Hello, and welcome back to a very special edition of The Election Recap, your one-stop shop for the last seven days (or, in this case, the last 24 hours) of midterms news.
Overall, election night proved a welcome surprise to Democrats, a shock to Republicans, and a big disappointment to former President Donald Trump. But to us, it was cause for another jam-packed newsletter — let's get into it:
The doctor is out…
John Fetterman, the Democratic lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania, defeated Republican Dr. Mehmet Oz in one of the most highly anticipated (and consequential) Senate races of the 2022 midterms season. The seat vacated by retiring GOP Sen. Pat Toomey represented a prime opportunity for both parties, but Democrats were especially hopeful they might pick up a seat to bolster (or at least maintain) their threatened Senate majority. And that they did — The Associated Press called the race for Fetterman around 1:51 a.m. ET Wednesday morning. As of roughly 11 a.m. ET, Fetterman was leading Oz 50.4 percent to 47.2, with 94 percent of votes accounted for, and Oz had called Fetterman to concede. "We bet on the people of Pennsylvania — and you didn't let us down," Fetterman tweeted after his victory. "And I won't let you down. Thank you." It's worth noting how Oz's defeat was not a foregone conclusion, especially toward the end of the race when he caught up to Fetterman in the polls. And that's of course without mentioning the incessant focus on, and criticism of, Fetterman's health, which was thrust into the spotlight following the Democrat's May stroke and subsequent struggles with auditory processing. Now not only is Fetterman's robust win a boon for Democrats, but it also represents a milestone for disability advocates. As the Los Angeles Times' Eric Sondheimer put it: "Not talking politics. Just proud that someone who had a stroke was given a vote of confidence and a chance to overcome a disability." Election officials in Pennsylvania are forbidden from processing mail-in ballots before Election Day, so expect a days-long delay in full unofficial results.
…and the author is in
Out: former syndicated daytime talk show hosts … at least in Pennsylvania. In: venture capitalists/best-selling authors/and former Donald Trump critics-turned-allies … at least in Ohio. J.D. Vance, the Republican candidate for Ohio Senate and author of Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, last night handily defeated Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan in a major victory for the GOP, which was desperate to hold onto the seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Rob Portman (R) lest the party lose a chance at Senate control. Despite having criticized the former president in the past, Vance nonetheless secured an endorsement from Trump, who ultimately forgave him because Vance "gets it now." In Vance's victory speech (during which he notably failed to mention Trump), the candidate vowed to "never forget where I came from, and never forget the great people of Ohio." "Thank you for this honor to serve you," he added. (Vance did, however, thank the former president in a Wednesday statement to Fox News Digital, noting that Trump's support "made all the difference" in the race.) For his part, Ryan conceded the contest with a poignant and salient message on election denial, widespread claims of which have persisted ever since Trump's loss in 2020: "I have the privilege to concede this race to J.D. Vance. Because the way this country operates is that, when you lose an election, you concede."
History in the making
It wouldn't be a midterm election without a few history-making, no-I'm-not-crying-there-is-just-dust-in-my-eye moments, and Tuesday had plenty of such milestones to go around. In Arkansas, former White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders (R) became the state's first elected female governor alongside Leslie Rutledge (R), the state's first elected female lieutenant governor. Notably, Arkansas joined Massachusetts on Tuesday night as the first states to ever have women serving as both governor and lieutenant governor at the same time (in the latter state, Democratic Attorney General Maura Healey beat out former state Rep. Geoff Diehl to become Massachusetts' first female and openly lesbian governor). In New York, incumbent Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) secured her spot as the first female ever elected to lead the state, despite having served in the role since former Gov. Andrew Cuomo resigned amid sexual harassment allegations. In Maryland, Democrat Wes Moore was elected to serve as the state's first Black governor and just the third Black governor in U.S. history, after defeating the far-right and Trump-backed Republican state legislator Dan Cox. The representation didn't stop there — Democrat Maxwell Frost, 25, became the first member of Gen Z elected to Congress after prevailing against his 72-year-old Republican opponent in Florida's 10th Congressional District. Frost is also probably the first congressman-elect to have a photo with Harry Styles or to celebrate his victory at an indie pop concert, but we'll save that monumental discussion for another day.
A Dobbs will do ya
By the time November rolled around, many pundits and pollsters believed the enthusiasm surrounding Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization — the June Supreme Court decision overturning abortion protections as established under 1973's Roe v. Wade — had faded. But upon closer look post-election night, it appears Dobbs actually did help launch Democrats toward somewhat of a victory. For example, exit polls as of Tuesday night showed Democrats carrying independent voters by 2 points, a small though "highly unusual" gap for a midterm election in which Democrats are the party in power. That margin can likely be attributed to independent women voters and their focus on Dobbs, The Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin and The New Yorker's Jane Mayer posited on Twitter. "It was a huge night for abortion rights across the country," former White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki added on MSNBC on Wednesday. What "people said a few weeks ago, that [Dobbs and abortion] didn't matter, that it was fading, turns out that wasn't right," she continued. Take Pennsylvania, for example, where the visibly pro-choice and socially liberal Fetterman bested pro-life and economy-focused Oz — "abortion (36 percent) actually outranked inflation (29 percent)" in the National Election Pool exit poll, Politico notes. And perhaps the biggest reproductive rights surprise of the night came out of conservative Kentucky, where voters struck down a pro-life amendment and cleared a "potential path for abortion access to be restored in a state with one of the country's most restrictive bans," writes The Washington Post. Given its success and salience with voters, abortion will almost certainly remain a "defining political issue" as we inch closer to 2024, notes FiveThirtyEight. In other words, it looks like this year, Dobbs was "the straw that broke the camel's back."
- GOP Sen. Ron Johnson defeats Democratic challenger Mandela Barnes in Wisconsin Senate race. [The Week]
- The 2022 midterms were devastating for Trump. Here's why. [The Week]
- Cheers! Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey (R) cracks open a beer to welcome John Fetterman to the Senate. [Twitter]
- How legalized marijuana ballot measures fared in the midterms. [The Week]
- 7 House seats that changed parties in the 2022 election. [The Week]
- Trump says the midterms were "somewhat disappointing" but still a "very big victory." [The Hill]
Coming up …
- We could still be days away from official results in some states — like Nevada, for example. So in the meantime, brace yourself for runoffs (in Georgia, in particular) and possible recounts. If the thought of waiting stresses you out, perhaps dunk your face in a bowl of ice water to relax. Otherwise, I'll have all the updates for you next week.