Republicans are winning over voters by focusing on inflation, but in highly competitive races, candidate strength makes all the difference. In this edition of the Fox News Power Rankings, three House races shift toward Democrats, while the Republicans make gains in two. Plus, the GOP loses its grip on a governor’s race in the northeast.
Congress: Republicans retain House advantage, while neither party breaks through in the Senate
Republicans are still poised to win the House. The latest forecast expects the GOP to win 231 seats, while Democrats will take the remaining 204. That means 14 seats of breathing room for the GOP. On the Senate side, neither party has a clear majority. The Republicans have 49 seats in their columns, and the Democrats have 47. Toss up races in Arizona, Georgia, Nevada and Pennsylvania will determine control. Both parties are fighting for every vote in these states, and this forecast does not see enough evidence to shift any of them just yet.
If those numbers sound familiar, it’s because they are the same as the Power Rankings forecast in September. There are signs, however, that the national environment is shifting in the Republican Party’s favor. The GOP has gained about a point on the generic ballot question since the last forecast, as inflation remains the dominant issue. That leaves both parties tied. There is troubling news for Democrats inside recent polls too. Independent voters often decide close elections, and they are worried about the economy. In last week’s Monmouth University poll, 61% of independents said economic issues were more important to their vote this year, compared to 29% who say they were more concerned about rights and democracy. Inflation voters consistently favor the GOP in polls, so the more concerned that voters are about rising costs, the more Democrats who will fall on election night.
Elections are fought on more than the national level. While the “generic” Republican might be tied with the “generic” Democrat, candidates bring their own strengths and weaknesses to every race. While reaching the final stages of the cycle, candidate quality makes all the difference, whether it’s staying scandal-free or building an effective ground game. That is why these rankings shift three districts toward Democrats, and two toward Republicans.
In Rhode Island’s 2nd congressional district, Republican primary voters chose Allan Fung as their nominee, and that is paying dividends. A former mayor of Cranston, Fung is unabashedly moderate, telling Axios last week that he is focused on bringing down the cost of living, and opposes a national ban on abortion. He even earned praise from House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., who called him a “quality opponent” in a recent interview. The 2nd district contains most of Providence and Cranston, two reliably liberal areas, and his opponent, Democrat Seth Magaziner, led in fundraising through the end of August. Still, Fung has a real shot of winning this open seat. This district moves from Lean D to Toss Up.
Down in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, the 34th congressional district pits incumbents Vicente Gonzales, the Democrat, and Mayra Flores, the Republican, against each other. Flores won in an upset earlier this year after a Democrat’s resignation, but the district boundaries shift in November. Under the new lines, President Biden would have won the 2020 election by 15 points. That is an important factor, along with Gonzales’ incumbent status and moderate reputation, but Flores is running a well-funded and disciplined campaign. Immigration is also likely to play an outsized role in the district, which runs from Kingsville to the U.S.-Mexico border, and that issue should favor the GOP here. Texas’ 34th moves from Lean D to Toss Up.
Republicans are still struggling with candidate quality, and the race in Ohio’s 9th district demonstrates the problem. This seat in the Toledo area sees incumbent Democrat Marcy Kaptur face off against Republican project manager J.R. Majewski. He is one of the most pro-Trump candidates on the GOP bench this year (in 2020, he painted his entire yard as a Trump banner) and eventually earned the former president’s endorsement. That put him in a decent position in this right-leaning, White working-class seat. However, Majewski also told voters that he served as a combat veteran in Afghanistan after the Sept. 11 attacks, and public records show no evidence that he did. (Instead, they show that Majewski deployed to an air base in Qatar.) Majewski has not provided evidence to contradict those records, and additional reporting showed the far-right candidate was demoted for drunken driving earlier in his military career. The NRCC has bailed on the race, canceling $1 million in TV ads. Ohio’s 9th congressional district moves from Toss Up to Lean D.
Over in Michigan, another far-right candidate is failing to persuade moderate voters. Republican challenger John Gibbs won his primary over outgoing Rep. Peter Meijer earlier this year in the 3rd congressional district. This was one of more than a dozen races where both former President Trump and the Democrats intervened to nominate a loyal pro-Trump candidate. The Power Rankings previously moved this race from Lean R to Toss Up, since the Grand Rapids seat is one of the most competitive of the cycle, but two factors are working against the former Trump administration official. First, Tudor Dixon is faltering on the statewide ticket (her governor’s race is rated Lean D). That will negatively impact Gibbs’ vote share. Second, abortion is literally on the ballot in Michigan, after the State Supreme Court allowed a constitutional amendment to appear on ballots, which should drive up the liberal vote. Michigan’s 3rd district moves from Toss Up to Lean D.
Finally, Maine’s 2nd district is headed toward a photo finish. Democrat Jared Golden came into this district when his party took the House in 2018, but it was difficult to see how he could hold on. Under new district lines, former President Trump would have won by 6 points in 2020. Golden and his challenger, Republican Bruce Poliquin, are both running strong, disciplined campaigns, but as the statewide race shifts to the left (see below), so too does the second congressional district. Maine’s 2nd moves from Lean R to Toss Up.
Governor: Democrat Janet Mills has the edge for another term in Maine
Maine’s Republican former Gov. Paul LePage had a reputation for bombastic remarks well before it came into fashion. This year, he returned to the spotlight as “LePage 2.0,” telling voters he had learned a lot since term limits forced him out of office in 2018. He is hoping to unseat the incumbent Democrat, Gov. Janet Mills, who has forged a bipartisan path through her first term in office but has faced criticism from conservatives over school shutdowns and divisive lesson plans.
Two numbers shift this race in Mills’ direction. First, the incumbent has an outright majority in the most recent public polling and consistently beats LePage by double digits in polls conducted after the primary. If those numbers hold, this race is out of reach for LePage. Secondly, Mills has a consistent fundraising edge. According to reports filed by the candidates in late September, Mills had raised more than twice as much money as her opponent ($4.9 million for Mills and $2.2 million for LePage). Maine moves from Toss Up to Lean D.
4 weeks to go until election day
There are 28 days to go until the midterms, but millions of Americans can already submit ballots. Absentee voting is underway in several battleground states, including Florida, Georgia, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Some states publish early vote statistics, like the number of ballots they have received, and the party registration tied to each vote, but be wary of pundits who rely heavily on these numbers. Democrats tend to vote early and Republicans tend to vote on Election Day, so early vote figures do not reflect the final tally.
You can rely on the Fox News Politics Unit, which is firing on all cylinders as election night approaches. Tune into Fox News Channel for the latest news from the trail, and return here next Tuesday for a brand-new set of Power Rankings, now publishing every week until November.