Nov 8, 2022

It's election day.

It's election day.
John Fetterman (left) and Dr. Mehmet Oz (right) are facing off in one of the most-watched Senate races of the year in Pennsylvania. Image: Magdalena Boko

The final predictions are in.

I’m Isaac Saul, and this is Tangle: an independent, nonpartisan, subscriber-supported politics newsletter that summarizes the best arguments from across the political spectrum on the news of the day — then “my take.”

First time reading? Sign up here. Would you rather listen? You can find our podcast here.

Today's read: 13 minutes.

Today is election day. We're giving our final preview and rundown of the midterms, what we're watching, and what to expect. Plus, a question about my perfect voting system. 

The winner!

Yesterday's contest winner is Bev from southern California. One hour and nineteen minutes after the newsletter went out, Bev correctly guessed that I was in Taos, New Mexico, where I'll be for the next couple of days before heading to Palm Desert, California to speak on a panel about democracy. The most common guesses: Arizona, Pennsylvania and Utah. Two other readers guessed New Mexico, and one guessed Alamogordo, New Mexico.

I asked Bev if they wanted to say something about Tangle in the newsletter, and here was their response:

"Over the last year or so, I have been on a quest to find balanced reporting. I am sick of all the murder, mayhem, catastrophes, and, most of all, the political bashing that goes on in the media. I believe the media isn’t really interested in informing people of issues, they are merely interested in making money. In their view, hysteria sells, whether it’s newsprint or commercials. I believe they are fear-mongering as well...

My point is this: I read Tangle because both sides are presented with facts only, no opinions (until you get to the bottom of the report), no hysteria. I appreciate Isaac Saul’s opinion at the end, but if I want to make up my own mind rather than be swayed by yet another journalist, I can skip that part of the report. Well done, Tangle. I hope there are other journalists who follow suit."

Thank you, Bev!

Quick hits.

  1. In the final days of campaign season, former Presidents Donald Trump and Barack Obama both campaigned in Pennsylvania. (The rallies)
  2. Twitter owner Elon Musk, who said he has always voted for Democrats, endorsed Republicans in Congress, saying he supports a divided government. (The comments)
  3. Yevgeny Prigozhin, a Russian oligarch and close Putin ally, admitted that he has helped Russia interfere in U.S. elections in the past and would continue to in the future. (The interference)
  4. The Russian-occupied city of Kherson lost power over the weekend before an expected counteroffensive by Ukrainian forces. (The outage)
  5. China recorded a six-month high in Covid-19 cases with over 5,500 in a single day. (The cases)
  6. BONUS: Former President Trump said he has a “very big announcement” planned for Nov. 15. It is expected he will announce a third campaign for presidency. (The tease)

Our 'Quick Hits' section is created in partnership with Ground News, a website and app that rates the bias of news coverage and news outlets.

Today's topic.

Election day. On Tuesday, millions of voters across the country will head to the polls to elect members of the U.S. House and Senate. There are also dozens of gubernatorial races, as well as races to fill the state legislatures and decide ballot initiatives. By Monday evening, some 44,273,515 Americans had already voted.

Currently, the Senate is split 50-50, with Vice President Kamala Harris holding the tie-breaking vote. Democrats hold a slim 220 to 212 majority over Republicans in the House. Republicans have 28 governorships to Democrats' 22.

RealClearPolitics currently gives Republicans a 48%-45.3% edge on an average of generic Congressional ballot polls, while FiveThirtyEight gives Republicans a 46.9% to 45.7% edge.

The Senate: With the Senate split 50-50, there are 14 Democrat-controlled seats and 21 Republican-controlled seats up for election in this Senate cycle. According to Cook Political report's final ratings, there are eight solid Democrat seats, one likely Democrat seat and two lean Democrat seats. There are 14 solid Republican seats, three likely Republican seats, and three lean Republican seats, which means there are four toss-up races that are likely to decide control of the Senate: Pennsylvania, Arizona, Georgia and Nevada.

Currently, FiveThirtyEight's simulation predicts Republicans to win a Senate majority 59 times out of 100.

The House: Currently, Democrats hold a slim 220 to 212 majority over Republicans in the House. 218 seats is the magic number for a majority. According to Cook Political's latest ratings, there are 159 solid Democrat seats, 13 likely Democrat seats, and 15 lean Democrat seats. There are 188 solid Republican seats, 11 likely Republican seats, and 13 lean Republican seats. There are 36 toss-up races. In other words, if Republicans and Democrats all win the races they are expected to win, Republicans would have to win just six of the 36 toss-up races to gain a majority, while Democrats would have to win 31 of 36 to keep theirs.

Currently, FiveThirtyEight's simulation predicts Republicans to win a House majority 84 times out of 100.

The governorships: Currently, Republicans control 28 governorships while Democrats control 22. There are 16 Democratic and 20 Republican-held governorships on the ballot with five rated as toss-up races: Kansas, Nevada, Oregon, Wisconsin and Arizona.

Other resources:

Important note: As was true in 2020, some states — including critical swing states like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — still don't allow local officials to begin processing mail-in ballots before election day. That means we may not have full results until Wednesday or Thursday or, if the races are extremely close, even later. In Georgia, if no Senate candidate gets 50% of the vote and we have a runoff election, the outcome may not be decided until December 6th.

Tomorrow, we'll be running another newsletter on the midterms with the known results, reactions to those results, and the best updates we can provide on the races that are still undecided. We'll continue to cover the results of the election, and commentary about those results, throughout the week.

Today, we're going to take a look at some final thoughts from the right and left heading into the election. Then, my take.

What the right is saying.

  • Many on the right expect to take control of the House and Senate, and say Democrats are paying the price for their policies.
  • Some say Democrats are trying to distract voters from their policies by purporting that democracy is "at risk."
  • Others say the left-wing media is finally waking up to reality.

In The Federalist, Margot Cleveland said democracy isn't at risk — Democrats are, so they want to avoid substantive issues.

"Rather than sell voters on why Democrats will be better representatives, the 'democracy at risk' pitch pretends that electing Republicans will destroy the very democratic process the voters just engaged in. It is both silly and a circularly self-negating theory," Cleveland said. "In contrast, Republican candidates running for everything from school board member, to state legislator or governor, to House representative or senator are hammering the harm that has befallen our country since Democrats took over less than two years ago. Inflation, high gas prices, still-rising interest rates, and a recession represent the pocketbook issues voters place atop their list of concerns. The open border, high crime rates, and the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war, which has siphoned off billions from U.S. taxpayers, add to the anti-Democrat sentiments.

"And while Democrats thought the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe provided them a trump card for the midterm elections, the key constituent group targeted with promises to codify Roe — suburban women — showed instead more concern over the current dire economic conditions," she wrote. "Those bread-and-butter issues, coupled with anger over the shutdown of schools and the harm inflicted on their children, seem to have pushed suburban moms to the right. The sexualization of youth and the growing indoctrination of kids in trans ideology in schools, and especially the opening of girls’ locker rooms and sports teams to boys, are also prompting moderate Democrats to vote Republican — some for the first time in their lives."

In National Review, Jim Geraghty said the red tsunami is "coming into view."

"I think one of the big stories of the 2022 midterms is how much the dynamics haven’t changed. This looked like a big GOP wave year back in the spring; it looked like a more modest GOP wave year back in midsummer; and it’s steadily looked more and more like a big GOP wave year as autumn progressed," he wrote. "I also think a lot of the 'Democrats will keep the House and gain seats in the Senate' talk since summer amounted to Democratic and media wish-casting, seeing what they wanted to see instead of what was there. Throughout the summer and fall, I thought Republicans were going to win 20-25 House seats and finish with at least 51 Senate seats — a 'pretty good' wave year... Now that we’re at the election’s eve, I think we’re on the higher end of a red-wave year, and approaching ‘red tsunami’ territory.

"For the past week or so, my back-of-the-envelope math envisioned a GOP House majority somewhere between 229 and 241, and I’m sticking to that. Give the Republicans the 212 seats in Cook Political Report, with two-thirds of the 35 races in the toss-up category, and you end up with 235 Republicans and 200 Democrats, so put those down as my final prediction numbers," he wrote. "By midnight Eastern, we probably won’t have sufficient results to declare a winner in Pennsylvania or Wisconsin, and Georgia is likely to go to a runoff... With Bolduc, Laxalt, and Johnson winning, I come out to a 51–48 GOP advantage by the end of the week, with Walker and Warnock headed to a runoff. It wouldn’t shock me if Oz or Masters or both won, giving Republicans a 53- or 54-seat majority."

The Wall Street Journal editorial board said the liberal media is finally waking up.

"The midterm election isn’t over until the votes of suburban women sing, but you can tell Democrats are in trouble by reading the liberal columnists in the last couple of days. The angst is palpable, and they’ve begun to blame Democrats for their strategy and communication," the board said. “The news here is that these 'pre-mortems'—and we could point to many others—are coming from progressive writers who want Democrats to win. They’re upset that the polls are predicting a rough night on Tuesday, and they’re getting their licks in early to knock their allies for losing to, egad, those evil Republicans.

"This is the same media crowd that supported Democrats when they defunded police in 2020 and pooh-poohed the summer riots that ruined entire neighborhoods," they wrote. "The same crowd that jeered at doubters who warned that the American Rescue Plan Act of March 2021 was spending way too much in an already recovering economy. And the same crowd that supported school and business pandemic shutdowns that inspired a voter backlash. We and others warned about all this, but too many Democrats and their media allies live in a progressive bubble that ignores competing ideas. If Democrats lose Tuesday, one reason will be this closed ideological feedback loop."

What the left is saying.

  • Many on the left worry about losing seats in the House and Senate, and fear "election deniers" coming into power.
  • Some urge voters to cast ballots that preserve democratic norms.
  • Others say Democrats were always going to lose in the midterms, because that is what usually happens, and people will make the outcome fit their narratives.

The Washington Post editorial board said voters should keep it in mind that this "is not a normal election."

"In deciding whether and how to vote, Americans should keep the fundamentals in mind, supporting candidates committed to the democratic system and the peaceful transfer of power, and opposing those who have tried to profit from toxic lies about election integrity," the board said. "Otherwise, those who stoke unfounded suspicions and widen divisions might prevail. This would encourage others to mimic them. It would also hand over critical elements of the machinery of democracy to election deniers in advance of the 2024 presidential race. Such candidates have appeared all over the map. A Post count found that in 10 states, election deniers are running to become their states’ chief elections officials, such as Arizona’s Mark Finchem (R), Michigan’s Kristina Karamo (R) and Nevada’s Jim Marchant (R).

"In office, deniers could make voting more difficult, encourage doubts about the integrity of the count, run conspiracy-theory-inspired vote audits — as the Arizona Senate did following the 2020 election — or even refuse to certify election results," they wrote. "Meanwhile, if Republican Doug Mastriano were to win Pennsylvania’s governorship, he would have substantial control over voting in a key swing state. Then there are Republican Senate candidates such as New Hampshire’s Don Bolduc and Arizona’s Blake Masters. Members of the House and Senate will have to count presidential electoral votes in 2024; the more election deniers elected, the more likely a partisan congressional majority might overturn a legitimate presidential vote."

In The Washington Post, Catherine Rampell said Democrats are drowning in denial.

"Inflation offers one illustrative example," she said. "First, they declared the problem was exaggerated, if not wholly invented, by the media — both mainstream and, especially, right-wing — despite some internal Democratic polling suggesting inflation was a growing worry among voters. Democrats also told themselves that lower-income households were benefiting from progressive decisions to keep stimulating an already 'hot' economy, and were therefore insulated from inflation...Meanwhile, any non-right-wing experts who warned early on that inflation could become a serious problem were accused of being cranks, attention-seeking contrarians or, sometimes, even traitors (if they happened to be former Democratic administration officials, anyway). Tough love was perceived as disloyalty.

"It’s not just inflation. Democrats have plugged their ears to bad news on other issues, too. They’ve downplayed voters’ concerns on crime, violent protests, school closures and rising recession risks. These are vulnerabilities that Republicans have exploited during the campaign (while offering no solutions of their own, of course). Democrats have also convinced themselves that pet policies beloved by left-wing Twitter activists will be broadly 'popular' even when polls suggested public opinion is mixed at best," she said. "Such is the case with President Biden’s massive student debt forgiveness plan. The issue has been featured more often in Republican campaign ads this cycle than Democratic ones, according to AdImpact. Maybe voters will ignore these missteps and be persuaded by Democrats’ dire warnings about the risks to reproductive rights and democracy if Republicans retake Congress. But if there is cause for Democrats to conduct a political autopsy... the bottomless well of denial each deserve their own chapters."

In The New Republic, Alex Shephard said the results of the midterms will just confirm everyone's prior narratives.

"The truth is that midterms are nearly as predictable as death and taxes: The party that controls the White House always loses and often badly at that," Shephard wrote. "Following the predictable results will be the predictable protracted fallout, in which various interest groups and ideological factions will demand that the party could have escaped their fate—if it had only adopted their own set of policy preferences and messaging quirks. On Monday, the centrist Third Way got a jumpstart, releasing a memo warning that the Democratic Party’s brand is toxic. ‘If Democrats manage to hold on to the House and Senate, it will be in spite of the party brand, not because of it,’ the memo reads. Sure, why not? But what to do? Why, adopt the milquetoast pro-corporate messaging pushed by Third Way, of course!

"This is something that you will undoubtedly hear a lot as Democrats lick their wounds following the midterms: The party is simply too woke, too progressive. It’s lost touch with white working-class voters. It is in the thrall of its activist wing," he said. "It cares too much about policing speech and not enough about pocketbook issues. This is more or less what the party’s centrist wing has been saying for as long as anyone can remember and somehow it’s not enough that the party’s standard-bearer is a nigh-upon-octogenarian centrist who remembers the era of working hand-in-hand with segregationist conservatives with fondness... Naturally, once you start scratching the surface, it becomes hard to discern what, if anything, from the perspective of Third Way, went wrong with the way that Biden and Democrats have actually governed."

My take.

Reminder: "My take" is a section where I give myself space to share my own personal opinion. It is meant to be one perspective amid many others. If you have feedback, criticism, or compliments, you can reply to this email and write in. If you're a paying subscriber, you can also leave a comment.

  • All signs — historical and current polling — point to a very good night for Republicans.
  • There is at least one counter-narratives to this out there worth sharing.
  • Be patient, be calm, and let's see what actual results look like.

I've said it a lot before and will say it again now: I don't love making predictions, and I don’t put myself in that business… with the exception of when I published 19 predictions about the future (subscribers-only). I think the prediction economy among columnists and reporters often produces absurd and ridiculous notions about what might happen — with everyone trying to win attention from readers and viewers with hotter takes and snappier “owns” on the “other side.” I do appreciate the many sources — like RealClearPolitics, FiveThirtyEight and Cook Political Report, among others — who try to make data-driven, scientific guesses about how an election will play out.

This election does not seem particularly complicated to me. It's a midterm election, inflation is high, Biden's approval ratings are low, and Democrats are likely to lose a lot of House seats and probably the Senate, too. Historically, the party in the White House loses 28 House seats and four Senate seats, on average. Democrats' saving grace is that in several of the most important Senate races, there are Republican candidates that appeal strongly to base voters on the right but have very high disapproval ratings among moderates and independents. It's possible that saves them a Senate majority, but I think it is unlikely.

One of the few voices I've seen bucking the trend of a big night for Republicans is Simon Rosenberg, who I think at least deserves a shout out here for the sake of diversity of opinion. He is an unabashed progressive working for a progressive organization, but his final midterm update — "I'd rather be us than them" — is uniquely bullish on Democrats. His theory rests mostly on the data we have: Democrats are outpacing early vote numbers from 2020, many late polls have looked good for them, and Hispanic and youth polling are all trending nicely for Democrats. If Democrats manage to hold the Senate or mitigate losses in the House, his analysis will prove prescient and unique.

The most interesting thing about this election is just how much the two sides are talking past each other. I wrote a few weeks ago that there are essentially two concurrent elections happening: One (from Republicans) focused on crime, inflation and immigration. The other (from Democrats) focused on abortion, democracy and Ukraine. There are exceptions — some candidates have made trans issues or election security or potential social security cuts key to their campaigns. But broadly, this is what each side is focusing on. There are always different party priorities, but this year seems unique in how infrequently the major political parties are grappling with the same issues at the same time.

As we head into election day, we should be patient for results and cognizant of certain dynamics about how these results play out. In Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan, you can expect Republicans to have an early lead that narrows as more mail-in votes are counted. In Georgia, we may not have a senator until a December runoff. In New York, House races could take days to resolve. It's not ideal, but it is the system we're stuck with for now.

I also caution you all to be wary of late counts on mail in ballots and the predictable claims of fraud or nefarious activity. I have written extensively and repeatedly about allegations of election fraud, and how we know the vast majority of them are nonsense. Please do your best not to get caught up in rumors and innuendo, and don’t amplify unsubstantiated claims.

I'm sure by this time tomorrow there will be a lot more to say about all these races. But for now, my final and most important message is to go vote.

Your questions, answered.

Q: What do you think would be the perfect voting system? Some thoughts: Several days and several methods to vote, eliminate gerrymandering, every legal voter is required to cast a ballot, ranked-choice voting, no more attacking political ads (can only promote yourself and ads will be fact checked for misinformation or misleading information), etc?

— Jeff from Conshohocken, Pennsylvania

Tangle: This is a great question. I have some ideas that are a little half-baked, but roughly speaking I'd want something like this:

  • Three days of voting (Sunday, Monday and Tuesday) with Tuesday a national holiday for election day. I think the extra days of voting would be worth the cost.
  • Voter ID laws passed concurrently with a bill that provides government issued IDs to any citizen who doesn't have them (free of cost).
  • Mail-in voting is allowed for two weeks before an election, and those votes are processed before election day so results can be determined quickly on election night.
  • No compulsory voting. It is okay to sit out. Even though I disagree with the choice not to participate, I don't like the idea of people being fined or criminalized for not voting.
  • I’m starting to really like ranked-choice voting. And I would vote to support it if I could. But I think voters should decide whether they want it or not, via ballot initiative.
  • Eliminating gerrymandering would be great — though figuring out the right way to redistrict "fairly" is very difficult.
  • I don’t think there should be limits on attack ads, or fact-checking of political ads. Banning attack ads would be an infringement on free speech, and “fact-checking” would require unbiased government-run authorities that could never be truly unbiased, and could edge scarily into creating a “government-authorized truth”.

Want to have a question answered in the newsletter? You can reply to this email and write in (it goes straight to my inbox) or fill out this form.

Under the radar.

The Justice Department announced that it will be dispatching workers to 64 jurisdictions in 24 states on Election Day to help ensure they are in compliance with federal law. That is nearly 50% more than the 44 jurisdictions that had workers present in 2020. The DOJ is sending employees from its Civil Rights Division and other units to areas where they anticipate there will be disputes and tension around the voting process, including Clark County, Nevada; Pinal County, Arizona; Berks County, Pennsylvania; and Milwaukee County, Wisconsin; all areas where there were disputes in 2020 or new laws passed to monitor voters in 2022. The Washington Post has the story.


  • 0.4%. Republican Mehmet Oz's advantage over Democrat John Fetterman in an average of polls on the Pennsylvania Senate race, according to RealClearPolitics.
  • 1.4%. Republican Herschel Walker's advantage over Democrat Raphael Warnock in an average of polls on the Georgia Senate race, according to RealClearPolitics.
  • 3.4%. Republican Adam Laxalt's advantage over Democrat Cortez Masto in an average of polls on the Nevada Senate race, according to RealClearPolitics.
  • 9.9 million. The total number of registered Democrats who have voted already, according to data from states that track registration of early votes.
  • 7.8 million. The total number of registered Republicans who have voted already, according to data from states that track registration of early votes.

Have a nice day.

You'll have a hard time finding someone more generous than Lyn Thomas. Every time the Birmingham, Alabama resident gets a paycheck, she puts aside a little money for random acts of kindness — a project she calls Sowing On Purpose. Thomas works as an assistant manager at a convenience store, and says she believes in unconditional love and kindness. So she uses the money to run games and help spread the love. For instance, she'll ask people on Facebook to guess a color or number, and whoever guesses correctly gets a free meal or tank of gas. "There is so much going on, and this is just showing love and blessing somebody just because," Thomas said. USA Today has the story.

Dear readers,

Tangle is a grassroots community. We are battling the sensationalist, divisive, combative, and misleading news narratives with nuance and fairness. In order to spread the word about our work, though, we rely heavily on readers like you.

Here are some ways to help... 

💵  If you like our newsletter, drop some love in our tip jar.

📣  Share Tangle on Twitter here, Facebook here, or LinkedIn here.

😄 Share and every time someone signs up at that URL, we'll donate $1 to charity.

📫  Forward this to a friend and tell them to subscribe (hint: it's here).

🎧  Rather listen? Check out our podcast here.

🛍  Love clothes, stickers and mugs? Go to our merch store!

Subscribe to Tangle

Join 100,000+ people getting Tangle directly to their inbox!