How We Recommend Candidates

The 2022 election cycle will feature many highly consequential races at the federal, state, and local levels. Blue Tent offers candidate recommendations in order to help donors set priorities and direct their money with the greatest impact. These recommendations are aimed at small to medium donors with limited resources. While major donors can give widely across multiple races and states, smaller donors must make hard choices about where to focus their donations, which may be very modest in size. The question we are trying to answer is, where should those limited funds go to have maximum impact? 

Here we explain the assumptions and criteria that guide our recommendations. 

The 2022 Electoral Landscape

Midterms traditionally have resulted in losses in the House and the Senate, as well as down-ballot state races, for the party in control of the White House. But that historic pattern is not preordained and Democrats have a number of opportunities to make gains this year while minimizing losses. In our midterm strategy memo, Blue Tent offers broad guidance for how donors can affect elections this year in ways that both capitalize on the opportunities that exist and build progressive power in states that will be decisive in 2024, including through investing in grassroots organizations. 

When it comes to giving to candidates, there are three goals donors should have in mind:

  • Defend majorities by retaining as many Senate and House seats as possible. Even if Democrats don’t keep control of Congress, they can hope for an easier path to retaking it in later cycles. The Senate is the priority because it controls judicial and executive branch confirmations. 

  • Build power in the states by winning state legislative, gubernatorial, and other statewide races. 

  • Protect democracy by securing governorships in key states, as well as electing Democratic secretaries of state and attorneys general. This is critical as Republicans push changes aimed at disenfranchising voters and putting partisan operatives in charge of election administration in key swing states in the runup to the 2024 election. 

Our Criteria

We recommend that donors direct their giving based on three main criteria: a candidate’s chances of winning, the importance of the race, and whether small to medium donors can make a difference relative to the amount of money a candidate may need, if in fact they need money. In making our assessments, we rely on data where possible. But reaching conclusions on these criteria also entails subjective judgments. Blue Tent readers should treat these criteria as general guidelines and supplement them with their own priorities—e.g., backing candidates they see as leaders on issues of concern to them or representing key constituencies or worldviews. Our criteria are as follows:  

  • The candidate has a strong chance of winning in a competitive race. Donors should prioritize the most competitive races and resist the temptation to give to candidates with little chance of winning—or candidates with secure seats. We assess a candidate's viability using the ratings by Cook Political Report, Sabato’s Crystal Ball, 538’s partisan “lean” metric, and aggregated polling. 

  • The race is important. Donors should prioritize races where the outcomes will be most consequential. These include Senate and House races, with control of both chambers at stake, as well as gubernatorial races. Races for secretary of state and attorney general are also highly consequential in some states during this election cycle, given the risk of election subversion in 2024, as are state legislative races where it may be possible to flip control of a chamber. We assess the importance of races based on our own analysis, which we explain when making candidate recommendations. 

  • The candidate needs money. Donors should prioritize candidates who need to raise additional funds to compete and where small donors acting together can make an impact. We assess a candidate’s financial needs by looking at their last reported cash on hand relative to the cost of competing in their state or district—primarily as measured by the number of voters they must reach, but also other factors, such as the cost of media markets. We explain our thinking on each of these points when making a recommendation. 

Priority Levels

Based on the above criteria, we sort our recommendations into three categories:

  • High Priority is assigned to candidates who closely meet all our criteria at a given point in time.

  • Priority is assigned to candidates who less closely meet all our criteria at the current moment. 

  • Priority is assigned to important candidates who donors should know about, but shouldn’t prioritize at a given moment (e.g., because they are flush with cash.) 

Elections are dynamic and things can change rapidly in all three of our criteria areas. For that reason, Blue Tent reviews all our recommendations weekly and makes updates as needed. Readers should check the site immediately prior to making donations, including to candidates they have previously supported.