After Virginia Sweep, Crystal Ball Increases GOP Chances For Four Key U.S. Senate Races

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Sabato’s Crystal Ball has updated its predictions on four Senate elections slated for 2022 to more strongly favor Republicans.

On Tuesday, Republicans in Virginia — which Biden won by ten points in 2020 — swept statewide elections. Most notably, Glenn Youngkin comfortably defeated Democratic candidate and former Governor Terry McAuliffe, Winsome Sears clinched the lieutenant governor position over Hala Ayala, and Jason Miyares upset incumbent Mark Herring for attorney general.

Sabato’s Crystal Ball — a political newsletter published by the University of Virginia Center for Politics — called the results “horrible” for Democrats in a Wednesday newsletter.

Needless to say, this is a horrible result for Democrats, and for the White House. Youngkin’s 2-point victory (based on the results as of Wednesday morning) represented an 11-point shift in the GOP’s favor from 4 years ago, when now-Gov. Ralph Northam (D) won by almost 9 points. Going back a bit further to 2013, McAuliffe won by 2.5 points that year — last night’s result was a near-mirror image of that. Map 1 compares McAuliffe’s showing 8 years ago to his result last night.

Citing the Biden administration’s various failures — such as gas prices, inflation, and supply chain problems — Sabato’s Crystal Ball updated odds for four 2022 Senate elections. The races in Arizona, Georgia, and Nevada moved from “Leans Democratic” to “Toss-Up,” while the race in Colorado moved from “Safe Democratic” to “Likely Democratic.”

Given the usual presidential party midterm drag, and the poor environment, our ratings are just too bullish on Democrats. So we are downgrading Sens. Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Raphael Warnock (D-GA), and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) from Leans Democratic to Toss-up. While we have not been particularly impressed with Republican candidate recruiting in these races — former NFL star and Trump favorite Herschel Walker seems like a particularly risky choice in Georgia, assuming he wins the nomination — these moves are almost entirely about the environment. Moreover, even if Republicans don’t end up running strong candidates in these races, all 3 states are markedly less blue than Virginia.

Sabato’s Crystal Ball now places 49 Senate seats in the Republican column and 47 seats in the Democratic column — with four as toss-ups. “This reflects a close race for the Senate, but one that Republicans are better-positioned to win, particularly if the environment remains as poor for Democrats as it clearly is right now.”

“It must be said: If Biden’s approval rating is in the low-to-mid 40s next year, as it is now, everything we know about political trends and history suggests that the Democrats’ tiny majorities in the House and Senate are at major risk of becoming minorities,” the analysis added.

Indeed, a memo that circulated among congressional Republicans after election night affirmed that candidates should emulate Youngkin’s campaign in 2022. The document said that Republicans “can and must become the party of parents” by emphasizing education, as well as disavowing public school shutdowns and vaccine mandates. Likewise, Republicans intend to “back the blue” and “focus on the failures of the Biden economy.”

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