Can Democrats hold the Senate?

It has performed well over the years. In 2014, it suggested that if Barack Obama’s job approval were 44% on Election Day then Democrats would lose around nine Senate seats. This is what happened. In 2016, it suggested Democrats would gain three seats if Obama’s job approval were 52% on Election Day; they gained two. In 2018, it said that Republicans would gain a pair of Senate seats if Donald Trump’s job approval hit 45%; that is what happened. In 2020, a 47% presidential job approval translated to a wash; as of Election Day they had lost a seat. The model would also suggest that Republicans’ eventual loss of the Georgia Senate seats in January was mostly a function of Trump’s declining job approval in the interim.

So what does the model see for 2022? Figure 1 shows the outcomes for 10,000 simulated elections across the five seats held by Democrats and seven held by Republicans, based on Biden’s current job approval rating of 52%. It likes the Democrats’ chances of picking up a seat. Perhaps most importantly, they also would have strong likelihood of defending their seats. It would see Pennsylvania and North Carolina as solid pickup opportunities. It might like Ron Johnson’s chances in Wisconsin too much – he arguably should be classified as a “problematic” candidate at this point – but it also might be too bullish on Democrats in North Carolina, given their recent track record there. Likewise, if Christopher Sununu runs for the Senate in New Hampshire, Republican chances would improve there.