Control of U.S. Congress unclear as Republican ‘red wave’ fizzles

  • Republicans were still favored to win the House
  • Major matches in both chambers are very close to being called
  • Biden’s next two years are in play

ALPHARETTA, Ga./PHOENIX, Ariz., Nov 9 (Reuters) – Republicans made narrow gains in the U.S. midterm elections, but Democrats fared better than expected as control of the Senate hinged on three races close to being called on Wednesday afternoon.

Edison Research projects that the Georgia U.S. Senate race between Democrat incumbent Raphael Warnock and Republican Herschel Walker will go to a runoff Dec. 6. That means it could be weeks before Democrats know control of that chamber unless they hold off challengers in Nevada and Arizona.

Edison Research predicts Republicans will pick up at least eight seats in the US House of Representatives. That would be three more than needed to wrest control of the chamber from Democrats, but the Republican margin, which has not yet been named at 44 races, could go up or down and remain unresolved for days.

Despite a slim House majority, Republicans will allow Democratic President Joe Biden to launch investigations that could be politically damaging and block legislation during his next two years.

But the “red tide” victory turned out to be far less than the Democrats had hoped for, as they avoided the kind of crushing midterm defeat that plagues sitting presidents of either party.

The results showed voters punishing Biden for presiding over an economy plagued by hyperinflation, while also hitting back against Republican efforts to ban abortion and cast doubt on the nation’s vote-counting process.

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The poor performance of some of the candidates supported by Donald Trump – including Walker – shows the kind of confusion the former Republican president has fueled, and raises questions about the viability of his 2024 run for the White House.

“I think his ego is too big to handle,” said Yvonne Langdon, 75, voting for Republican candidates in Michigan on Tuesday.

Biden had framed Tuesday’s election as a test of US democracy at a time when hundreds of Republican candidates embraced Trump’s false claims that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from him.

A number of election deniers who backed Trump’s claims were elected to office Tuesday, but many who sought positions to oversee elections at the state level lost.

Fears of violence or disruption by far-right poll monitors at polling stations did not materialize. Jen Easterly, head of the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, said she saw no evidence that any voting system had been compromised.

Democrats win Pennsylvania

Control of the Senate would give Republicans the power to block Biden’s nominees for judicial and administration posts. But in a decisive victory for Democrats, John Fetterman flipped a Republican-held US Senate seat in Pennsylvania, defeating Trump-backed retired celebrity surgeon Mehmet Oz, bolstering his party’s chances of holding the chamber.

The White House took lighter losses than expected. “Never underestimate how much the team has underestimated Biden,” White House chief of staff Ron Klein tweeted.

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Democrats also had their share of embarrassment as New York Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, chairman of the committee charged with re-electing Democrats, admitted he lost his own race.

If Republicans take control of Congress, they plan to save costs in the Social Security and Medicare safety net programs and make permanent tax cuts set to expire in 2017.

Republicans could also plan a showdown on the debt ceiling to get major spending cuts and return aid to Ukraine.

Only 26 of the 53 most competitive races had been decided by Wednesday morning, based on a Reuters analysis of leading nonpartisan prognosticators, and the final outcome is not expected to be known for some time. Democrats won 20 of those 26 contests.

The party that occupies the White House almost always loses seats in elections during a president’s first four-year term, and Biden has struggled with low public approval.

“We should have done better in this climate,” said Rob Jesmer, a former Republican Senate campaign chief.

US stock indexes fell on Wednesday as uncertainty weighed on trader sentiment.

Mixed day for Trump

Trump, who played an active role in recruiting Republican candidates, had mixed results.

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He scored a victory in Ohio, where “Hillbilly Elegy” author JD Vance won a Senate seat to keep it in Republican hands. But another Trump ally, Doug Mastriano, lost the Pennsylvania governor’s race.

“Yesterday’s election was somewhat disappointing in some ways, but from my personal point of view it was a very big victory,” he said on his online platform, Truth Social.

Meanwhile, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who could challenge Trump in 2024, was re-elected by nearly 20 percent, Edison projected.

Thirty-five Senate seats, all 435 House seats and three dozen gubernatorial races are on the ballot.

(Live election results across the country here.)

The primary issue weighing on Democrats was stubbornly high annual inflation, which is at a 40-year high of 8.2%.

Voters in California, Michigan and Vermont approved referendums enshrining abortion rights in their state constitutions. Deeply conservative Kentucky appeared poised to reject a constitutional amendment that would have declared no right to abortion.

Reporting by Joseph Ax, Jason Lange, Doina Chiaku, Susan Heavy, Moira Warburton, Graeme Slattery, McKinney Bryce and Trevor Hunnicutt in Washington, D.C., Gabriela Botter in Birmingham, Michigan, Nathan Laine in Alpharetta, Georgia, Marsha Tvetkova in Reno, Nevada, Phoenix and Ned Lucy Raitano and Amanda Cooper of Parker and London; Writing by Andy Sullivan and Richard Cowan; Edited by Ross Colvin, Scott Malone, Alistair Bell and Daniel Wallis

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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