2022 Midterm Elections Recap

By Bryan Goodman, Political Director and Head Writer for Elections
Photo: Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R) exiting the White House—he is the most probable candidate to become the next Speaker of the House.

The results of the 2022 midterm elections in the United States did not go as anticipated. Currently, Democrats have maintained their Senate majority by flipping the Pennsylvania seat following the retirement of Senator Pat Toomey. However, Democrats did lose control of the House of Representatives, but not in a landslide or “shellacking” like we saw in 2010.

With inflation reaching levels of 8.5%, Democrats were surprisingly able to stave off a sweep of both chambers of Congress by Republicans. This Democratic overperformance was not just seen at the federal level, however. Michigan Democrats won their first trifecta in the state since the 1980s, and Democrats held gubernatorial seats throughout the Rustbelt region in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, while flipping the Arizona governorship out West. The most impressive victory for Democrats, however, came from the hold that Governor Laura Kelly of Kansas achieved in her re-election campaign. Democrats also held onto the Alaska at-large Congressional district that Mary Peltola picked up in September of this year, again running ahead of Republicans Sarah Palin and Nick Begich.

The House of Representatives

Democrats faced an uphill climb from the start when it came to maintaining a majority in the House of Representatives. They won a slim majority in 2020, which meant that 2022 would be even more difficult to maintain. With a failed gerrymander in New York, more competitive districts were drawn, providing a path to victory for Republicans in the House to go through New York. And that is exactly what happened. Historically, the President’s party loses seats in the midterm election. Only twice in the past 100 years has a President’s party expanded its majority in both Chambers of Congress—1934 and 2002—both during tumultuous times of the Great Depression and following the September 11th attacks. The political environment for the 2022 midterms was setting itself up to be on the same scale as 2010, where Democrats suffered heavy losses in the House but managed to hold the Senate. 

This would have been the case until June 24, 2022, when the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade with its decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health. My analysis of special congressional elections before and after the Dobbs decision suggested that voter trends were shifting back in favor of Democrats following the decision to overturn Roe. Voter antipathy shifted from Democrats to Republicans following this ruling, and Democrats took it and ran with it. They made the House competitive again.

It is interesting to note that the Democratic approach to the midterms of funding extreme Republican candidates in primaries across the country with the hopes of making it easier for a Democratic candidate to win in the general election (Linskey 2022). As Ellen Ioanes (2022) shows, this strategy did pay off in some House, Senate, and Gubernatorial races, but at what cost? Amplifying these candidates can be risky business, and in an environment like the 2016 election, those candidates could get elected.

Chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Sean Patrick Maloney, lost his seat after moving from NY-18 to NY-17, pushing freshman incumbent Mondaire Jones down into New York City to run for re-election. Maloney’s choice to not run in the more difficult NY-18 was proven to be a fatal one for his Congressional career. He lost in NY-17 to Republican Mike Lawler, while Democrat Pat Ryan was able to win in NY-18. Maloney may have lost his race, but he was able to lead Democrats to several flips in other states. Unfortunately, Democrats also got swept in the four districts on Long Island while also losing a seat in Oregon held by conservative Democrat Kurt Schrader, who lost his primary earlier this year. Democrat difficulties were not limited to New York and an Oregon seat, however. Democrats lost several seats in Florida due to Stephanie Murphy not running for re-election and Charlie Crist deciding to run for governor—only to lose in a rout to presidential hopeful Ron DeSantis. Gerrymanders in Alabama and Louisiana also hampered Democrats’ chances of winning more seats in the House since the Supreme Court decided to wait until after the elections to make decisions on the maps being challenged for violations of the Voting Rights Act. 

In the end, Democrats fell short of maintaining a majority in the House. Luckily for them, the Republican caucus is in a fragile state where it is not clear whether Kevin McCarthy will have the votes to become Speaker, giving moderate Republicans and House Democrats a chance to come to an agreement that sees a moderate Republican serve as Speaker to lock out the more extreme wing of the Republican Party.

The Senate

Polling indicators from FiveThirtyEight showed a late break to Republicans as Election Day drew closer (“Senate Election Forecast” 2022). While this all but indicated a Democratic loss of the chamber, the results say otherwise. In mid-October, FiveThirtyEight’s polling data for the New Hampshire Senate race gave incumbent Democrat Maggie Hassan a 7.8% lead, which shrunk to a 2.2% lead as of Election Day (“Senate Forecast – New Hampshire” 2022). Hassan bucked the trend and outperformed even her mid-October polling average, winning the seat by 8.89%, which translates to 55,355 votes (DDHQ 2022 Senate). Hassan’s overwhelming victory shows that New Hampshire residents were more comfortable splitting a ticket between Republican Governor Chris Sununu and Democratic Senator Maggie Hassan. This can be attributed to the unfavorability of the Republican Senate candidate Don Bolduc, who received the endorsement of former President Trump.

Several Trump-endorsed Senate candidates suffered the same fate as Bolduc. Blake Masters, the Republican candidate in Arizona, lost his race to Democratic incumbent Mark Kelly by 4.89% (“DDHQ 2022 Senate” 2022), and Mehmet Oz of Pennsylvania lost to Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman by 4.55% (“DDHQ 2022 Senate” 2022). Lastly, Kelly Tshibaka, another Senate candidate endorsed by Trump, lost to incumbent Republican Lisa Murkowski in Alaska.

Democrat Catherine Cortez-Masto was also able to fend off a challenge from Adam Laxalt, grandson of former Senator Paul Laxalt. FiveThirtyEight listed the race as a tossup and gave Laxalt a greater chance to win the race than the incumbent Cortez-Masto (“Senate Election Forecast – Nevada” 2022). Following the tabulation of mail-in votes from Washoe and Clark County, home of Reno and Las Vegas, respectively, Cortez-Masto pulled ahead of Laxalt, and the race was called by various media outlets and elections analysts.

Candidates that Trump endorsed and went on to win in key states include incumbent Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, J.D. Vance of Ohio, and Ted Budd of North Carolina. Vance defeated House Democrat Tim Ryan, who put up a surprisingly good fight in Ohio’s Senate race, outperforming Joe Biden’s margin in the state in 2020 by about 1.5% (“DDHQ 2022 Senate” 2022). Budd outperformed Senator Thom Tillis’ margin of victory in 2020 with a decisive victory against North Carolina Chief Justice Cheri Beasley. Budd won by nearly 3.5%, more than doubling Tillis’ margin.

Wisconsin was seen as another state where Democrats could have picked up an additional Senate seat. Unfortunately for them, Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes lost by 1%, which translates to roughly 27,700 votes (“DDHQ 2022 Senate” 2022). This result in Wisconsin has led many to question the Democrats’ decision to let their candidate spend $79 million (“Florida Senate 2022” 2022) in a Florida Senate race that ended in a blowout by incumbent Republican Marco Rubio. Rubio won the race by 16.43% (“DDHQ 2022 Senate” 2022).

While Democrats spent nearly $70 million in a Florida Senate race that was doomed from the start, Mandela Barnes in Wisconsin only spent $40 million (“Wisconsin Senate 2022” 2022). This does not include outside spending, which according to OpenSecrets, shows $52 million (“Wisconsin Senate 2022” 2022) was spent in opposition to Barnes, while only $37 million (Open Secrets Wisconsin Senate 2022) was spent in opposition to Johnson. The rapid influx of outside spending in Wisconsin compared to the near absent outside spending in Florida shows that special interest groups knew from the start that Wisconsin was going to be a critical race for control of the Senate. If Democrats had been able to identify how crucial the Wisconsin race was and diverted more attention from somewhere like Florida to Wisconsin, the results could have been much different, and Democrats may have already had their 51-seat majority regardless of the Georgia results. 

The Georgia runoff election was held on December 6, 2022, and incumbent Senator Raphael Warnock was re-elected by around three percentage points over Republican challenger Herschel Walker. This gave Democrats a 51-seat majority in the chamber—a true majority. However, the celebration of a true majority in the Senate was ground to a halt by the end of the week when Arizona Democratic Senator Kyrsten Sinema announced that she would be leaving the Democratic Party. Sinema does still receive her committee assignments from Democrats, essentially meaning she caucuses with the Democrats, but this now exhausts further pressure on Joe Manchin of West Virginia and his prospects of re-election in 2024. Had Sinema remained a Democrat, Manchin would have been able to vote more conservatively, positioning himself better for his re-election campaign in 2024. This move by Sinema may also be one of self-preservation. If she hopes to stay in the Senate, running in a Democratic primary in 2024 would be disastrous for her due to her unfavorability by Arizona Democrats. As an independent, she avoids the possibility of losing a primary and puts Democrats in a position of having a three-way race between her, a Democrat nominee, and a Republican nominee. If enough Democrat voters defect from the Democratic nominee and go to Sinema, she either gets re-elected, or a Republican wins.

Gubernatorial Elections

Democratic candidates saw a wave of success all across the country in key battleground states’ gubernatorial elections. Michigan, Wisconsin, Arizona, and Pennsylvania all had gubernatorial elections that could prove to be critical in certifying the results of the 2024 Presidential election. These governor seats are also instrumental in approving or rejecting laws passed by the respective state legislatures regarding abortion.

The closest of these four races was Arizona, where Secretary of State Katie Hobbs defeated Trump-endorsed candidate Kari Lake. Lake seemed to be lining herself up to be a potential running-mate for Donald Trump’s 2024 presidential bid; however, with her loss, she will likely drift out of political relevance. Early on in the campaign, Lake and several prominent Republicans had sought to get Katie Hobbs to recuse herself from the election oversight role that the Arizona Secretary of State has. Hobbs did not recuse herself. Lake used this, along with various incidents at voting precincts around the state to draw uncertainty around the election and its results. Decision Desk projected Hobbs as the winner for this race, beating Lake 50.33%-49.67%, equating to approximately 17,000 votes. This election by Hobbs completes a near Democratic sweep of Arizona statewide elections during the 2022 cycle. 

In the state of Michigan, incumbent Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer cruised to re-election over Republican candidate Tudor Dixon. Whitmer won 54.48%-43.92% (“DDHQ 2022 Governor” 2022). Along with Whitmer’s resounding victory, Democrats in Michigan were able to earn a trifecta in the state government, meaning that they held power in both legislative chambers and in the governor’s mansion.

In Pennsylvania, Josh Shapiro beat Doug Mastriano by an astounding margin of 56.37%-41.82% (“DDHQ 2022 Governor” 2022), showing that Pennsylvania’s governor’s mansion will remain a Democratic stronghold. Shapiro outran Fetterman by about ten points, indicating that there were hundreds of thousands of Shapiro-Oz voters. As mentioned earlier, however, this ticket-splitting was not enough to propel Oz to the United States Senate. Additionally, Democrat Tony Evers was re-elected in Wisconsin by nearly 3.5% (“DDHQ 2022 Governor” 2022) over Tim Michels, and Democratic Governor Tim Walz was re-elected in Minnesota’s governor’s race. Republicans were able to flip the governor’s seat in Nevada, which saw Joe Lombardo defeat incumbent Steve Sisolack. Georgia Governor Brian Kemp was successful in his re-election campaign, a rematch of the 2018 election against Stacey Abrams. However, Kemp’s decisive victory was not enough to pull Herschel Walker across the 50%+1 line needed to avoid a runoff election.

There were a few surprising results in other gubernatorial races, including Florida, New York, Kansas, and Vermont. Ron DeSantis routed former Republican Governor and now-Democratic candidate for Charlie Crist, winning by nearly 20 points (“DDHQ 2022 Governor” 2022). This result, compounded with the Senate result, has all but removed Florida from its categorization as a swing state. This astounding victory positions DeSantis well for a run at the 2024 Republican nomination for President. In New York, incumbent Democratic Governor Kathy Hochul was re-elected after defeating House member Lee Zeldin in a closer-than-anticipated race. The red wave seen in New York may not have been enough to propel a Republican to the governorship for the first time in 15 years, but the wave was large enough to propel several Republicans into Congress in seats that leaned Democratic.

Kansas and Vermont saw two very opposite results in their governors’ races and Senate races. In Kansas, incumbent Democratic Governor Laura Kelly was able to win re-election by a margin of 2.7% (“DDHQ 2022 Governor” 2022). On that very same ticket, incumbent Republican Senator Jerry Moran was re-elected by a 22% margin. This is yet another prime example of ticket-splitting that has been seen in Alaska, Pennsylvania, Georgia, and New Hampshire. The opposite of what happened in Kansas’ ticket splitting occurred in Vermont as well. Incumbent Republican governor Phil Scott was re-elected by over 47%, while Democrat Peter Welch was elected to the Senate by a margin of 40.5% (“DDHQ 2022 Senate” 2022; “DDHQ 2022 Governor” 2022). These two results wound up on complete opposite ends of the spectrum, but just like Kansas, they show how voters in each state can differentiate their votes on state issues and federal issues. 


The 2022 midterm election results likely serve as an indicator of what we can expect in 2024. In the House, Democrats will have a legitimate chance to flip control and win back a majority solely based on turnout in a Presidential election year. Conversely, the Senate map in 2024 is going to be very difficult for them to maintain a majority, with three seats up in Republican-heavy states in Presidential election years. These states include Montana, Ohio, and West Virginia. Additionally, Democrats have to defend seats in Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Nevada, and Arizona. This gives Republicans the opportunity to run the table and sweep the Senate majority from the Democrats, providing a heavy check on a Democratic president if elected in 2024. 

There were many key state legislature races that occurred during this midterm cycle as well. Following this election cycle, Democrats control 20 state legislatures, Republicans control 28, and two are split. These legislative compositions may prove to have serious implications for the 2024 Presidential election, depending upon how the Supreme Court rules in Moore v. Harper and whether it breathes legitimacy into the Independent State Legislature Theory.

We are likely going to see a highly gridlocked Congress for the next two years unless special elections change the majority control of the House or there is a revolt in the Republican caucus against presumptive Speaker McCarthy, which leads to moderate Republicans working with the Democrats in the House to form a majority governing coalition. It will be a historic sight to see, nonetheless. As of November 30, House Democrats unanimously voted Representative Hakeem Jeffries to the position of party leader, which would currently be Minority Leader. This move makes Jeffries the first African-American representative elected to be a major party leader in Congress. This puts Jeffries in line to become the next Democratic Speaker of the House. Jeffries is most notable to the Binghamton area for being a Binghamton University alumni, graduating in the 1990s.

It seems that until the Dobbs decision is overturned, reproductive rights will be a major driving force for voters, regardless of party. It was able to propel Democrats to gain a seat in the Senate while staving off a disaster in the House. The 2024 election is just under two years away, and it currently looks that Democrats will lose seats in the Senate unless Manchin (D-WV), Tester (D-MT), and Brown (D-OH) can pull off miracles while other candidates can ride the presidential candidates’ coattails in other key states such as Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Nevada, and Michigan.

Bryan Goodman is currently the Political Director for Happy Medium. In this role, he consults with writers and the editing team about specific pieces that could potentially be hot-button issues. Bryan also serves as Happy Medium’s Head Writer for Elections. He is a recent graduate of Binghamton University’s Masters of Public Administration program. Bryan is from Valhalla, Westchester County, NY where he attended Westchester Community College for two years before transferring to BU to complete his undergraduate studies in political science. Bryan is passionate about judicial politics and a variety of social/economic issues. Bryan hopes to one day be fortunate enough to positively impact as many lives as possible.


“DDHQ 2022 Governor.” 2022. Decision Desk. https://results.decisiondeskhq.com/national/2022-governor.

“DDHQ 2022 Senate.” 2022. Decision Desk. https://results.decisiondeskhq.com/national/2022-senate.

“Florida Senate 2022.” 2022. Open Secrets. https://www.opensecrets.org/races/summary?cycle=2022&id=FLS2.

Ioanes, Ellen. 2022. “How a surprising Democratic strategy may have staved off the midterm red wave.”  Vox Magazine, November 12. https://www.vox.com/2022/11/12/23454725/democrat-republican-maga-strategy-midterm-red-wave.

Linksey, Annie. 2022. “Democrats spend tens of millions amplifying far-right candidates in nine states.” The Washington Post, September 12. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/09/12/democrats-interfere-republican-primaries/.

“Senate Election Forecast.” 2022. FiveThirtyEight. https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/2022-election-forecast/senate/.

“Senate Election Forecast – Nevada.” 2022. FiveThirtyEight. https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/2022-election-forecast/senate/nevada/.

“Senate Election Forecast – New Hampshire.” 2022. FiveThirtyEight. https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/2022-election-forecast/senate/new-hampshire/.

“Wisconsin Senate 2022. 2022.: Open Secrets. https://www.opensecrets.org/races/summary?cycle=2022&id=WIS2.