US voters head to the polls to render a verdict on Joe Biden at the halfway point of his presidency.
Can Biden avoid the midterm election curse?
The midterms offer the American public an opportunity to give the incumbent administration a national verdict over their two years in power.
Historically, it has ended up being a strong rebuke.
Republicans appear to have the momentum going into Election Day on Tuesday, with hopes of winning back the House, while the Senate is likely to be decided on a handful of tight races. If the GOP manages to take one or both chambers, they will be able to kill much of Biden’s legislative agenda.
Overall, Republicans are confident that their messaging around crime, inflation and border security will help them repeat that midterm pattern.
According to a Reuters/Ipsos poll, President Biden’s public approval rating has dipped to 39 percent, reinforcing election forecasters’ expectations that his party is in for a drubbing.
Since taking office in January 2021 in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic, Biden’s term has been marked by the scars of the global health crisis and soaring inflation.
While Biden’s name will not be on the ballot, other factors are likely to come into play, from upstart candidates to domestic issues.
What is being voted on?
In the House, all 435 seats are up for grabs, where representatives serve two-year terms. The House is currently under narrow Democrat control (221-212), but Republicans just need a net gain of five seats to take the majority in the House.
Historically, the sitting president’s party nearly always loses House seats in the midterms.
In the 100-member Senate, 35 seats are being contested. The chamber, where senators serve six-year terms, is currently split 50-50, but Vice President Kamala Harris owns the tie-breaking vote. Republicans then would need a net gain of a single seat to gain control over the Senate.
Another 36 state governorships and three US territory governorships, as well as numerous city mayorships and local officials, are also being voted on.
Additionally, voters will be deciding on a total of 137 statewide ballot measures in 37 states, including laws on several issues in California, Kentucky, Michigan, Montana and Vermont.
According to an NBC News poll, registered voters were split in their preference on who they want to see in control of Congress, with 46 percent backing Democrats and the same for Republicans.
When it comes to the kind of campaigns the two parties are running, the Republicans hold an advantage on the economy, crime and border security, while the Democrats hold the advantage on health care.
What are the races to watch?
Some of the bellwether House races are those in the suburban areas and districts where Biden beat Trump in 2020. If they start to swing to the GOP, then a ‘red wave’ could be on its way.
One of the tightest races is in Virginia’s 7th District, where former CIA officer and Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger is trying to win re-election against a Trumpian conservative, Republican Yesil Vega.
Among the Senate battlegrounds will be an open race in Pennsylvania, and Democrat-held Arizona, Nevada, and Georgia.
In Pennsylvania, polling shows Democrat Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman and Republican Dr Mehmet Oz, who is Turkish-American, are virtually tied in the polls. An estimated $160 million will have been spent on ads by both parties from Labor Day through Election Day, making it the most expensive of all Senate races.
If Democratic Senator Maggie Hassan loses her re-election bid in New Hampshire, it is likely a sign that it will be the GOP’s night.
One issue to watch is how the elections are run. Last year, 19 states passed 34 laws that restricted access to voting and ended procedures like drop-off and mail-in voting.
Another key development to watch is whether Republicans who lose their races concede, or insist that they won and cite alleged ballot irregularities as was done during the 2020 election.