Control of US congress unclear as Democrats show surprising strength in election
Results from the US midterm elections are still coming in
Control of US congress hangs in the balance as the Democrats showed surprising strength in the American midterm elections, defeating Republicans in several races and defying expectations that high inflation and President Joe Biden’s low approval ratings would drag the party down.
In the most heartening news for the Democrats, John Fetterman flipped the Republican-controlled senate seat for Pennsylvania that is key to the party’s hopes of maintaining control of the chamber.
In the race for the house of representatives, Democrats kept seats in districts from Virginia to Kansas and Rhode Island, while many districts in states like New York and California had not been called.
Democrats were also successful in governors’ races, winning in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania – battlegrounds critical to Mr Biden’s 2020 win over former president Donald Trump.
But Republicans held on to governors’ mansions in Florida, Texas and Georgia, another battleground state Mr Biden narrowly won two years ago.
With votes still being counted across the country, Republicans still had the opportunity to win control of congress.
But the results were uplifting for Democrats who were braced for sweeping losses, and raised questions about the size of Republicans’ governing majority if they win the house.
Representative Kevin McCarthy, the Republican poised to be house speaker if the party takes control of the chamber, sounded a note of optimism as he told supporters: “When you wake up tomorrow, we will be in the majority.”
Democratic house speaker Nancy Pelosi said: “While many races remain too close to call, it is clear that House Democratic Members and candidates are strongly outperforming expectations across the country.”
The outcome of races for house and senate will determine the future of Mr Biden’s agenda and serve as a referendum on his administration as the nation reels from record-high inflation and concerns over the direction of the country.
Republican control of the house would likely trigger a round of investigations into Mr Biden and his family, while a senate takeover would hobble the President’s ability to make judicial appointments.
Democrats are facing historic headwinds. The party in power almost always suffers losses in the President’s first midterm elections, but Democrats had been hoping that anger from the US supreme court’s decision to gut abortion rights might energise their voters to buck historical trends.
In the Pennsylvania senate race, Mr Fetterman had faced questions about his fitness for office after suffering a stroke just days before the state’s primary, but he nonetheless bested Republican Dr Mehmet Oz in a major rebuke to Mr Trump, whose endorsement helped Mr Oz win his competitive primary.
“I’m so humbled,” Mr Fetterman, wearing his signature hoodie, told his supporters early on Wednesday morning. “This campaign has always been about fighting for everyone who’s ever been knocked down that ever got back up.”
Democrats also held a crucial senate seat in New Hampshire, where incumbent Maggie Hassan defeated Republican Don Bolduc, a retired army general who had initially promoted Mr Trump’s lies about the 2020 election but tried to shift away from some of the more extreme positions he took during the Republican primary. Republicans held senate seats in Ohio and North Carolina.
Also in Pennsylvania, Democratic attorney general Josh Shapiro beat Republican Doug Mastriano to keep the governorship of a key presidential battleground state blue.
Mr Shapiro’s victory rebuffed an election denier who some feared would not certify a Democratic presidential win in the state in 2024.
Democrats Tony Evers in Wisconsin, Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, Kathy Hochul of New York, Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico and Janet Mills of Maine also repelled Republican challengers.
Incumbent Republican governors had some success. Georgia governor Brian Kemp defeated Stacey Abrams in a rematch of their 2018 race.
Florida governor Ron DeSantis and Texas governor Greg Abbott, two future possible Republican presidential contenders, both beat Democratic challengers to win in America’s two largest red states.
In Georgia, Democratic senator Raphael Warnock and Republican challenger Herschel Walker were vying for a seat that could determine control of the senate.
AP VoteCast, a broad survey of the national electorate, showed that high inflation and concerns about the fragility of democracy were heavily influencing voters.
Half of voters said inflation factored significantly, with groceries, fuel, housing, food and other costs shooting up in the past year. Slightly fewer – 44% – said the future of democracy was their primary consideration.
Overall, seven in 10 voters said the ruling overturning the 1973 decision enshrining abortion rights was an important factor in their midterm decisions.
VoteCast also showed the reversal was broadly unpopular. About six in 10 say they are angry or dissatisfied by it, while about four in 10 were pleased. And roughly six in 10 say they favour a law guaranteeing access to legal abortion nationwide.
There were no widespread problems with ballots or voter intimidation reported around the country, though there were hiccups typical of most US election days.
Published: by Radio NewsHub