US midterm elections 2022: When are they and what could they mean for Joe Biden and Donald Trump?

US - Samuel Corum/Getty Images
US - Samuel Corum/Getty Images

In November, voters across America will go to the polls in the mid-term elections that will have a profound impact on the direction of the country for the next two years.

The event is called the "midterm elections" because it happens in the middle of the presidential term.

Joe Biden will not be on the ballot, but candidates for Congress in every corner of the United States will be.

Democrats currently hold wafer-thin majorities in both houses of Congress. But if the Republicans take over, they will be able to block much of what Mr Biden and the Democrats aim to achieve until the next election in 2024.

When are the midterm elections and why do they matter?

The midterm elections this year take place on Nov 8.

They happen two years after the election of a president, and determine which party controls Congress.

If the president's party does not control Congress, it becomes very difficult to pass legislation.

Biden - Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Biden - Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

How does the election work?

All 435 seats in the House of Representatives, the lower chamber of Congress, are being contested.

About one third of the 100 seats in the Senate, the upper chamber, are also up for election. Senators are elected to six-year terms on a rolling basis. That means, every two years, one third of the senators come up for re-election. Each of the 50 states has two senators.

In addition, many states have aligned their local elections to take place at the same time. That means there are races taking place for the governorships of 36 states, plus everything down to the proverbial dog catcher.

Harris - Getty
Harris - Getty

Where are the races to watch?

The Senate is currently split 50-50. In her role as Vice President, Kamala Harris holds a casting vote, meaning Democrats have control.

That means a swing of just one seat would give the Senate to the Republicans.

The closest Senate seats coming up for election in 2022 include Pennsylvania, Georgia, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, Wisconsin, Arizona, North Carolina, Florida and Colorado.

One of the best chances for Republicans to pick up a seat is in Georgia, where Herschel Walker, a former American football star, is taking on Raphael Warnock, the sitting Democrat senator and a Baptist pastor.

Walker - Shutterstock
Walker - Shutterstock

In Nevada, Republicans are hoping that Adam Laxalt, a local politician, can oust Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto, America's first Latina senator.

Meanwhile, Democrats are hopeful of picking up a seat in Pennsylvania after the sitting Republican retired.

Democrats are also hopeful in Ohio where the Republican incumbent is also retiring.

The new Republican candidate J.D. Vance, the author of bestseller 'Hillbilly Elegy', is in a close race with the Democratic congressman Tim Ryan.

In Wisconsin, Mandela Barnes, the Democrat lieutenant governor, could potentially topple veteran Republican incumbent, Ron Johnson.

Beto - AP
Beto - AP

And in Florida, the former Orlando police chief, Democrat Val Demings, is putting pressure on Republican incumbent, Marco Rubio.

One of the closest-watched state governor races is in Texas, where Democrat Beto O'Rourke is taking on sitting Republican, Greg Abbott.

And in Pennsylvania, there is a highly charged governor race between Doug Mastriano, a Republican candidate heavily backed by Donald Trump, and Democrat Josh Shapiro.

In Florida, Ron DeSantis, the Republican governor, is also running for re-election and is leading in the polls.

What are the main issues for voters?

The most important topics appear to be different for the voters of each party.

Democrat voters, particularly women, appear to have been motivated by the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, which has led to abortion restrictions in a number of states.

Polls show Democrat voters are also concerned by "threats to democracy", in particular the Jan 6, 2021 US Capitol riot.

Vance - Getty
Vance - Getty

Republican voters are more motivated by inflation and the cost of living, crime, and record levels of illegal immigration at the US-Mexico border.

That has resulted in two different messages being pumped out in TV adverts by Republican and Democrat candidates.

What do the latest polls say?

According to polls the likeliest scenario is that Republicans take control of the House, and Democrats cling on to the Senate.

FiveThiryEight, the polling website, says Republicans are "slightly" favoured to win the House, and Democrats "slightly" favoured to win the Senate.

Pelosi - Reuters
Pelosi - Reuters

But it will all come down to a handful of closely fought seats.

If the Republicans win the House, then Republican Kevin McCarthy will replace Democrat Nancy Pelosi as Speaker, and third in line to the presidency.

How popular is Joe Biden?

Not very. His approval rating is 43 per cent as an average of all recent polls, and his disapproval rating is 53 per cent. However, his polling has improved in recent weeks from a low in the 30s.

Some Democrat candidates in key races are outperforming Mr Biden in polls in their states. This has created a situation where some are reluctant to have him visit and campaign on their behalf, something Mr Biden himself has acknowledged.

biden - AFP
biden - AFP

What do the midterms mean for Donald Trump and 2024?

Mr Trump has played an ongoing guessing game about whether he could declare his 2024 presidential candidacy before or after the 2022 midterms.

If he declares before and Republicans do well in the midterms, he would walk away with a lot of the credit. However, if he declares and they do badly, that could prove damaging for him.

If Mr Trump does not declare beforehand and Republicans do badly, blame for the performance will fall on Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, with whom the former president has an extremely poor relationship.

It is believed that Mr Trump has been eager to declare before the midterms, but amid tight polls in key races some of his advisers have cautioned that he should wait.

Mr McConnell and other senior Republicans are reportedly disappointed by the quality of certain candidates Mr Trump backed, including Mr Oz and Mr Vance.