2022 Elections Update: Candidate Quality Still Matters

On October 3, 2022, I published an updated set of projections for who will have the majority in the United States House of Representatives (“House”) following the 2022 elections, as well as who will win the 35 elections for the United States Senate (“Senate”) and 36 elections for governor. Since then, an additional 13 generic ballot polls – which I use to estimate the probability Democrats retain their House majority – have been released, along with 33 new Senate polls and 34 new governor’s race polls.

I now update my projections daily on my home page, and I recently added projections using only polling conducted since Labor Day (September 5). Democratic chances of retaining their House majority have clearly risen in the past five weeks, while their ability to retain governor’s mansions has taken a hit; the Senate projections are essentially unchanged on balance, with Nevada and Wisconsin drifting toward Republicans and Ohio and Georgia drifting toward Democrats.

For all that, Republican Senate nominees continue to poll below where the “fundamentals” (see below) imply they should be, given the undecided percentage of the post-Labor-Day electorate and a neutral political environment; the evidence in governor’s elections is far more inconclusive. Consider Georgia, where Democratic incumbent Raphael Warnock faces Republican former National Football League All-Star Herschel Walker. Georgia leans about 6.5 percentage points (“points”) more Republican than the nation. Even giving Warnock 1.8 points for incumbency and 1.0 points for the current political climate, he would be expected to lose by about 3.7 points to a generic Republican. Assuming about 1.7% (half the value in five polls including third-party candidates) vote for neither Walker nor Warnock implies a Walker victory of 51.0% to 47.3%. Currently, about 6.5% of the electorate is genuinely undecided. Now, let us assume these undecided voters split evenly between Walker and Warnock, the expectation in a neutral political environment. Combine these assumptions, and Walker should be polling at 47.9% since Labor Day, Instead, he is polling 3.5 points lower, at 44.4%.

Table 1 makes this comparison for nine key Senate elections.

Table 1: Expected vs. actual polling averages for Republican nominees in selected Senate elections

ElectionExpected Polling AverageActual Polling AverageDifference
New Hampshire42.1%42.4%+0.3
North Carolina47.0%45.5%-1.5

Seven of these nominees are currently polling behind expectations. In New Hampshire, retired United States Army brigadier general Don Bolduc in New Hampshire is polling exactly on track to lose by an expected 7-8 points. In Nevada, meanwhile, former state Attorney General Adam Laxalt – son of the late, popular Republican Senator Paul Laxalt – is running more than four points ahead of expectations. Laxalt’s legacy and familiarity are likely why this is one of the few states where voters feel comfortable protesting the Biden Administration and Democratic Congress by voting Republican for Senate (and governor, actually, using the same calculation).

Three states in which Republicans are polling a bit closer – 1.3 points lower, on average – to the fundamentals estimate are Florida and Wisconsin, in which incumbents Marco Rubio and Ron Johnson are running for a third term, and North Carolina, where House member Ted Budd is the Republican nominee. By contrast, Republican nominees in Arizona, Georgia, Ohio and Pennsylvania – none of whom has run for political office before – are running an average 4.0 points behind. I currently have the Democratic nominee at least slightly favored in all four elections, but imagine what these elections would look like if a Republican with even a modicum of experience in elected office had won the nomination in these states.


The House. As of October 9, 2022, I estimate Democrats lead Republicans on the generic ballot by 0.3 points, 44.3% to 44.0%. Based upon this value, I estimate the probability Democrats retain a House majority is 28.4%. This is a trivial drop of 0.2 points in one week. I continue to estimate Democrats will lose 9.9 seats, putting them at 212 (compared to the 222-213 majority they held following the 2020 elections), with a 95% confidence interval of -31.6 to +11.2.

Using only the 57 generic ballot polls conducted entirely after Labor Day, though, Democrats lead by 1.0 points, 45.4% to 44.4% – down 0.3 points in one week – which equates to a 36.0% chance of retaining their House majority and an average loss of 7.6 seats (95% CI: -29.3 to +13.5). For Democrats to be nominal favorites to retain their House majority (p>50%), they need to win nationally by ≥2.3 points.

These probability and seat estimates are well in line with those from FiveThirtyEight.com, whose probabilities range from 30% (Deluxe) to 39% (Classic), with 213 seats assigned >50% probability of being won by the Democrat in the methodologically-conservative Deluxe model. However, if Democrats win every seat with probability>41%, they maintain a bare House majority across all three models.

Bottom line: A narrow House Republican majority remains a bit more likely than not, with Democrats’ position eroding slightly for the first time.


The Senate. As of October 9, 2022, 304 publicly-available Senate election polls have been conducted since November 1, 2021. These include five polls assessing a the extremely likely final matchup between two Republicans in Alaska: incumbent Senator Lisa Murkowski and former state official Kelly Tshibaka; Murkowski currently edges Tshibaka 51.7% to 48.3%. Only the Senate elections in California and Hawaii – which incumbent Democrats Alex Padilla and Brian Schatz, respectively, are near-locks to win – and in Alabama, Idaho and North Dakota – which Republicans Katie Britt, Michael Crapo and John Hoeven, respectively, are near-locks to win – do not yet have publicly-available polling.

Table 2 shows updated projections for all 35 Senate elections.

Table 2: Democratic Senate win probabilities and projected final margins, 2022

StateFundamentalsPolling (WAPA)Poll WtFinal Projection
Democratic seatMarginP(D win)MarginP(D win) MarginP(D win)
New York26.0100.0%21.0100.0%0.9221.3100.0%
New Hampshire7.078.0%7.1100.0%0.897.197.6%
Estimated Democratic seats lost = 0.8 (range = 0.3 to 1.3)*
Republican seat       
North Carolina-5.534.8%-1.041.0%0.89-1.540.3%
Alaska-18.85.1%    0.0%
South Carolina-18.95.0%-18.50.0%0.74-18.61.3%
Alabama-28.90.5%    0.5%
South Dakota-32.60.2%-16.85.5%0.83-19.44.6%
Idaho-37.80.0%    0.0%
North Dakota-38.40.0%    0.0%
Oklahoma (1)-40.80.0%-20.90.0%0.76-25.70.0%
Oklahoma (2)-40.80.0%-16.10.0%0.76-22.10.0%
Estimated Republican seats lost = 2.8 (range = 2.1 to 4.5)
Overall expected Democratic seats gained/lost = +2.0 (range = +0.8 to +4.1)

    *Adding 4 or subtracting 2 points to all WAPA, including generic ballot estimates

Italics indicate open seats, while boldface indicates a likely “flip.” “Fundamentals” is the sum of state’s partisan lean (3W-RDM), current generic ballot estimate (D+0.3) and incumbency advantage (Senate values: 5.5 points for Democrats, 3.3 points for Republicans); I assign one-third incumbency advantage to Democrats Mark Kelly of Arizona and Raphael Warnock of Georgia because they first won their seats in 2020 special elections. Essentially, this is what one would expect the Democratic margin to be for a generic Democratic vs. a generic Republican. The “fundamentals” probability the Democratic candidate wins is the likelihood of a Democratic margin of ≥0.0000001 given a normal distribution, with mean of +1.3 (mean historic “miss”) and standard deviation of 10.7.

Despite improvement on the generic ballot, “on paper,” Kelly and Warnock are modest underdogs, while Democratic incumbents in New Hampshire and Nevada are only modest favorites. On the flip side, the open Republican seat in Pennsylvania – vacated after two terms by Pat Toomey – is essentially a toss-up, albeit with the Republican candidate slightly favored. On average, I now give 18% weight to fundamentals and 82% weight to WAPA, unchanged from last week.

Now that we are less than one month to Election Day, I slightly modified the “projection categories”:

Safe Republican (<5%)

Solid Republican (≥5 to <10%)

Likely Republican (≥10 to <20%)

Lean Republican (≥20 to <33%)

Tilt Republican (≥33 to <45%)

Toss-up (≥45 to ≤55%)

Tilt Democratic (>55 to ≤67%)

Lean Democratic (>67 to ≤80%)

Likely Democratic (>80 to ≤90%)

Solid Democratic (>90 to ≤95%)

Safe Democratic (>95%)

The difference between “Safe” and “Solid” is not especially illuminating for Republicans, so let us combine them:

Safe/Solid Republican (n=14). Incumbents Crapo, Hoeven, John Kennedy (LA), Jim Lankford (OK), Jerry Moran (KS), Rand Paul (KY), Tim Scott (SC) and John Thune (SD) are near-locks to win. Republican nominees Britt, Markwayne Mullin and Eric Schmitt are also prohibitive favorites to win open seats in Alabama, Oklahoma and Missouri, respectively. Republican Senator Mike Lee is heavily favored – for now – to defeat Independent former CIA operative Evan McMullin (effectively the Democratic nominee) in Utah, while I project Murkowski has the edge over Tshibaka. Finally, new polling in Iowa shows incumbent Republican Chuck Grassley opening a commanding lead, likely putting this election out of reach.

Likely Republican (n=3). Two polls have been conducted in the Indiana Senate election between Republican incumbent Todd Young and Democratic Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott, Jr. These mediocre (averaging B-/C+ using FiveThirtyEight.com’s pollster ratings) polls, one skewed Democratic and one skewed Republican, suggest Young leads McDermott by only 2.3 points, when he “should” be winning by more than 20 points. Moreover, neither candidate tops 42% on average, which combined with Libertarian candidate James Sceniak (6% in the most recent poll) suggests extreme volatility – which is why McDermott has a 33.7% chance to win. While this could be a sign of a Democratic surge – along with a single poll in Arkansas suggesting trouble for Republican incumbent John Boozman – it is far more likely just a handful of mediocre polls not pushing undecideds hard enough. Both Boozman and Young should win by double digits.

On paper, Florida’s Senate contest is Lean Republican, which Rubio leading overall by 5.0 points supports. However, Democratic House member Demings has gained substantial ground. In 10 polls conducted through July 1, Demings trailed by 8.8 points, 37.0% to 45.8%, with an unusually-high 17.2% choosing neither candidate. But on June 24, the United States Supreme Court overturned the right to an abortion, sending the issue back to state legislatures to decide – and galvanizing Democratic voters. In the 18 polls conducted since then, Demings trails by 4.6 points, 43.3% to 47.8%, an astonishing 4.2-point shift overall apparently fueled by “committing voters” breaking roughly 7-3 for Demings. Rubio is still the strong favorite to win, but if Demings continues to attract these voters at this rate, this could be a very close election.

Lean Republican (n=1). Johnson is now favored to win reelection, in line with “Tilt Republican” fundamentals. Johnson’s lead over Democratic Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes is holding steady at 46.8% to 48.7%, in 15 polls (B+). And in the 11 polls released since Labor Day (B+), Barnes trails by 2.4 points – 46.5% to 48.9% – after having led by 3.5 points in polls averaging A-.

Tilt Republican (n=1). On paper, Republicans should be modest favorites to retain the Senate seat being vacated by Richard Burr in North Carolina (R+5.8). Still, former State Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley is within 1.0 points of Budd – though she trails by 1.8 points in seven polls conducted since Labor Day (B). That said, Budd only averages 45.5% since Labor Day, making this election extremely competitive.

Toss-ups (n=2). As with the open seat in North Carolina, Republicans should be modest favorites to retain the Senate seat being vacated by Rob Portman in Ohio (R+9.8). However, Democratic House member Tim Ryan leads Republican venture capitalist J.D. Vance 45.3% to 44.1%. Moreover, Ryan has closed the gap to just 0.8 points in polls rated at least B+ (n=7), with Vance’s average dropping to 45.0% – and leads by 0.9 points in eight polls conducted since Labor Day (B/B+). The only reason this election is not “Tilt Democrat” is a projected loss of 0.3 points using all polls, and a projected loss of 0.1 points using post-Labor-Day polls.

In Nevada, Democratic Senator Catherine Cortez Masto trails Laxalt overall (20 polls, B-/B), 44.0% to 44.6%. After leading by 2.8 points in 14 polls conducted through Labor Day, Cortez Masto trails by 2.5 points in six polls (B) conducted since then, 43.3% to 45.8%. Cortez Masto’s inability to top 45% at any point should make Democrats very nervous, despite my projection she will win by 0.3 points, down from last week.

Tilt Democratic (n=0).

Lean Democratic (n=1). What a difference a week can make. On October 3, the Daily Beast reported the ardently pro-life Walker, had reimbursed his then-girlfriend for an abortion in 2009. That same day, Walker’s son Christian tweeted about his father’s history of abusive and violent behavior. While no polling has been conducted entirely after Monday, two polls (A-/B+), one conducted just prior to and one conducted on the day of the allegations, showed Warnock ahead by an average of 8.0 points. This puts Warnock ahead 47.3% to 44.9% overall, and ahead 47.5% to 44.4% in 10 polls (B+) conducted since Labor Day. This is sufficient to make Warnock a 4-1 favorite in my estimation. As I keep cautioning, however, Georgia is still a Republican-leaning state (R+6.5) and with third-party candidates earning 3-4 points in some polls, a runoff occasioned by neither candidate winning a majority on Election Day is still a possibility. If the race goes to a January runoff, FiveThirtyEight.com projects Walker to win an average 63% of the time, down 3 points from last week.

Likely Democratic (n=1). The Senate seat most likely to change partisan hands is that held by retiring Republican Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania. Democratic Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman leads Republican television celebrity Dr. Mehmet Oz overall 48.3% to 41.5% (n=29, B). However, Fetterman’s stroke and some consolidation of Republican voters by Oz are likely why the race has tightened a bit: in 11 polls (B+) conducted since Labor Day, Fetterman leads 47.7% to 42.7%, a 1.3-point drop for Fetterman and a 3.6-point increase for Oz. In fact, using only post-Labor-Day polling, Fetterman still has a win probability of 88.1%.

Solid Democratic (n=1). Some Arizona (R+6.1) voters may have drifted from supporting Democratic Senator Mark Kelly to nominally undecided, but he still tallies 48.3% in 12 polls (B/B+) conducted since Labor Day – while Republican capitalist Blake Masters remains stuck at a dismal 42.6%. Look for Kelly to win by about five points.

Safe Democratic (n=12): Incumbents Michael Bennet (CO), Richard Blumenthal (CT), Tammy Duckworth (IL), Maggie Hassan (NH), Patty Murray (WA), Padilla, Chuck Schumer (NY), Schatz, Chris Van Hollen (MD) and Ron Wyden (OR) are near-locks to win reelection. Murray was effectively reelected on August 2, when she won 52.3% of the vote in an all-candidate primary; all Democrats combined won just under 55% of the vote. Meanwhile, House member Peter Welch is all-but-certain to win the Vermont Senate seat being vacated by seven-term Democrat Pat Leahy.

Bottom line: There is an 88.5% chance Democrats hold at least 50 Senate seats – and thus maintain the majority. In fact, there is a 71.5% chance Democrats net add Senate seats, with two being the most likely outcome (19.1%); the next most likely possibility is a continuing 50-50 split (17.0%). This is a notable 5-point increase from last week, nearly all due to polling in Georgia. There is still a non-trivial 7.5% chance Democrats net lose one seat, giving Republicans a narrow 51-49 majority. Overall, there is a 65.5% chance Democrats land between no net change and a net gain of three Senate seats, for an over/under of +1.5.

Figure 1: 2022 Senate election distribution


Governors. As of October 9, 2022, 335 publicly-available gubernatorial election polls have been conducted since November 1, 2021. Only those in the open seat in Hawaii – which Democrat Josh Green is a near-lock to win – and in Alabama, Idaho, Nebraska, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Wyoming – which Republicans Kay Ivey, Brad Little, Jim Pilllen, Kristi Noem, Bill Lee and Mark Gordon, respectively, are near-locks to win – do not yet have publicly-available polling.

A net gain of three governor’s mansions by Democrats would give them 25, giving them parity for the first time since 2010. Table 3 shows updated values for all 36 gubernatorial elections in 2022.

Table 3: Democratic gubernatorial win probabilities and projected final margins, 2022

StateFundamentalsPolling (WAPA)Poll WtFinal Projection
Democratic seatMarginP(D win)MarginP(D win) MarginP(D win)
New York20.586.2%11.8100.0%0.8812.998.3%
Rhode Island22.188.0%16.389.5%0.8817.089.3%
New Mexico17.081.6%5.485.4%0.995.585.4%
Estimated Democratic seats lost = 2.4 (range = 1.3 to 3.1)*
Republican seat       
New Hampshire-12.425.2%-17.70.0%0.89-17.12.7%
South Carolina-29.55.7%-7.30.0%0.76-12.51.4%
Nebraska-24.89.2%n/an/a  9.2%
Tennessee-40.81.4%n/an/a  1.4%
Alabama-42.81.1%n/an/a  1.1%
South Dakota-43.21.0%n/an/a  1.0%
Idaho-48.40.5%n/an/a  0.5%
Wyoming-61.10.1%n/an/a  0.1%
Estimated Republican seats lost = 2.9 (range = 2.7 to 3.6)
Overall expected Democratic seats gained/lost = +0.5 (range = -0.4 to +2.3)

    *Adding 4 or subtracting 2 points to all WAPA, including generic ballot estimates

The gubernatorial incumbency advantages are 10.4 points for Democrats and 13.9 points for Democrats. On average, I now give 13% weight to fundamentals and 87% weight to WAPA, an increase of WAPA weight of 2.0 points since last week.

Safe/Solid Republican (n=16). Incumbents Mike DeWine (OH), Mike Dunleavy (AK), Gordon, Ivey, Lee, Little, Henry McMaster (SC), Noem, Kim Reynolds (IA), Kevin Stitt (OK) and Chris Sununu (NH) are near-locks for reelection. University of Nebraska Board of Regents member Pillen and former White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders will be the next Republican governors of Nebraska and Arkansas, respectively.

Meanwhile, Democrats Stacey Abrams (GA), Charlie Crist (FL) and Beto O’Rourke (TX) trail incumbent Republican governors Brian Kemp, Ron DeSantis and Greg Abbott, respectively, by an average 6.4 points. Moreover, since Labor Day, all three incumbents average between 49.9% and 50.6%, effectively ending these elections.

Likely Republican (n=1). Popular Republican governor Phil Scott will win reelection, despite Vermont’s D+28.9 status.

Lean Republican (n=0).

Tilt Republican (n=0).

Toss-ups (n=5). Three governors who first won in the 2018 Democratic wave find themselves in a pitched battle for reelection: Laura Kelly in Kansas, Steve Sisolak in Nevada and Tony Evers in Wisconsin. The good news for Kelly in heavily Republican Kansas (R+21.3) is that in two polls conducted at least in part after Labor Day, she leads Schmidt 46.9% to 42.6%, putting her much closer to victory; overall, in four polls, she leads 46.6% to 43.4%. I project her to eke out a narrow victory, one closer to three points than 0.6 points.

In Nevada, meanwhile, Sisolak’s lead over Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo has evaporated. He now trails 43.7% to 44.1% overall, an 43.2% to 45.2% in five polls (B) conducted since Labor Day. And while I project him to win by 1-2 points, his inability to crack 44% should make Democrats very nervous.

The story is similar in Wisconsin, where Evers’ lead over businessman Tim Michels has dropped to 47.4% to 46.9% overall, and to just 47.2% to 47.0% since Labor Day (n=10, B+/A-). I expect Evers still to win by roughly one point, but I would not put money on it.

The open governor’s race in strongly-Democratic Oregon (D+10.3) is a pure toss-up right now because of Independent Betsy Johnson, a former Democratic state senator, and a dearth of quality polling. Only eight polls (B-) have been conducted overall, and they now show Republican former State House Majority Leader Christine Drazan edging Democratic former State House Speaker Tina Kotek 33.5% to 32.7%, with Johnson at 20.0%. Drazan has widened her lead to 1.8 points in four polls conducted since Labor Day (C+/B-), with Johnson dropping to 18.4%. I had assumed Johnson supporters would shift to Kotek, but the bulk of them appear of have moved to Drazan. Unless Kotek reverses that trend (assuming this is not just an artifact of mediocre polling), her projected 1.2-point victory is very much in doubt.

The open governor’s race in Arizona – the first of three states in which a Democrat is at least even money to replace a retiring Republican governor – is a pure toss-up. Democratic state Attorney General Katie Hobbs is a nominal 52.1% favorite to win in this R+6.1 state, despite a projected 0.25-point loss to television personality Kari Lake. This is yet another state where the Republican candidate has gained ground but still bumps up against a 46% ceiling. In 11 polls (B/B+) conducted since Labor Day, Lake leads 46.3% to 46.5%, though Hobbs still leads overall 46.4 to 46.0%. I would not much money on either woman.

Tilt Democratic (n=0).

Lean Democratic (n=0).

Likely Democratic (n=1). The only reason New Mexico Democratic Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham is not a solid/safe choice to defeat Republican former meteorologist Mark Ronchetti is that she is averaging 47.0% in eight high-quality (A- average) polls. I project Lujan Grisham to win by mid-to-high single digits.

Solid/Safe Democratic (n=13). The other states which Democrats are near-locks to flip are Maryland and Massachusetts, with both former Army Captain Wes Moore and state Attorney General Maura Healey projected to win by around 25 points. Two other Democratic statewide officials are heavy favorites to win governor’s mansions held by retiring Democrats: Lieutenant Governor Green in Hawaii and Attorney General Josh Shapiro in Pennsylvania.

That leaves nine incumbent Democrats who are at least 9-1 favorites to win reelection: Kathy Hochul (NY), Ned Lamont (CT), Dan McKee (RI), Janet Mills (ME), Gavin Newsom (CA), Jared Polis (CO), J.B. Pritzker (IL), Tim Walz (MN) and Gretchen Whitmer (MI).

Bottom line: It is now a toss-up (51.2%) Democrats net at least one governor, with the most likely outcome (22.8%) being a net gain of three, bringing Democrats to parity for the first time since 2010. These values are again down noticeably from last week. There is also a 25.6% chance Democrats net lose one or two governor’s mansions, with the latter being the second-most likely outcome (16.3%). Overall, there is an 86.4% chance Democrats land somewhere between a net loss of two and a net gain of three governor’s mansions, for an over/under of +0.5.

Figure 2: 2022 gubernatorial election distribution


While Democrats still find themselves in a decent position – strong favorites to net Senate seats and no worse than 50-50 to net governor’s mansions, while limiting losses in the House to ~10 seats – it would only take a polling miss of 3-4 points in Republicans’ favor to flip the script. Note that this represents a 2–3-point Republican shift in my WAPA, which are already adjusted one point toward the GOP. In this scenario, Democrats still gain the Senate seat in Pennsylvania (92.1%), while losing in Nevada (33.8%); Senate control would hinge on Georgia (53.8%) and possibly Ohio (37.4%). Democrats would still win back governor’s mansions in Maryland and Massachusetts, while likely losing in Nevada (37.1%), Oregon (41.4%) and Wisconsin (38.8%), with Kansas (50.1%) the lone toss-up. And the likelihood of retaining House control would drop to 9.7%, centered around a loss of 17-18 seats.

However, it is equally plausible Democrats overperform polls by a similar amount – an increase of 4 points relative to my WAPA. In this scenario, Democrats would be favored (72.7%) to retain House control, net gaining about three seats. Not only would Democrats flip Pennsylvania while holding all their Senate seats, they would also add North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin for a gain of four seats – with Florida (32.1%) and Indiana (41.5%) now in play. They would still top out at netting three governor’s mansions.

As of Indigenous Peoples Day, though, I still prefer to drive straight down the middle, while awaiting new polling, not only in Georgia, but also in North Carolina and Wisconsin, following the first Senate debates there on October 7.

Early voting has already begun in Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, South Dakota, Vermont, Virginia and Wyoming. All-mail states like Colorado, Oregon and Washington are also voting.

Until next time, if you are not already registered to vote, I urge you to do so immediately. And if you like what you read on this website, please consider making a donation. Thank you.

2 thoughts on “2022 Elections Update: Candidate Quality Still Matters

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