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US midterms: What do the results mean and what happens next?

Vote counting still underway in many states but Republican ‘red wave’ promising dominance over House and Senate has clearly failed to materialise

Joe Sommerlad
Wednesday 09 November 2022 15:21 GMT
Fox New host says midterms are 'searing indictment' of the Republican party

In-person voting in the US midterm elections – conducted at the halfway point of every sitting president’s four-year term in the White House – took place on Tuesday, with the electorate casting ballots for congressional representatives, senators and governors nationwide and the results beginning to roll in as soon as night fell and the polls closed.

With the country as polarised as ever and Republicans and Democrats still litigating Donald Trump’s election defeat two years ago and at odds with one another on any number of issues, from the state of the economy to immigration and the US Supreme Court’s decision to revoke the constitutional right to an abortion, the contest always promised to be a heated referendum on Joe Biden’s leadership.

Many pundits had predicted a “red wave” of Republican victories, allowing the American right to overturn the Democrats’ slim majorities in the House of Representatives and the Senate and sweep to power in Congress.

Doing so would have enabled conservative representatives and senators to block Mr Biden’s legislative agenda, frustrating Democratic bills at every turn and effectively rendering him a lame duck, unable to realise his policy goals and facing an uphill task to make the case for his re-election in 2024.

It would also have empowered its membership to dominate committees and launch investigations into issues of particular concern to the movement.

This might include politically-motivated inquiries into the ongoing and still highly spurious allegations of voter fraud or even a retaliatory effort to see Mr Biden impeached in revenge for Mr Trump becoming the first American commander-in-chief to be disgraced twice in office: firstly for attempting to extort a political favour from president Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine by withholding military aid, secondly for inciting the Capitol riot of 6 January 2021 through his false claims of election fraud.

To achieve that, the Republicans needed to win six congressional seats from Democrats on Tuesday to raise their current standing from 212 to 218, the magic number that means a majority in the 435-seat lower chamber of Congress.

At the time of writing, they are still some way short but could yet get there.

Potential swing seats targeted by the Republicans in Virginia and Rhode Island remained stubbornly blue, with Abigail Spanberger and Seth Magaziner seeing off challenges from the GOP-backed Yesli Vega and Allan Fung respectively, while Democrat Greg Landsman pulled off a flip of his own by ousting long-term Republican congressman Steve Chabot in Ohio.

Maga firebrand Lauren Boebert is meanwhile thought to be in trouble in Colorado, where votes for her Democratic challenger Adam Frisch are thought to have poured in.

In the Senate, the upper chamber, only 100 seats are up for grabs with the balance of power currently tied at 50-50, in which case, the vice president, Democrat Kamala Harris, gets the deciding vote.

That narrowest of margins lends her party the advantage when it comes to passing laws but also inadvertently places it in hock to right-leaning Democrats like West Virginia senator Joe Manchin, who is in a position to exert huge influences and make demands on behalf of his constituents in exchange for agreeing to stay onside.

Again, the Republican effort to secure a 51-seat majority is within reach but far from secure as matters stand, with John Fetterman’s win over the Trump-backed Dr Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania a major disappointment for the right.

John Fetterman (AP)

Another Trump-approved candidate, the scandal-plagued former NFL star Herschel Walker, has also failed to unseat incumbent Dr Raphael Warnock in Georgia, with that result too close to call on the night and potentially headed for a run-off vote.

Arizona has yet to count all of its votes but the Republicans could find themselves frustrated there too, with incumbent Democratic senator Mark Kelly looking set to see off a challenge from Republican venture capitalist Blake Masters.

In New Hampshire too, Democrat Maggie Hassan held firm against the Trump-backed Don Bolduc, an ex-army general and conspiracy theorist.

There have been plenty of Republican success stories, however, notably author JD Vance securing a crucial Senate win in Ohio, incumbent Marco Rubio seeing off a well-funded challenge from Democrat Val Demings in Florida and Tedd Budd beating Cheri Beasley in the battle to succeed Richard Burr in North Carolina.

The gubernatorial races have arguably been most successful for the GOP, with Ron DeSantis strengthening his stranglehold on Florida and Democrat rising stars Stacey Abrams and Beto O’Rourke failing to win their respective bids to become the new governors of Georgia and Texas by unseating Brian Kemp and Greg Abbott.

Ron DeSantis (AP)

Former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders has meanwhile entered the Arkansas governor’s mansion, following in the footsteps of her father Mike Huckabee, and Maga favourite Kristi Noem of South Dakota has won re-election.

There were disappointments there too, however, with Democrat Kathy Hochul seeing off Lee Zeldin in New York, Doug Mastriano losing out in Pennsylvania to Josh Shapiro and Gretchen Whitmer shrugging off Tudor Dixon in Michigan.

In Arizona, meanwhile, Republican Kari Lake is said to be trailing Democratic secretary of state Katie Hobbs.

As each state has its own complex and subtly different rules on electoral protocol, particularly surrounding when postal votes can be counted, the official results will continue to roll in over the coming hours and days.

Once the winners have been established, they will take office in early January and be sworn-in for the new Congress, in this case the 118th.

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