sure to let me know in the email if you want to keep your submission private. My colleague, the dauntless Nate Moore, and I will look for your emails and then share the most interesting ones and my responses here. Clickety clack! 


(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images.)


“See that orange light? He is coming!”—Leo Algminas, Wilmette, Illinois

Honorable Mentions:

“When I’m in charge, there will be 3 flags, no wait 4, no, 5 flags back there! That’s right America, real change is coming.”—Tom Voight, Bay Saint Louis, Mississippi 

“Practicin’ with my imaginary gavel!”—John Rawls, Castle Pines, Colorado

Send your proposed cutline for the picture that appears at the top of this newsletter to STIREWALTISMS@THEDISPATCH.COM. We will pick the top entrants and an appropriate reward for the best of this month—even beyond the glory and adulation that will surely follow. Be hilarious, don’t be too dirty, and never be cruel. Include your full name and hometown. Have fun! 


CBS News: “There was quite a ‘hairy’ situation at the U.S. Open on Tuesday night, as two men’s stay in the Arthur Ashe Stadium seats was cut short after one buzzed the other’s head in the stands during the quarterfinals. They had clippers and the sort of cape a barber usually uses to keep a customer clean. Tournament security removed the two from the match. ‘When someone saw it, security went to the two individuals. They were escorted out of their seats and then off the grounds for disruption of play,’ U.S. Tennis Association Brendan McIntyre said, adding: ‘There’s a first time for anything.’ 

The incident came during the quarterfinal battle between Nick Kyrgios and Karen Khachanov, a more than three-hour long match that ended with Khachanov winning 7-5, 4-6, 7-5, 6-7, 6-4. ”

Chris Stirewalt is a contributing editor at The Dispatch, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and the author of Broken News, a new book on media and politics. Nate Moorecontributed to this report.

Chris Stirewalt is a contributing editor at The Dispatch, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, the politics editor for NewsNation, co-host of the Ink Stained Wretches podcast, and author of Broken News, a book on media and politics.