Around July 20, Republican Senate odds began to dip on PredictIt. The price fell from a high of 61 cents on July 20 to 58 cents on July 26. The rise in a Republican House and Democrat Senate prices began rising a few days earlier. It rose from 32 cents on July 17 to 36 cents on July 26.
These are still far from 50/50 odds, and Republicans remain heavily favored to retake the House and Senate. But after the first round of January 6 hearings, the House’s marriage equality bill, and defections by Trump-friendly media could explain PredictIt users’ wavering confidence in Republican midterm prospects.
First Round of January 6 Hearings
The January 6 hearings have revealed troubling revelations about the attack on the Capitol and Donald Trump’s negligence in responding to it. The final hearing featured revelations about Secret Service members saying goodbye to their families over the radio. It also broke down Trump’s refusal to call the mob off during the 187 minutes the rioters were hunting for Mike Pence, Nancy Pelosi, and other high-level politicians.
Most damning of all were the rioters’ live reactions to Trump’s tweets. The final hearing included video of their rage at Trump’s tweet claiming Mike Pence betrayed him. It also showed rioters deciding to leave the Capitol after Trump sent a tweet instructing them to leave the building. It reinforced the horror of Trump’s deliberate inaction during the riot.
Democrat and Republican opinions about whether Trump bore responsibility for the riot remained similar to pre-hearing opinions. One poll found that more Independents found Trump responsible for the riot after the hearings. But a seven-point change isn’t a transformative difference.
That change may matter in close races. But the January 6 hearings aren’t going to change the electorate unless voters engage with the difficult issues surrounding January 6 and Trump’s character.
Marriage Equality Bill
The House of Representatives passed a marriage equality bill recognizing gay marriage at the federal level. It passed 267 to 157 in an unusual show of bipartisanship. It’s a popular bill that sailed through the House and could gain enough Senate votes to avoid a filibuster.
Support for gay marriage has changed dramatically in a few decades. Since 1996, public support for gay marriage has grown from 27% to 70%. That includes a transformation in Republican attitudes about gay marriage. Republican approval for gay marriage grew from 16% to 55% since 1996.
A federally protected right to gay marriage has the potential to be a rare bipartisan triumph. The credit for that achievement could give Democrats a claim to effective legislation on a major cultural issue. The fight over the bill is far from over. But it’s enough to cast doubt on the narrative that Democrats are useless legislators.
Trump Media Defections and Republican Odds
Much has been made of a spate of critical editorials about Trump in conservative Murdoch-owned papers. The flurry of activity challenging Trump may be casting doubt on how strong Republican Senate odds are in the 2022 midterms. Conflict in the party could cause messaging challenges for Republican Senate campaigns that could be decisive in close races.
However, the conflicts with Trump can’t be taken at face value. Some commentators, like Peggy Noonan, were lukewarm about Trump when he became the Republican nominee in 2016. Anti-Trump Republicans have had space on Murdoch papers throughout Trump’s campaign and presidency.
Trump also has a strong primary competitor in Ron DeSantis. His reactionary conservative credentials are undeniable. The Orlando Weekly reports that he has falsely claimed that teachers “are instructed” to tell elementary school children to “switch genders.” DeSantis has also prohibited some mainstream news outlets, including the New York Times, from attending the conservative Sunshine Summit.
DeSantis wraps his reactionary political actions in rhetoric about protecting children or promoting conservative values. His polish compared to Trump allows DeSantis to mount a strategic attack on Trump from the political right and charm conservatives and moderates in the general election. He’s a dangerous combination of charm and reactionary conservatism.
As a tough primary challenger, PredictIt bettors should expect content in conservative media that favors DeSantis over Trump and vice versa. This is the time for dissent and conflict within the parties. Continued attacks on the frontrunner and nominee would be surprising in 2024. In 2022, it’s business as usual.
Republican Senate Odds a Coin Toss
A Republican sweep of the House is guaranteed. House races are vulnerable to the incumbent curse. Dissatisfaction with the incumbent party matters more in House races than Senate races.
So, Democrats have a chance of keeping the Senate in November. Unpopular reactionary candidates give strong Democratic Senate candidates a chance.
However, economic issues continue to plague Americans, and voters blame the incumbent party for economic troubles. It’s a powerful electoral force on an irrational electorate. (How many voters really know why the Fed’s interest hikes work and what the President has to do with the economy?)
PredictIt’s markets may settle around a 60/40 split in favor of a Republican House and Senate. But for all practical terms, it’s a coin flip for the Senate in November.