OnPolitics: How and why we cover the midterm elections, from the editors

A woman drops a ballot into a drop box while casting her vote during Maryland's primary election, Tuesday, July 19, 2022, in Baltimore.
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Hey there, OnPolitics readers!

It’s Politics Managing Editor Caren Bohan and Deputy Managing Editor for Politics Luciana Lopez.

It’s less than one month until the Nov. 8 midterm elections, and we’re taking the opportunity to show up in your inbox to talk directly to you about our coverage plans.

As the two editors leading USA TODAY’s political coverage, here's how we try to help you feel smart and informed about elections in your communities.

Elections updates in your inbox: Sign up for the OnPolitics newsletter

What’s at stake in the midterms?

Two years into Joe Biden’s presidency, the midterms are a referendum on his job performance and on Democrats who narrowly control both chambers of Congress.

All 435 seats in the House are up for election, along with roughly one-third of the 100-member Senate. Biden and Democrats face major headwinds, given that the party of an incumbent president usually loses seats in the midterms.

Republicans, hoping to thwart Biden’s agenda by capturing one or more houses of Congress, are bashing Democrats over the wobbly economy, 40-year-high inflation and rising crime.

But the unpopularity of the Supreme Court’s decision to end the nationwide right to an abortion is working in Democrats’ favor. Distaste among independent voters for former President Donald Trump is also giving Democrats a lift. Concerns about GOP links to right-wing conspiracy movements such as QAnon are further putting a damper on Republican momentum.

It isn’t just control of Congress that’s on the line in the midterms. Thirty-six governorships are up for election. Voters will also be casting ballots for state legislators, school board members and officials who will oversee future elections.

With reporters and editors in states across the country, the USA TODAY Network is uniquely placed to capture the mood of voters from the town centers and rural areas of New Hampshire to the border areas of Texas to Midwest states like Wisconsin and West Coast states like California.

We’re talking to voters and experts and mining our exclusive USA TODAY/Suffolk University polls. These issues are rising to the top:

Voting rights and voting access: To help you navigate how to cast your ballot, we’ve provided an in-depth analysis of access by state here.

We’re also talking to election workers who are facing unprecedented threats from Trump supporters galvanized by his false claims of election fraud. In the shadow of the Jan. 6 riot, there are rising fears about security at polling stations.

Not since the 1960s has the US seen such fervor over election rules and access. We zeroed in on key swing states where election deniers are on the ballot.

Abortion is on the ballot in a way we haven't seen in generations, ever since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June.

It’s too soon to say if it will be a game-changer for Democrats who are hoping to motivate a coalition of progressive and moderate voters, suburbanites and young people. But it’s shaping up as a top issue in both congressional and statewide races.

Race, identity and culture wars: Your most contentious race on the ballot might just be your school board election, with big national funders and candidates running on issues such as transgender students rights or parents rights.

Not only do these races affect you (and your kids) today - the school board members of today could be the senators and governors of tomorrow.

Conservative groups like Moms for Liberty are giving a boost to candidates running on objections to pandemic restrictions and what students are learning the classroom about civil rights.

The state of the economy tops the list of concerns for voters, with worries about inflation and cost of living, healthcare access and Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan.

Though the country’s labor market remains resilient, inflation and Federal Reserve interest-rate hikes have rattled the stock market and led a growing number of private economists to fear the economy could be headed for a recession in 2023.

Climate change, and its many-long range implications, can’t fall by the wayside, as candidates and voters debate the implications of Biden’s signature package of measures to spur clean energy and tackle other initiatives.

We’ll also be following the money and reporting on what the midterms will mean for 2024, including whether Trump will formally launch a presidential bid and whether other Republicans like Ron DeSantis or Mike Pence jump into the fray.

And what about Biden himself? A red wave could severely weaken him going into 2024 while an unexpectedly strong showing from Democrats would give him new momentum and more leeway to advance his agenda.

As we get closer to Nov. 8, we hope you’ll explore the issues with us, and please consider subscribing to USA TODAY to support this work.

The OnPolitics newsletter will keep you up-to-date as the midterms approach, Monday-Thursday, and with special editions to keep you in the conversation.

See you in your inbox. –Caren and Luciana

Now, to Amy Nakamura for the top news out of Washington.

Real quick: stories you'll want to read

  • How Republicans are winning school board races: Frustration with pandemic restrictions, teaching about civil rights and allowing accommodations for transgender students are among the animating issues in school board races for GOP-backed candidates, many of them new to politics or education policy.

  • What is happening with L.A. city council? Los Angeles City Council President Nury Martinez announced Tuesday she is taking a "leave of absence" from the council two days after audio leaked of her racist remarks in a meeting last October, the Los Angeles Times reported.

  • Aloha, Democrats👋: Former Democratic Presidential candidate and Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard announced Tuesday she is leaving the Democratic Party. She tweeted a video saying she can no longer remain in today's Democratic Party, which is "now under the complete control of an elitist cabal of warmongers driven by cowardly wokeness."

  • White House not ready to launch on student loan forgiveness: In the face of multiple legal challenges, the White House on Tuesday released a preview of the application form for the president's one-time student debt relief cancellation. However, when the form will go live is still up in the air.

  • Hackers take down U.S. airport websites: Unknown hackers attacked and temporarily shut down the public-facing websites of at least several major U.S. airports on Monday, a Department of Homeland Security official confirmed to USA TODAY. See who has claimed responsibility here.

  • Charleston shooter Dylann Roof loses SCOTUS appeal: The Supreme Court has rejected an appeal from Dylann Roof, who challenged his death sentence and conviction in the 2015 racist slayings of nine members of a Black South Carolina congregation.

⛰️ POTUS headed to West coast this week: President Joe Biden is headed to Vail, Colorado on Wednesday. In late August of this year, Colorado Democrats were pushing him to declare a ninth national monument in The Centennial State. Read more about where exactly this monument may be located here.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: How and why we cover the midterm elections