The seven people with most at stake in the midterms

Next Tuesday’s midterm elections will have huge implications for President Biden, his party and the Republicans who hope to replace him in the White House in the 2024 election.

The careers of some of the most senior members of Congress will also be on the line.

Here are the seven people who will have the most at stake as the results come in.

President Biden

President Biden speaks during a visit to the Democratic National Committee headquarters

President Biden speaks during a visit to the Democratic National Committee headquarters on Monday, Oct. 24, 2022, in Washington (Associated Press).

It’s hard to overstate the importance of the midterm results for the president.

If Democrats lose control of the House — an outcome that is highly probable — Biden will be hamstrung for the final two years of his first term, at least when it comes to domestic policy. 

It’s also virtually certain that he, his administration and his family — in particular, his son Hunter Biden — will face GOP-led investigations. Whether or not actual wrongdoing is discovered, those probes could be personally embarrassing and politically arduous.

Then there’s the impact on the president’s broader political standing to consider.

If Democrats keep their House losses modest and retain control of the Senate, Biden can push forward in seeking a second term.

But if his party suffers heavy defeats, the whisperings about whether the president should step aside after a single term will grow much louder. 

Even if Biden were to choose to soldier on in that scenario, the chances of a primary challenge would rise exponentially. 

Former President Trump

Donald Trump

Former President Donald Trump departs Trump Tower, Aug. 10, 2022, in New York, on his way to the New York attorney general’s office for a deposition in civil investigation. (Associated Press)

Trump has involved himself in the midterms from the start, making a huge number of endorsements in Republican primaries. In most cases, his backing helped lift his chosen candidates to victory.

But next Tuesday brings a moment of truth as the former president and his party mull the possibility of him running again in 2024.

The fate of Trump-backed candidates in tight races will be crucial. Senate candidates Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania, Herschel Walker in Georgia and J.D. Vance in Ohio as well as two Arizona candidates — Kari Lake for governor and Blake Masters for Senate — will be the most closely watched of all. 

If most or all of those candidates win, it will be a powerful rebuttal to the argument that Trump and Trumpism have limited or fading appeal.

On the other hand, if the Trump-backed candidates lose, it is bound to fuel doubts, even within the GOP, about his belligerent and polarizing approach.

Such an outcome would also prove that one of Trump’s main internal foes, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), was on solid ground when he fretted about “candidate quality” back in August.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R)

Gov. Ron DeSantis’ (R) “electability” argument is on the line in the Nov. 8 midterm elections. (Getty)

DeSantis is widely seen as the only Republican who has a chance of defeating Trump for the party’s 2024 presidential nomination.

DeSantis’s backers contend that he has many of the same right-wing populist instincts as Trump but brings less of the self-defeating chaos to the table.

DeSantis’s “electability” argument is likely to grow stronger next Tuesday, when the Florida governor is expected to win reelection comfortably over his Democratic opponent, former Rep. Charlie Crist (Fla.).

In the RealClearPolitics average on Tuesday, DeSantis led Crist by 12.3 percentage points.

If the actual result is close to that margin, it will be very impressive in a state that is still a battleground, albeit a Republican-leaning one. 

Trump defeated Biden in the Sunshine State by just 3 points in 2020, and DeSantis himself edged out Democrat Andrew Gillum by less than a point in his first gubernatorial race in 2018.

Conversely, an unexpectedly strong performance by Crist would put a dent in the Florida governor’s 2024 hopes.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D)

Gavin Newsom

California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks at the California Association of Realtors Legislative Day in Sacramento, Calif., Wednesday, April 27, 2022. (Associated Press)

For California’s governor, next Tuesday isn’t really about his own race.

There is no serious doubt that Newsom will win a second term to lead the Golden State. Most polls give him a lead of about 20 points.

But results elsewhere could be crucial for his future ambitions.

Newsom has been the boldest Democrat in putting his name in the frame as a potential alternative to Biden in 2024.

He has run TV ads on the other side of the country, dinging DeSantis in Florida — a move that seemed mainly designed to spur buzz and media speculation.

He has been critical of the national party’s messaging and overall approach, asking rhetorically during a September appearance in Texas, “Where are we? Where are we organizing, bottom up, a compelling alternative narrative? Where are we going on the offense every single day?”

And although he contends he’s not running for president, it’s hard to find many Democrats who believe him — especially if Biden falters.

On the other hand, an unexpectedly strong night for Democrats next Tuesday could close the window of opportunity for Newsom.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) addresses reporters during her weekly press conference on Friday, September 30, 2022. (Greg Nash)

Pelosi has led House Democrats for almost 20 years, but her epic run will likely come to an end soon if the party suffers a significant defeat next Tuesday.

Pelosi is a formidable political operator, but it seems highly doubtful she, at 82, would try to hold on to her leadership position in the hope of reclaiming the Speaker’s gavel in 2024 or beyond.

Plenty of House Democrats are already restless about a leadership team that is rounded out by 83-year-old Rep. Steny Hoyer (Md.) as majority leader and 82-year-old Rep. James Clyburn (S.C.) as majority whip.

All that being said, it’s perilous to ever count Pelosi out.

If Democrats were to surprise everyone by holding on to the House, or even limiting the GOP to a tiny majority, all bets would be off.

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.)

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.)

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) addresses reporters following the weekly policy luncheon on Tuesday, September 20, 2022. (Peter Afriyie)

The Florida senator is sometimes mentioned as a potential 2024 presidential candidate, but he has a lot riding on the Senate results on Tuesday for other reasons too.

Scott is head of the Senate Republicans’ campaign arm, the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

More importantly, a proposal he outlined back in February has been seized on by Democrats.

One aspect of Scott’s 11-point plan proved more politically toxic than any other — the proposal that all federal legislation would “sunset” after five years, meaning that it would lapse unless it was reauthorized.

The provision would apply to Social Security and Medicare, enormously popular programs on which seniors depend.

Democrats, including Biden and former President Obama, have hit the point hard on the campaign trail, suggesting the GOP would decimate the programs.

McConnell sprinted away from Scott’s plan almost as soon as it was announced.

If Senate Republicans have a disappointing night, some of the blame will accrue to Scott.

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.)

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.)

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) speaks during a House Jan. 6 committee hearing on Thursday, October 13, 2022 to focus on former President Trump’s efforts to remain in power following his 2020 election defeat. (Peter Afriyie)

Cheney, Trump’s most ardent Republican foe on Capitol Hill, has no election to fight. She was defeated in a landslide by pro-Trump challenger Harriet Hageman in an August primary.

Cheney’s alienation from today’s GOP is all but complete — in recent weeks, she has even endorsed some Democratic candidates, including Rep. Tim Ryan (Ohio) for Senate and Rep. Elissa Slotkin (Mich.) for reelection to the House.

It’s a very safe bet that Cheney will be watching closely for how the most pro-Trump candidates fare — especially those who have echoed the former president’s false claims of election fraud, including Arizona’s Lake.

The GOP writ large isn’t going to come around to Cheney’s point of view anytime soon. But she would likely take some measure of satisfaction if the MAGA wing had a bad night.

If the results go the other way, it will just be one more sign that she was on the losing side in the GOP’s civil war.

Tags Biden Donald Trump Gavin Newsom Gavin Newsom Hunter Biden midterms 2022 Nancy Pelosi President Biden Ron DeSantis Ron DeSantis
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