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Top Candidates in the Coming 2022 Midterm Race – Deciding Outcomes

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A handful of make-or-break Senate elections in key states are only growing more competitive as candidates barrel toward the Nov. 8 midterm elections. Only a few contests could determine how the Senate handles policy — and President Joe Biden’s nominees for key posts — for the rest of the president’s first term.

Democrats hold the slimmest possible majority in the Senate, a reality that at times has reined in Biden’s most ambitious policy goals. The chamber is split 50-50, and Vice President Kamala Harris holds the tie-breaking vote.

Biden’s presence in the White House could make his party’s bid to hold the Senate more difficult: the president’s party historically struggles in midterm elections. While Biden’s approval rating has climbed from the lowest points of his term, most voters polled still disapprove of the job he is doing as Americans struggle with high inflation, among other issues.

Biden’s party reshaped its national campaign messaging after the Supreme Court overturned longstanding abortion rights in June. The court’s contentious and unpopular ruling seemed to upend the midterms overnight, handing Democrats a powerful tool to stoke turnout among voters outraged at the conservative court and its supporters in government.

Of the 34 seats up for grabs in the midterms, here are the ones that could decide Senate control:

Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania’s two Senate candidates, Democratic Lt. Governor John Fetterman and his Republican opponent Dr. Mehmet Oz, appeared Tuesday night in their first and only debate in the state’s highly-watched and contentious Senate race. 

The debate came as Fetterman continues to recover from a stroke he suffered in May. He struggled at times with speaking due to ongoing auditory processing challenges, and used a closed-captioning device to read the questions. 

In his opening statement, Fetterman, who stumbled several times although it was clear that he understood the questions, acknowledged the “elephant in the room,” saying, “I had a stroke.” Addressing his opponent, Fetterman said “he is never going to let me forget that.”

Georgia

Incumbent Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock appears to be in a tight race with Republican challenger Herschel Walker, a famed former football pro and business owner backed by Trump. 

Warnock, a Baptist pastor whose special-election victory in 2021 helped Democrats seize a razor-thin Senate majority, is fighting to win a full term representing the swing state. 

Gaffes and scandals have hampered Walker’s run. He first was forced to reveal having more children than he previously acknowledged. Most recently, an ex-girlfriend accused Walker — a staunch abortion opponent — of paying for her abortion in 2009 and pressuring her to get another two years later. Walker has denied the allegation.

Arizona

Polls suggest Arizona’s Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly is poised to fend off a challenge from Republican Blake Masters, a venture capitalist backed by billionaire political activist Peter Thiel.

Masters, also backed by Trump, has struggled to gain a competitive footing in the swing state that Biden narrowly won in 2020. As a primary candidate, Masters echoed Trump’s false claims of a rigged 2020 election and took a vocal anti-abortion stance, but he has downplayed those views in the general election. He has sought to puncture Kelly’s moderate campaign messaging and tie him to Biden, who is unpopular in Arizona. 

Nevada

Republican political scion Adam Laxalt is challenging freshman Democratic Sen. Cortez Masto, whose Nevada seat is considered one of the GOP’s best chances to flip a blue seat red.

Cortez Masto, the state’s first Latina senator, has outraised and outspent her opponent. She has also received more support from PACs and other outside groups. The Nevada election is the second-most-expensive Senate fight in the nation, trailing only the Georgia race, according to ad-tracker AdImpact.

But polling averages show Cortez Masto in a virtual dead heat with Laxalt, the former state attorney general backed by Trump. Laxalt has pushed a tough-on-crime campaign message and picked up endorsements from police organizations, while echoing Trump’s recent attacks on the FBI and his false claims about election fraud in 2020. Cortez Masto, who served two terms as Nevada AG before Laxalt, has also netted support from police groups.

North Carolina

The race to succeed retiring Republican Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina hasn’t drummed up the same level of publicity –  or spending – as some of the flashier marquee Senate fights. But GOP Rep. Ted Budd and Democrat Cheri Beasley are locked in a tight contest that could shape the final Senate map.

Beasley, the first Black woman to serve as chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court, is taking on Budd, a Trump-backed three-term congressman with a staunchly conservative record. The two are running side-by-side in the polls. Still, some see the Tar Heel State, which has not elected a Democratic senator since 2008, as more favorable terrain for the Republican.

Wisconsin

Democrats see Republican Sen. Ron Johnson as a vulnerable incumbent. But the two-term Wisconsin senator nevertheless appears to be gaining momentum against his Democratic rival, Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes.

The 67-year-old Johnson has scored negative approval ratings in recent polls. He has come under fire for repeatedly sowing doubts about Covid-19 vaccines, downplaying the Jan. 6 Capitol riot and being linked to an alleged “fake electors” scheme to challenge the 2020 election results, among other controversies.

Ohio

Trump-backed Republican J.D. Vance appears locked in a tight Senate race against Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan, despite running in a red-leaning state that Trump won handily in 2020.

Vance and Ryan, both Ohio natives, are competing for the seat being vacated by retiring GOP Sen. Rob Portman. Ryan, who ran a failed presidential bid in the 2020, has campaigned on economic issues and touted his connections to the state, while tarring Vance as a “San Francisco fraud.” Ryan has also slammed Vance over his stance on abortion, a top concern among Democratic voters.

Vance, the author of the memoir “Hillbilly Elegy,” has portrayed himself as a political outsider with a populist message. His campaign has sought to define Ryan as an extension of Biden and Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

New Hampshire

While New Hampshire has voted for Democrats in every presidential race since 2000, it is considered a purple state that has recently elected Republican senators and could do so again in November. 

Incumbent Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan’s approval ratings have fallen, including among unaffiliated voters who make up a major chunk of the state’s electorate.

But she holds advantages over her Republican opponent, Don Bolduc, a retired U.S. Army brigadier general who has garnered praise from Trump. Bolduc had echoed Trump’s false claims of a rigged 2020 election, but reversed himself right after his primary win, saying he had concluded that the election was not stolen after “a lot of research.”

Florida

Former Orlando police chief and Democratic Rep. Val Demings aims to unseat incumbent Republican Sen. Marco Rubio

Polls put Rubio ahead of Demings, and forecaster Cook Political Report has given the race a “Lean Republican” rating.

Demings’ credentials have served to counter the soft-on-crime accusations common in Republican campaigns. She has distanced herself from Biden as she competes to serve Trump’s home state.

But it may not be enough to win over the Sunshine State, which voted for Trump in 2020.

Colorado

Democrats are favored to prevail in Colorado, where incumbent Sen. Michael Bennet has held a steady lead over his Republican challenger Joe O’Dea, who runs a construction company. The state’s voter registration trends in recent years have also skewed in Democrats’ favor, a shift that resulted in Biden beating Trump by almost 14 percentage points in 2020.

But O’Dea’s willingness to break with the GOP on some key issues, including abortion, has helped him project a more moderate look than many of his Trump-backed equivalents in other Senate races.

Disclaimer: This article received full authorization from Economy Vibe.

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