With just days to go before polls close on the 2022 midterms, candidates around the country are launching into their final campaign sprints. From blanketing media markets with increasingly frenetic ads to holding eleventh-hour rallies, politicians are making their last-ditch attempts to not only excite their electoral bases but to appeal to crucial holdouts, as well.
While every election, big or small, matters to those running and those voting, the truth is some races will inevitably be more consequential than others — perhaps none more so than the contests taking place in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Georgia, and Arizona. There, in races that have become microcosms of the broader political dynamic at play in America of late, voters will likely decide whether Republicans should control the U.S. Senate, or if Democrats can maintain — or even expand upon — their slim majority in the upper chamber.
Here are the closing messages each major party candidate in those five pivotal races has landed on for the waning days of their campaigns:
Former NFL star Herschel Walker's race to oust Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock has been one of the most closely watched this election cycle, pitting a Donald Trump-backed celebrity candidate with a checkered past of mental health issues, alleged domestic violence, and objective falsehoods against a relatively low profile incumbent running for his first full term after winning a special election in 2020.
For his closing argument, Walker has worked to take the focus off himself and the salacious allegations that have dogged him throughout the race, instead opting to tie Warnock with President Biden's deep national unpopularity. In a final campaign ad, Walker links the two to a "weaker America" after "Joe Biden came along," reiterating in a statement to the Washington Examiner that "Raphael Warnock and Joe Biden have made the lives of Georgians worse than they were two years ago. The buck stops here because I'm not going to let them keep putting us down."
Warnock's closing message has largely consisted of an upbeat "get out the vote" messaging emphasizing the stakes of this race as well as his personal accomplishments as a community leader and elected official. He has also increasingly thrown elbows at Walker online, claiming Georgia "deserves better" and mocking Walker's dubious business ventures and history of controversial statements and exaggerations.
Like Georgia, the race to fill outgoing Republican Sen. Pat Toomey's seat has become something of a referendum on whether a Trump-backed celebrity candidate can win elected office based on "star power" alone. Conversely, Democrats are hoping that Lt. Gov. John Fetterman's populist appeal and deep Pennsylvania roots will be enough to overcome questions about his health — and Dr. Mehmet Oz's drumbeat of health-related criticisms — following Fetterman's spring 2022 stroke.
In addition to questioning Fetterman's neurological fitness, Oz has spent the waning days of his campaign hitting the lieutenant governor's record on crime, framing his opponent as dangerously soft on issues of public safety (he frequently cites Fetterman's time on the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons and term as mayor of Braddock, Pennsylvania). Painting Fetterman as an "extremist" on issues like drug control and criminal justice reform, Oz is both leaning into a broader GOP effort to amplify concerns over crime and safety as a partisan issue while simultaneously portraying himself as an affable moderate by comparison.
For his part, Fetterman has similarly spent the closing days of his campaign going on the offensive online, peppering his Twitter followers with messages framing Oz as an out-of-touch, compassionless opportunist, as opposed to his native understanding of the needs and concerns of Pennsylvania voters. In person, Fetterman has used campaign rallies to highlight his bona fides as a pro-labor, pro-abortion access candidate willing to infuse moderation into his attitudes on public safety, while also pushing back on Oz's insinuations about his health and fitness to serve. As a sign of just how seriously Democrats are taking Fetterman's race as Election Day approaches, he is scheduled to appear on The View on Friday, and then alongside party superstar Barack Obama at a Pittsburgh rally on the final Saturday of the campaign.
While lacking the outsized personalities of the Georgia and Pennsylvania races — and the accompanying media frenzies thereof — Nevada's contest between incumbent Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto and Republican Adam Laxalt could prove to be as pivotal to control of the Senate as any in this election cycle. While Nevada has frequently served as a historical bulwark for the party, Democrats worry that headwinds against incumbents, coupled with cost of living concerns among their party base in the state, could result in a last-minute upset in a race that's pulled surprisingly close as Election Day looms.
Laxalt has spent much of his final month of campaigning scrambling to address last-minute scandals and familial defections, but he has also been consistent in working to pair Cortez Masto with the Biden administration and broader anger over the economy. "We've seen first hand how disastrous the Biden/Cortez Masto agenda has been for our country," Laxalt tweeted this week, calling his opponent "Biden's rubber stamp" in another message. He is also focusing on retail politics — and with it, the implied focus on economic household issues — with his campaign claiming he will do "dozens of neighborhood events scheduled for backyards, restaurants, and community gathering centers" around crucial Washoe County before polls close on Nov. 8.
Catherine Cortez Masto
Cortez Masto, meanwhile, has largely chosen to focus the final days of her campaign on her record in office. Asked about her closing message by ABC Las Vegas affiliate KTNV, Cortez Mastro stressed that "because of my opportunity to get out and talk with so many people, that has informed the legislation that I have been able to introduce in a bipartisan way, and get passed, and then bring back those essential resources to the state."
That thread of bipartisanship has also been on display as Cortez Mastro closes out her campaign by tacking to the center, frequently hosting Republicans at her events in an attempt to highlight her cross-aisle appeal as she emphasizes Laxalt's MAGA extremism.
Like Pennsylvania and Georgia, the 2022 Arizona Senate race pits a relatively understated Democrat, incumbent Sen. Mark Kelly, against a first-time Republican candidate bolstered by a MAGA/GOP kingmaker with seemingly endless resources at his disposal. Unlike those states, the GOP candidate, Blake Masters, did not enter the race as a household name or celebrity, despite his career history working for some of the most powerful people in the tech industry. But what Masters lacked in political experience, he's since more than made up for in his embrace of some of the most extreme right-wing positions of the election cycle on issues of abortion, immigration, and the 2020 presidential elections. As Kelly and Masters showed in their sole debate during the waning days of the campaign, their race is essentially a question of whether the state will continue to slide purple, or if the Democrats' double pick-up two years ago was more a fluke than a trend.
For Masters, whose close personal and professional relationship with GOP megadonor Peter Thiel has been a source of intense friction between the wings of the party, the closing days of the campaign have been spent lashing out at Kelly for his stances on gun control and immigration, going so far as to create an online video game where a pixelated Kelly "destroys" concepts like "god given rights" and "border security." In addition to working to tie Kelly with the Biden administration, Masters has also seemingly followed Donald Trump's advice to "go stronger" on questions of voter fraud, re-embracing the former president's stolen election lies in a mid-October TV interview after having distanced himself from that narrative and other more extreme conservative framings on his website earlier this summer. He has also again been forced to contend with new allegations regarding his ties to white nationalist and antisemitic figures in and around his campaign.
Kelly's closing argument to voters has focused in large part on his political independence and willingness to work alongside Republicans in an environment where bipartisanship is perhaps more fraught than ever. In a late October interview with The Arizona Republic, Kelly stressed his experiences differing with President Biden when it comes to economic frustrations, telling the paper he'd "told the president you've got to do more. You've got to release petroleum from the strategic reserve and we have to increase oil and gas production." He has also been explicit in his criticism of Biden's handling of immigration at the southern border, calling the area a "crisis" in an Oct. 26 interview with the right-leaning Washington Examiner, while also insisting that Masters' proposed treatment of asylum-seekers would be "unamerican."
Long considered a bellwether state when it comes to national politics, Ohio's status as the microcosmic political compass has suffered of late as it's been pulled further into solidly red territory over the past several years. Nevertheless, the unlikely duo of author/tech-entrepreneur J.D Vance and one-time presidential candidate Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan — each running to replace outgoing GOP Sen. Rob Portman — has thrust the Buckeye state back into the limelight as a crucial race in deciding which party will control the Senate for the coming term.
Vance, whose Hillbilly Elegy memoir about an impoverished childhood propelled him into the public eye, has spent the closing days of his once-dark horse campaign increasingly confident of his ability to maintain Republican control of Portman's seat. During a recent Fox News town hall, he made a point to hit what has become a fairly uniform list of conservative issues across the country, including restricting abortion access on a national level, criticizing "big tech," and returning to a more proactive crackdown on undocumented immigration which, he claimed, was fueling Ohio's narcotics issues. He also attempted to soften his previous assertions supporting former President Trump's 2020 election conspiracy theories, claiming that he'd only meant that companies with "financial stakes in communist China" may have contributed to electoral "unfairness."
Ryan, meanwhile, is using his final days on the campaign trail to establish daylight between himself and the Biden administration, with whom Vance has worked to tie him. At the same Fox News event, he pointedly stressed the need for increased law enforcement, stating that "crime is an issue" in an apparent attempt to both counteract the Republican narrative that Democrats are anti-police, while also hoping to appeal to the traditionally right-leaning voters for whom public safety is often a key issue. Speaking with a local ABC affiliate this week, Ryan also worked to present himself as a unifier, eager to represent "everybody — whether they voted for me or not."