Red Tsunami update: Cook Political Report shifts forecast in favor of Republicans

Red Tsunami update: Cook Political Report shifts forecast in favor of Republicans
AP Photo/Jeff Chiu

It has been conventional wisdom for months now that Democrats were facing a very bad outcome in the coming midterm elections. But while a shellacking seems inevitable, there has been a sub-debate among experts over just how big that shellacking might be. At the beginning of April, Cook Political Report published a piece titled “How Big Is the House Playing Field?” which argued that because there are fewer competitive districts than there used to be, the red wave in 2022 was likely to be more modest than it had been in previous years.

Every metric we use to analyze the political environment — the president’s approval rating, the mood of the electorate, the enthusiasm gap — all point to huge gains for the GOP this fall. But, those metrics are bumping up against an increasingly ‘sorted’ House with few marginal seats and few incumbents sitting in the “wrong district.” As such, the more likely scenario for this fall is a GOP gain in the 15-25 seat range.

Fifteen to 25 seats isn’t bad, especially when you remember that the GOP picked up 13 seats in 2020. The Cook analysis also seemed to be backed up by this FiveThirtyEight chart which shows there are a lot fewer competitive districts now than there used to be.

But about a week after Cook issued that report, Henry Olsen at the Washington Post argued the situation for Democrats was worse than Cook was saying it was. Specifically, Cook assumed a shift toward the GOP of about 7 points while Olsen suggested the actual shift (based on the outcome in the Virginia and New Jersey elections) was closer to 12.5%. Using that figure, Olsen predicted a more significant red tsunami this fall:

Here’s where the bad news starts for Democrats. They hold 42 House seats that fall below that mark, and a few more will be added to the list when New Hampshire and Florida draw their maps. Politico rates 13 of those 42 seats as safe for Democrats. If that doesn’t hold, the GOP could gain as many as 40 seats.

So who was right? Well, last Thursday, Cook Political Report updated its forecast for the midterms, shifting 10 more races in favor of the GOP:

The midterm outlook for House Democrats is so bleak that even members in districts President Biden won by 10 to 15 points are in danger of losing their seats, according to election experts.

Driving the news: The Cook Political Report just revised its fall House forecast to a net Republican gain of 20 to 35 seats. Cook shifted 10 races in Republicans’ direction and two toward Democrats, with 35 D-held seats now labeled “tossup” or worse.

Cook has gone from arguing 25 seats was the maximum the GOP could hope to gain to arguing 27-28 is the middle of the range. And it’s worth nothing this happened after the leak of the draft Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v Wade. If Democrats were hoping to see a big shift back in their direction based on that, it doesn’t seem to be happening.

Something similar is now happening with gun control. Democrats are once again hoping that campaigning on one hot button issue can rescue them. Maybe it can but I think they are still up against some serious economic problems including the fact that gasoline prices are hitting new average highs on an almost daily basis. According to AAA, the highest national average recorded was today’s price. The same was true last Thursday and Saturday. Here where I live in California the average gas price is now above $6 per gallon for regular, the highest average in the country. People may have strong feelings about other issues but when they are paying $500 a month for gas just to get to work, I feel pretty confident that’s going to be the top issue in the coming election.

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