Five takeaways from the US midterms

AFP , Wednesday 9 Nov 2022

As US election officials continue to count ballots across the country, partial results showed that Democrats have avoided their worst fears, while Republicans are holding out hope that they will retake both chambers of Congress.

Republican Kevin McCarthy of California
Republican Kevin McCarthy of California is likely to be the next speaker of the US House of Representatives, with projections showing his party with a smaller-than-expected lead. AFP


With multiple critical races still yet to be called, here are some key midterm takeaways:

No Republican 'Red Wave' 

The president's party has traditionally lost seats in midterm elections, and with Joe Biden's ratings stuck in the low 40s and Republicans pounding him over inflation and crime, pundits had predicted a drubbing for his Democrats.

In the House, early results suggested Republicans were on track for a majority, but only by a handful of seats, a far cry from their predictions.

Top Republican Kevin McCarthy, who hopes to be the lower chamber's next speaker, struck an upbeat note, telling supporters in the early hours: "It is clear that we are going to take the House back."

But Senator Lindsey Graham, a top Trump ally, bluntly conceded to NBC that the election is "definitely not a Republican wave, that's for darn sure."

At 1400 GMT, NBC News projected that Republicans will possibly win 220 seats, giving them only a thin 2-seat majority.

Senate Undecided 

Control of the 100-seat Senate, currently evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats, hinged early Wednesday on four key races that were still on a knife-edge.

Democrats need two more wins to successfully hold the chamber, with Vice President Kamala Harris serving as the tie-breaking vote, while Republicans need three to flip it.

In Arizona, Nevada and Wisconsin, counting the remaining votes for Senate could take days. And Georgia may well go to a runoff scheduled for December 6.

Democrats had been hoping to pick up seats from retiring Republican senators in North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania, but were only successful in the latter, with hoodie-wearing John Fetterman, who had a stroke during the campaign, defeating Trump-endorsed celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz.

Glitches Fuel Disinformation 

Biden has warned that Republicans pose a dire threat to democracy, calling out their growing embrace of voter conspiracy theories boosted by Donald Trump.

In swing-state Arizona, Trump and his chosen candidate for governor, Kari Lake, alleged irregularities after problems with voting machines.

Officials in the most populous county of Maricopa said about 20 percent of the 223 polling stations experienced difficulties related to printers but that no one was denied the right to vote.

"People of Arizona: Don't get out of line until you cast your vote. They are trying to steal the election with bad Machines and DELAY. Don't let it happen!" Trump posted on his social media site, Truth Social.

Candidates Eyeing 2024 

One of the Tuesday's most decisive wins was for rising Republican star Ron DeSantis, who won the gubernatorial race overwhelmingly in Florida, cementing his status as a top potential White House candidate in 2024.

But if the 44-year-old views his victory as a presidential mandate, he will likely face a stiff challenge from another Florida resident -- Trump, who has teased an "exciting" announcement on November 15.

On the Democratic side, Governor Gretchen Whitmer won her reelection bid in Michigan, a key presidential swing state.

Multiple candidates who ran in the 2020 Democratic primary, including now-Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Senator Amy Klobuchar, made campaign appearances in key races, fueling speculation they are eyeing another run if Biden decides to sit out.

Growing Diversity 

Maura Healey will make history as the first openly lesbian governor in the United States, with the Democrat easily winning her race in the New England state of Massachusetts.

In neighboring New Hampshire, James Roesener became the first openly transgender man elected to a state legislature, joining multiple trans women already in office.

The mid-Atlantic state of Maryland elected its first Black governor, Wes Moore, whose rising profile has some in the US political class commenting on a potential national run.

And 25-year-old Maxwell Frost was elected in Florida, becoming the first member of the US House from the so-called "Generation Z."

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