Biden’s agenda at stake as nailbiting midterms don’t immediately reveal control of Congress

Published: Nov. 8, 2022 at 11:01 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The 2022 midterm elections -- framed nationally as a struggle between voters more concerned with high inflation or vanishing abortion rights -- left Democrats and Republicans still wondering late Tuesday (Nov. 8) who will control the levers of congressional power for the next two years.

With several key races still undecided late in the evening, officials from both major parties conceded the picture might remain murky for days. And some of the most tightly contested races likely will face legal challenges in this era of hyper-partisanship.

Across the county, political stars from both parties scored some notable victories.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a potential 2024 presidential candidate, easily won re-election in the Sunshine State. With 97 percent of precincts reporting, DeSantis was trouncing Democratic challenger Charlie Crist, 59.5-39.8 percent.

What surprised political observers most was DeSantis’ strong showing in the traditionally Democratic stronghold of Miami-Dade County, where he rolled over Crist by a 55-45 percent margin. DeSantis’ victory there left Republicans encouraged that Florida has turned fully red before the 2024 presidential race.

The closely watched Pennsylvania senate race was called for Democrat John Fetterman over celebrity Republican Dr. Mehmet Oz, who had been endorsed by former President Donald Trump.

With 85 percent of the vote in, Fetterman was declared the winner, flipping the seat to Democrats by a margin of 49.9-47.7 percent. Despite recent health issues, including a stroke that affected his speech, Fetterman won what observers said was the most expensive senate battle of this cycle.

In Georgia, things were even closer in another key US Senate race. Democratic incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock pulled ahead of Trump-endorsed Republican and former football star Herschel Walker, 49.4-48.6 percent, with 97 percent of the vote in.

Democrat Stacey Abrams ran nearly 4 percentage points poorer than Warnock in her race for Georgia governor, and was defeated by Republican incumbent Brian Kemp by 53.5-45.8 percent. But in Pennsylvania, Democrat Josh Shapiro won the governor’s race over far-right state senator Doug Mastriano, another losing candidate championed by Trump.

Wisconsin’s US Senate race remained too close to call, with Republican incumbent Ron Johnson leading Democratic challenger Mandela Barnes, 50.7-49.3, with 93 percent of the vote counted.

Other high-profile Republicans winning re-election included Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who defeated former police chief and Democratic congresswoman Val Demings by a margin of 57.8-41.1 with 97 percent of the vote tallied. Republican senators Rand Paul of Kentucky, Tim Scott of South Carolina and Todd Young of Indiana also were re-elected.

Trump-backed author J.D. Vance was declared the winner of a critical US Senate race in Ohio, topping Democratic congressman Tim Ryan by a 53.5-46.5 margin with 94 percent of the vote counted. The US Senate’s power balance was even at 46-46 with eight races still to be decided and polls still open in battleground states Arizona and Nevada, and in Alaska and Hawaii.

Republican governors staying in office included Mike DeWine of Ohio, 75-year-old Henry McMaster of South Carolina, and Greg Abbott of Texas (who was leading Beto O’Rourke, 56-43 percent, with 71 percent of the vote in). Democrat governors in Michigan (Gretchen Whitmer) and New York (Kathy Hochul) remained in office, each winning about 52 percent of the vote.

Trump’s former press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was projected to become the next governor of Arkansas. But Democrats Wes Moore and Maura Healey flipped governor’s mansions blue in Maryland and Massachusetts, respectively.

Biden spent election night at the White House, watching returns with advisers. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Biden would address the nation Wednesday about the results, even if they were still incomplete.

Biden hit the campaign trail in recent weeks warning against extremist threats to American democracy and attempting to tout accomplishments of his administration’s first two years, which included advances against the coronavirus pandemic and the passage of a massive infrastructure bill. White House officials at times appeared frustrated that messaging about its achievements struggled to break through more persistent headlines about inflation and higher gas prices.

But intraparty bickering between the progressive wing of the party in the House and moderate-leaning senators such as West Virginia’s Joe Manchin and Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema also left Democrats appearing ineffective or conflicted for much of the past two years with their slim majority.

Should Republicans win control of Congress, Biden allies are gearing up for fights on keeping the government funded and its financial obligations met, sustaining support for Ukraine and protecting the president’s signature legislative achievements from repeal efforts. Republican wins could also usher in a host of GOP candidates whom Biden has branded as threats to democracy for refusing to acknowledge the results of the 2020 presidential race, limiting potential avenues of cooperation and exposing new challenges ahead of the 2024 presidential race.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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