(CN) — Election Day is less than two weeks away, and the campaign ads and awkward family debates continue to dog voters. But unlike typical midterms elections, topics like abortion and inflation make it increasingly difficult to tell whether Congress will head in favor of Republicans, Democrats or both.
“If this were a conventional election cycle, that would be very bad news for Democrats who have a lot of voter anxiety, polls show, with respect to the economy and inflation,” said Stephen Farnsworth, a professor of political science and international affairs at the University of Mary Washington.
To combat the spike, the Federal Reserve has steadily raised interest rates to the highest levels since 2008, hoping to quell inflation by making it costlier to spend with a mortgage or loan. However, inflation has continued upward despite rising interest rates, and Wall Street has taken a beating as a result.
But while Republicans have the upper hand with voters when it comes to the economy, certain U.S. Senate races could make it hard for the GOP to sweep both chambers.
“I think it's clear that Republicans have not necessarily nominated the best choice they could have had,” Farnsworth said, noting first-time candidates like television host Dr. Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania and former football running back Hershel Walker in Georgia.
“More experienced candidates, candidates with less baggage would have been more helpful to Republicans,” Farnsworth said.
Wilfred Codrington, a law professor at Brooklyn Law School, shares similar sentiments for different candidates.
“I do think that Republicans are revealing themselves to have another tough election where the environment otherwise might be favorable to them,” he said of the GOP’s Senate candidates. “They have poor quality of candidates. So, for example, I don't think J.D. Vance is really ahead like he should be based on voter behavior and voter beliefs in Ohio. He should have a much larger lead than over Tim Ryan.”
But in the House of Representatives, Codrington sees things going the Republicans' way.
“I'm not confident that the Democrats will retain the House and I think that there's some element to this that it might be the economy and the fact that midterm elections tend to go against the incumbent president's party,” he said.
According to a recent poll from Monmouth University, the Republican party has a slight edge to control Congress, with 40% of Americans saying they want the GOP in control versus the 35% who prefer Democrats. This contrasts with Monmouth’s August poll following the U.S. Supreme Court’s gut of Roe v. Wade, when 38% of voters said they wanted Democrats in charge and only 34% preferred Republicans.
Other polls suggest Americans are more divided when it comes to Congress. According to the Pew Research Center, 41% of voters say they favor Democratic candidates in their districts, while 40% support Republicans. Should Republicans win both House and Senate, one expert warns it could spell trouble for the Biden administration down the line.
“It's consequential because when the House goes to the Republicans, which seems likely, item No. 1, they're going to start investigating Joe Biden, his son [and] probably voting out an impeachment,” said Carl Luna, director of the Institute for Civil Civic Engagement at the University of San Diego. Luna also predicts an attempted national ban on abortion, budget stalemates and the possibility of defunding aid to Ukraine.
“The incoming potential speaker Kevin McCarthy said that he's going to be looking very closely at continuing, he said, blank-check policy in Ukraine,” Luna said. “And that could have huge geopolitical implications.”