Election 2022: The voters have spoken

Democrats and Republicans will have to compromise if they want to send anything to the president’s desk. What does that mean for golf?


With all the races in the Senate and House of Representatives decided, here’s a look at what did — and didn’t — happen on Election Day 2022. Republicans gained nine seats in the House of Representatives to regain control of the chamber by a 222-213 margin. Democrats gained one seat in the Senate and increased their control to 51-49.

But this only begins to tell the story. Midterms have historically resulted in a loss of seats for the party in power. The average loss of seats in the House, for example, has been 28 since World War II, and it has gone as high as 43 seats when the president’s poll ratings were below 50%. President Joe Biden’s approval ratings have not cracked 50% since the summer of 2021. Yet Democrats only lost nine seats in the House and gained one in the Senate.

What happened? Well, a few things:

  1. It’s (not always) the economy, stupid. James Carville is famous for saying, “It’s the economy, stupid,” when describing the No. 1 issue in the presidential campaign of 1992. Fast forward to 2022, and most independent observers believed that still would be the case, and high inflation and gasoline prices would lead Democrats to a bloodbath on Election Day. So, what happened? Other issues motivated voters as well. Abortion, for example, ran a close second to inflation in exit polls — 31% to 27% — in the aftermath of the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade. This motivated Democrats and helped many candidates win.
  2. Campaigns, and candidates, matter. Republicans won the turnout battle: As of this writing, Republicans were more than 3 million votes ahead in the total number of votes cast for House races. Proportionately, that would normally result in GOP gains of more than 20 seats. Yet Republicans picked up fewer than 10. Remember the saying, “All politics is local”: Republicans picked up three House seats in New York, for example, with a strong statewide focus on crime concerns. That was not the deciding issue in other states. Campaigns that focused on the issues most important to the voters won.
  3. Democrats won independent voters. Independent voters — those with no party affiliation — broke for Democrats by a margin of 42% to 38%. That included a lot of voters who disapproved of President Biden’s performance. That made the difference in many races.

Don’t forget the states

A look at the states indicate that Democrats picked up three governorships on Election Day, in Arizona, Maryland and Massachusetts. Republicans picked up one, in Nevada. Combined with gains at the legislative level, Democrats gained total control of state government — aka a “trifecta” — in four states: Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan and Minnesota. They lost a trifecta in Nevada, with the loss of that state’s race for governor.

And 2024 is right around the corner

Democrats have a difficult electoral map in the Senate in 2024. By sheer numbers, they have more at stake: Democrats will be defending 23 Senate seats compared to 11 Republican seats up for grabs. But many individual races will be especially tough: Democratic senators in Montana, Ohio and West Virginia will be running in heavily “red” states that voted for former President Donald Trump by at least 8 points in 2020. Expect the House to be another hard-fought battle, with the margin of victory likely being decided by a single margin.

What does all this mean for golf?

With Republicans gaining control in the House, they gain control over committees that oversee the Biden Administration. Expect to see more hearings, including possibly hearings on the pending rewrite of the Waters of the United States rule (aka WOTUS). As for legislation, Democrats and Republicans will have to compromise if they want to send anything to the president’s desk. This could bode well for golf in areas like H-2B visas, where a bipartisan consensus agrees that more visas are needed for seasonal industries in times of record-low unemployment. Expect golf to continue to make its voice heard, in 2023 and beyond.

Bob Helland is GCSAA’s director of congressional and federal affairs. GCSAA’s government affairs team can be reached at 800-472-7878, ext. 3619.