(CN) — After months of politicians, prognosticators, pollsters and pundits dominating the election conversation, it’s now the voters’ turn to have their say.
The votes they cast Tuesday will determine who controls Congress, state legislatures and governors’ offices. Voters will also elect attorneys general and judges and decide the fate of proposed constitutional amendments.
The national focus is on which party will control the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, which will determine the success or failure of the remainder of President Joe Biden’s term. The president’s party typically loses seats in Congress in midterm elections – prompting George W. Bush to concede Republicans got a “thumpin’” in 2006 and Barack Obama to admit Democrats got a “shellacking” in 2010. That could happen again this year given Biden’s unpopularity and the public’s gloom about the economy.
Public opinion poll aggregators say Republicans are favored win back control of the U.S. House but that control of the Senate ranges from a toss-up to a slight edge for Republicans. The House is now controlled by Democrats 222-213 with all 435 seats up for election. Pollsters say the two major political parties are in a dead heat for control of the Senate, where 34 of 100 seats are up for grabs. The Senate is now divided 50-50 with Democratic Vice President Kamal Harris holding the tiebreaking vote.
Key Senate battleground races that could decide the outcome are in Arizona, where incumbent Democrat Mark Kelly is facing Republican Blake Masters; Georgia, where Republican Herschel Walker is challenging Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock; Nevada, featuring a contest between incumbent Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto and Republican Adam Laxalt; and Pennsylvania, where Democrat John Fetterman and Republican Mehmet Oz are vying for an open seat.
Polls have been unreliable at predicting election outcomes in the past, and as in all elections, the outcome will be determined by who shows up to cast ballots.
“I will say that anyone who thinks they really know what's going to happen on [Election Day] is really just guessing,” University of Delaware political science professor David Redlawsk told Courthouse News.
“This is a year where I don't think the past is a great guide," Redlawsk said. "We've not had an election where one party was casting doubt on the outcome of the election, and one party whipping up” concern about abortion rights after Roe v. Wade was overturned.
Pollsters have to make a prediction about turnout, and “that's really, really hard this year,” he said. “Turnout models based on history – that may or may not be accurate this election.”
Redlawsk said the economy is a factor, but also pointed to a fear of the unknown.
“I think fear is actually an important piece of this,” he said. “Fear gets us to pay attention. But there is not much evidence that it gets us to do anything about it.”
Anger is a more effective motivator, he said. In the 2018 midterm election, for example, Democrats were angry about then-President Donald Trump.
“I don’t think [the Donald Trump factor] is as strong as some of us thought it would be in the run-up to this election,” Redlawsk said. “Democrats haven’t made him an issue, and to Republicans it doesn’t matter. They will vote for Republicans either way.”
Republicans are trying to get people angry about the economy, he said. Democrats saw potential for stirring up anger over the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe in June, but the Republicans have since sought to neutralize that issue.
"They have scrubbed some of the earlier abortion rhetoric from their websites," Redlawsk said, and the potency of the abortion issue has faded over time.