10 political events that will shape 2022 elections: From redistricting to CPAC to Jan. 6
WASHINGTON – Brace yourself for a busy political year – and possibly a volatile one.
Political campaigns in 2022 will determine control of Congress and big-state governors' offices, the political strength of President Joe Biden and the continuing influence of ex-President Donald Trump, as well as voting rights, LGBTQ rights, abortion rights and whatever other disputes arise over the next ten months.
Nationally, Republicans are favored to recapture control of the U.S. House, in part because the president's party tends to do poorly in midterm elections. This year, that's the Democrats, who are also disadvantaged by new post-Census congressional redistricting plans that in several states favor the Republicans.
"Historically, in a president's first midterm election, his party is going to be losing seats," said Jessica Taylor, the Senate and governors editor for the Cook Political Report.
Democrats have a better chance of keeping control of the U.S. Senate, analysts said, because some Trump-backed Republican candidates may have trouble winning statewide races, even with the bad overall political climate for Democrats.
"To me," Taylor said, "it comes down to climate vs. candidates."
The nation's political battles will play out all year, with some landmark events already discernible. While schedules could change, potential turning points include:
The insurrection anniversary (Jan. 6)
One year after Trump supporters invaded the U.S, Capitol, seeking to stop the counting of the electoral votes that elected Biden to the presidency, some Democrats are expected to argue that the violence was only a preview of things to come.
Among their concerns: Trump supporters are seeking to install like-minded Republicans in legislatures and state election offices across the country, potentially making it easier to overturn elections in the future.
Trump, meanwhile, says he will hold a "news conference" on Jan. 6 to again make false claims of "voter fraud" – a theme he wants Republicans to echo throughout the 2022 election year.
Biden's State of the Union (late January or early February)
The president's annual address to a joint session of Congress gives Biden an unfiltered opportunity to make the Democratic case to millions of Americans (and voters).
Biden and the Democrats could use all the help they can get. Biden's approval ratings average little more than 40%, and, as often noted, a new president's party does poorly in the midterm elections.
The Conservative Political Action Conference (Feb. 24-27)
The nation's most conservative political candidates and activists gather in Orlando for a conference designed in part to hone election strategies.
It was at this Orlando event in 2021 that Trump vowed to defeat Republicans who supported his impeachment over the Jan. 6 insurrection or otherwise opposed his efforts to overturn Biden's election. That theme will run throughout campaign 2022.
Texas primary (March 1)
As it stands, Texas will host the year's first set of party primaries, contests that will say much about Republican unity and Trump's influence.
Gov. Greg Abbott, despite his push for new restrictions on abortion and voting rights, faces a gaggle of conservative challengers, making him potentially vulnerable to a May 24 runoff.
The value of a Trump endorsement is also on the Lone Star State ballot. Incumbent Attorney General Ken Paxton has Trump's support but is being challenged by George P. Bush, the nephew and grandson of former Republican presidents, and prominent conservative congressman Louie Gohmert.
(The new Texas redistricting plan is the subject of lawsuits, and courts could delay the primary. This has already happened in North Carolina, and could also happen in states like Pennsylvania.)
Another big primary day: Pennsylvania and North Carolina (scheduled May 17)
Two more battleground states that could wind up deciding control of the U.S. Senate have primaries on the same day.
Both states have open and competitive Senate races for seats being vacated by Republicans, Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania and Richard Burr in North Carolina.
Georgia primary (May 24)
Georgia came out of the 2020 election season as probably the most influential political state in the nation.
It was in Georgia that Democrats won two Senate runoffs on Jan. 5. giving the party control of a 50-50 Senate because of Vice President Kamala Harris's authority to break ties.
One of those new senators, Raphael Warnock, is seeking a full six-year term, and his Republican opponent could be retired football star (and Trump endorsee) Herschel Walker.
It was also in Georgia that Trump was caught trying to pressure Republican state officials into "finding" him enough votes to prevail over Biden in the state. The officials' resistance triggered Trump's involvement in the 2022 elections.
Now Trump is supporting Republican challenger David Perdue, a former U.S. senator, against incumbent GOP Gov. Brian Kemp. Trump says Kemp and other GOP officials did not do enough to help him overturn the Georgia election.
The winner of a brutal and divisive Republican gubernatorial primary will have to run against former state legislator and voting rights advocate Stacey Abrams, whose voter registration drives of recent years have made Democrats competitive in this Deep South state.
The Supreme Court's abortion decision (late June)
The Supreme Court usually wraps up its terms by issuing a series of major rulings in June – and this year that batch of big cases includes what figures to be a landmark ruling on abortion, making it a major issue in elections for years.
All sides are preparing for a Supreme Court decision striking down the 1973 Roe vs. Wade abortion rights ruling, clearing the way for states to further restrict or even ban the procedure.
Democrats, citing polls that show support for abortion rights, believe that a world without Roe will favor their candidates. Republicans note that abortion opponents have fueled the conservative movement for decades, and they will be energized by the prospect of more state restrictions.
Face-off in Wyoming (Aug. 16)
A Republican primary in one of the nation's smallest states may provide the biggest test of Trump's influence.
Trump's highest-profile Republican target is Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., the highest-ranking Republican who voted to impeach Trump. Other House Republicans eventually voted to demote Cheney from her leadership job because of her continuing criticism of the ex-president.
Now Cheney is being challenged by local attorney Harriet Hageman, a former ally who now has Trump's backing.
Early voting (September and October)
At least 43 states offer some form of early voting, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. It reports that "early voting periods range in length from three days to 46 days," and "the average number of early in-person voting days is 23."
Given Trump's ongoing complaints about the 2020 election, voting will be heavily monitored by both parties. Disputes can be expected.
Election Day (Nov. 8)
With the rise of mail-in voting and the prospect of close races, it could take days for some elections to be decided. There could also be myriad protests.
While these and other events are predictable, political professionals also say that many races could be decided by unexpected events: a new COVID variant, a political scandal, some kind of foreign policy crisis or developments in the overall economy.
Charlotte Clymer, an LGBTQ political activist who said proposed laws attacking those communities will also fuel voter turnout in 2022, said many results will be decided by things we don't yet know about.
"Every week in an election cycle is a lifetime," she said. "You never know what's going to happen."