Upset hopes keep Senate map in flux: The Note

Victory for any of those candidates could upend calibrated calculations.

October 28, 2022, 6:09 AM

The TAKE with Rick Klein

There's a pastor and an ex-astronaut, a TV doctor and a Heisman Trophy winner, a bestselling author and a tech billionaire's protégé, a former local news anchor and a towering former small-town mayor whose health scare may yet determine control of the Senate.

But for all the outsized personalities and boldfaced names who have dominated the midterms, a range of lesser-known candidates continue to make their races interesting -- while challenging macro trends in their respective states.

Democratic nominees for Senate including Tim Ryan in Ohio, Cheri Beasley in North Carolina and Val Demings in Florida have kept things closer than their states would seem to allow in any year where Democrats control Washington.

On the Republican side, Joe O'Dea in Colorado and Tiffany Smiley in Washington state have stayed in striking distance in blue territory -- while turning the debate around "candidate quality" on its head. Connecticut and New Hampshire aren't necessarily done deals, either.

There's also an independent candidate, Evan McMullin, running in Utah -- a surprising threat to unseat Sen. Mike Lee, with McMullin running on the intriguing neutrality of Sen. Mitt Romney and the explicit support of Democrats.

Upsets from any of those candidates could upend calibrated calculations that see Georgia, Nevada, Pennsylvania and a tiny sliver of other states as vital wins to any potential majority. The jittery, data-overloaded pre-election period practically invites head fakes and the indulging of fantasies inside both parties.

The most stubborn obstacle facing the most talented candidates the cycle has drawn might be the political makeup of the states they live in -- even more than the winds drawn out of the current environment. But candidates, as always, matter -- even in an era of deep reds and dark blues.

PHOTO: Joe O'Dea, Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate seat, speaks during a primary election night watch party in Denver, June 28, 2022.
Joe O'Dea, Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate seat, speaks during a primary election night watch party in Denver, June 28, 2022.
David Zalubowski/AP, FILE

The RUNDOWN with Averi Harper

After a report found that the U.S. economy grew in the third quarter, after two quarters of contracting, President Joe Biden took a victory lap.

"For months, doomsayers have been arguing that the US economy is in a recession and Congressional Republicans have been rooting for a downturn," he said in a statement on Thursday. "But today we got further evidence that our economic recovery is continuing to power forward. This is a testament to the resilience of the American people."

Later, he gave reporters two thumbs up and said, "Things are looking good," referring to a new government assessment of the gross domestic product (GDP).

But Biden's mood, backed by the numbers, still runs the risk of looking disconnected from the economic reality of everyday Americans who continue to see their dollars buy less as a result of historically high inflation.

GDP likely doesn't matter much to a voter who can't keep up with the cost of gas at the pump or food at the grocery store, which are factors that are more likely to influence optimism or pessimism about the state of the economy.

If Democrats want to convince midterm voters that better conditions are on the horizon, it will require more than growing GDP -- an abstract measure for most.

PHOTO: People shop for groceries in a Manhattan store  in New York, Oct. 26, 2022.
People shop for groceries in a Manhattan store in New York, Oct. 26, 2022.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The TIP with Alisa Wiersema

Outgoing Wyoming Republican Rep. Liz Cheney gave her endorsement to Michigan's incumbent Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin on Tuesday. In a statement, Cheney called her House colleague "a good and honorable public servant who works hard for the people she represents, wants what's best for the country, and is in this for the right reasons."

"While Elissa and I have our policy disagreements, at a time when our nation is facing threats at home and abroad, we need serious, responsible, substantive members like Elissa in Congress. I encourage all voters in the 7th district - Republicans, Democrats, and Independents - to support her in this election," Cheney said.

Unlike other areas of the country, south-central Michigan -- where Slotkin is facing off with Republican state Sen. Tom Barrett in the 7th Congressional District -- did not go through a drastic partisan shift following redistricting. According to FiveThirtyEight's analysis, Slotkin is now competing for a seat that has a slight partisan lean toward Republicans, similar to the environment she competed in the last election cycle.

In the lead up to Election Day, the two lawmakers will participate in a campaign event on Tuesday that is being billed as an "Evening for Patriotism and Bipartisanship."

Cheney, who lost her primary to Trump-backed Republican Harriet Hageman in August, has already spoken favorably of Democrats on the 2022 campaign trail. Earlier this month, the congresswoman told Arizona voters that while she has always voted Republican, she would have voted for a Democrat if she lived in Arizona this election cycle.

Cheney also previously said if Trump becomes her party's nominee in 2024, she will not continue politically identifying as a Republican.

PHOTO: U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin speaks at a campaign rally in East Lansing, Mich., Oct. 16, 2022.
U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin speaks at a campaign rally in East Lansing, Mich., Oct. 16, 2022.
Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

Power Trip

"Power Trip: Those Seeking Power and Those Who Chase Them" follows 7 young reporters as they chase down candidates in the lead up to the midterms with George Stephanopoulos guiding them along the way.


ABC News' "Start Here" podcast. "Start Here" begins Friday morning with a special report on an issue at the heart of the midterm elections: crime. And one big element of crime and criminal justice in America is mental health. People with untreated mental illness are much more likely to be killed by law enforcement -- 16 times, to be exact. ABC's Madeleine Wood reports.


  • President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris attend a state Democratic reception in Philadelphia. Both will speak at 7 p.m. ET.
  • ABC’s “This Week”: National Republican Senatorial Committee Chair Senator Rick Scott (R-FL), Roundtable: Former New Jersey Governor and ABC News Contributor Chris Christie, Former North Dakota Senator and ABC News Contributor Heidi Heitkamp, Former Univision Network Anchor and ABC News Contributor Maria Elena Salinas.

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The Note is a daily ABC News feature that highlights the day's top stories in politics. Please check back next week for the latest.

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