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The U.S. midterm elections are fast approaching.
Along with the elections for every single U.S. Representative in the House (the lower body of Congress), there are also elections for certain seats in the 50-member Senate (the upper body of Congress).
While each body in Congress plays a role in crafting and passing legislation, the Senate has some additional powers not afforded to the House.
For instance, it is the Senate that approves judges, confirms Cabinet appointees, approves treaties and holds impeachment trials. Senators are elected to six-year terms, which means that not every Senate seat is up for election.
Have a look at the map below. The states that are not coloured light grey have at least one senator up for election in 2022, and Oklahoma has two.
But while most states are coloured either red (Republican) or blue (Democratic), the deeper the shade, the more obvious the winner, there are four states whose outcome is up in the air.
These are the battleground states that will decide the course of the election, control of the Senate, and potentially the remainder of Joe Biden's presidency.
The Keystone State is being contested after the incumbent Republican senator Pat Toomey decided to retire.
The Democratic candidate is John Fetterman, serving as Lieutenant Governor, and Mehmet Oz, a former heart surgeon and TV celebrity.
In a press briefing attended by Mothership, the director of the Quinnipiac University poll, Doug Schwartz, named Pennsylvania as one of the key states to watch out for in the upcoming election.
"I think the top four that everyone is sort of looking at is Pennsylvania, where John Fetterman is going against Dr. Oz on the Republican side – close race. Now, this is an open seat that was held by a Republican, Pat Toomey. So it’s a close race, but Fetterman has the edge right now in all the polling. But it’s still close enough that it could go either way."
Oz's nationwide fame and enthusiastic backing from former president Donald Trump has given him key edges in the race. However, Fetterman has hit back with jabs at Oz's connections to New Jersey and memes that seek to portray Oz as a rich millionaire out of touch with the ordinary voter.
The contest has also seen health scares, with Fetterman suffering a stroke, which may have contributed to his poor debate performance against Oz.
Still, Fetterman has star power in his corner, snagging the endorsement of Oprah Winfrey, the woman who arguably propelled Oz to fame in the first place.
Former president Barack Obama will also stump with Fetterman in the closing days of the election.
With black voters tipping the balance for the Democrats in 2020, the popularity of Obama with black voters may prove crucial come election day.
The Peach State emerged as a surprise battleground in the 2020 election.
Long having voted Republican, it suddenly went for Biden in the presidential campaign.
2020 happened to have both senate seats up for election as well, and in a stunning turn of events, both were won by Democratic candidates Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock.
This time, only Warnock is up for election.
Warnock, a pastor, faces Herschel Walker, a former American football star. Walker is also endorsed by Trump, and is running a dead heat with Warnock.
According to John Zogby, founder of the Zogby International Poll, Georgia is one of the closest races in this election.
"Georgia – wow. Georgia, for those of you who have been following American politics, Georgia is the new Florida. That is the bellwether...Raphael Warnock has been leading, not by much, but he has been leading over the last two or three weeks.
The polls that have just come out in the last two days since the debate have Walker, Herschel Walker, the football star, leading by 2 percentage points. That is much too close; it depends entirely on turnout. And it depends particularly on black turnout, which is a substantial portion."
Both Warnock and Walker are African-American candidates in a state with a significant population of black voters. However, Walker has been recently plagued by a number of scandals, including allegations that he paid for abortions for multiple women. Walker has denied these claims.
With Walker taking a strict anti-abortion stance, it remains to be seen whether these scandals would hurt him come Election Day.
The Silver State has been somewhat of a happy hunting ground for Democrats in recent years, with Biden, Hillary Clinton and Obama (twice) winning the state in presidential elections.
However, the election for its Senate seat remains fiercely contested and too close to call, according to Zogby.
"The first Latina ever elected to the Senate running for re-election is Catherine Cortez Masto. She’s been leading, but her lead against an iconic name in the state of Nevada, Laxalt – Adam Laxalt – has now dissipated. That one is tight; that’s too close to call. She is regarded as probably the most endangered of the Democrats," he said.
Masto won election to the Senate in 2016, replacing a retiring Harry Reid, one of the Democratic Party's most prominent leaders. Of Mexican and Italian descent, she seemed well-suited to campaign in a state with a sizeable Latino population.
However, she faces Adam Laxalt, a son and grandson of former Senators. His grandfather, Paul Laxalt, served as both Governor and U.S. Senator in Nevada.
A number of polls either show Laxalt with a small lead or Masto with the small lead, which ensures that Nevada will be one of the most closely watched elections in this cycle.
Like Georgia and Nevada, the Grand Canyon state was once reliably Republican. This was the state that brought forth Barry Goldwater to run for President in 1964 and John McCain in 2008.
However, in recent years, it has become more of a battleground state, even as once former battlegrounds like Ohio, Iowa and Florida trend more strongly towards the Republicans.
The incumbent Senator Mark Kelly is a former military pilot and an actual NASA astronaut. He is married to Gabrielle Giffords, a Democratic Congresswoman who was badly wounded in an attempted assassination.
Kelly entered politics in 2020, and ran for the Senate seat that the late McCain once held. He beat Martha McSally in a close fight and was elected Senator.
While Kelly has held leads over his newest opponent, Blake Masters, those leads have shrunk the closer we get to Election Day.
As Zogby pointed out on Oct. 26:
"Kelly has been leading throughout. He leads right now by an average of two-and-a-half. Poll out just this morning, however, has Kelly leading by just one, so that’s trending downward for Democrats. But I mean, if it’s – if that changes leads, the downward spiral is not in Kelly’s favor, but we just have to see. One poll alone is not going to turn the tide. We have to see what the trendline is."
Battle for the Senate
The party that controls one or more Houses of Congress will have tremendous influence on the federal government's ability to craft legislation, and with it, impact several issues both foreign and domestic.
For instance, Biden has pledged to strengthen abortion rights should the Democrats keep control of Congress, while House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has warned that his party may not offer as much support for Ukraine in its war with Russia if the Republicans win control of the House.
However, at the moment, things are just too close to call.
Mothership is taking a look at the U.S. midterm elections. Check out the other stories in our series:
Top image by Sulaiman Daud and Getty Images.
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