Don’t expect 2022 ratings soon

Overtime for 2020 elections and redistricting next cycle delay the inevitable

The seats held by Republican Sens. Richard M. Burr of North Carolina, right, and Richard C. Shelby of Alabama are up in 2022.  (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
The seats held by Republican Sens. Richard M. Burr of North Carolina, right, and Richard C. Shelby of Alabama are up in 2022. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted December 9, 2020 at 6:00am

We’re putting a pause on our first Senate and House ratings for the 2022 cycle, but it’s not for the reason you might be thinking. After whiffing on the House projection this year as President Donald Trump overperformed expectations, I floated the idea of forgoing race ratings in elections whenever he appears on the ballot.

Trump won’t be on the ballot in two years, however, unless he challenges New York Sen. Charles E. Schumer in the general election or Florida Sen. Marco Rubio in the GOP primary, but we are waiting to release our 2022 Senate ratings until sometime early next year.

Why? 

Because it’s OK to take a deep breath. Heck, the 2020 elections won’t even be over until the Jan. 5 runoffs in Georgia, so we won’t even know if the incumbent in Georgia running for a full term in 2022 will be Republican Kelly Loeffler or Democrat Raphael Warnock. We could all use a bit of a break.

Don’t get me wrong. The 2022 battle for the Senate is important. I wrote about it a month ago, and even way back in February. But the world will survive at least a few more weeks without a race-by-race breakdown of campaigns that won’t be settled until nearly two years from now. 

It also doesn’t mean there isn’t interesting news in the next set of Senate races. Almost-former-Rep. Mark Walker announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination in North Carolina, the same state where Lara Trump, the president’s daughter-in-law, is reportedly also considering a bid. 

But one of the biggest lessons from the 2020 Senate races is that partisanship is usually the strongest, and maybe most important, factor when projecting a result — more so than individual candidate quality. 

It’s probably going to be much longer into the cycle before we release House ratings. 

Ten years is long enough to forget how crazy redistricting cycles can be. When handicapping races, it’s helpful to know where a race is happening and who is running. And until new lines are drawn and made official, it’s difficult to know either of those pieces in many places. 

A decade ago, we didn’t start to get new district lines beyond the at-large seats and New Hampshire until May 2011, when Iowa released its new map. By August, we only had barely more than a third of House districts accounted for with new lines. 

By October 2011, still less than half of the seats had new lines, and by the end of the year, 285 districts had been redrawn and certified. It wasn’t until almost the end of March 2012 that all of the districts had been redrawn and accounted for. 

That’s probably a reasonable expectation again, assuming the states get data on time from the Census Bureau. We won’t wait until the spring of 2022 before releasing House ratings, but it’s a good reminder that this next cycle is going to be a slog.

So for now, relax, and enjoy two of the closest, most competitive Senate runoff races in history that will merely decide control of the Senate for the next two years.

Nathan L. Gonzales is an elections analyst for CQ Roll Call.

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