The Election Recap

The Election Recap: Nov. 14, 2022

Dems snag the Senate, the House remains unclaimed, and more

Hello, and welcome back to The Election Recap, your weekly, one-stop shop for the last seven days of midterms news.

Before we dive in, a bit of housekeeping: Today's newsletter will be the last regular issue of The Election Recap until Dec. 5, when I'll be sending an in-depth preview of the Dec. 6 Georgia runoff. I'll also share a handy recap of those results on Dec. 12 before my hiatus officially begins.

Thank you to everyone who followed along this election season — I hope this newsletter helped you make sense of the chaos. Runoff aside, I'll be back at some point next year to break down the start of the presidential race but until then … let's get into it:

Yes, Chuck Schumer, there is a Santa Claus

Somehow, someway, Democrats have held onto the Senate … and they're probably just as surprised as you. The majority-securing one-two punch first began Friday, with Arizona Sen. Mark Kelly's victory over Republican Blake Masters — which brought the total number of Democratic seats to 49 — and which culminated in Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto's narrow defeat of Republican Adam Laxalt on Saturday. With 50 seats now officially in the bag and Vice President Kamala Harris' tie-breaking vote on their side, Senate Democrats have managed to do the seemingly impossible: maintain control of the upper chamber. "This election is a victory and vindication for Democrats, our agenda and our accomplishments, and for America and the American people," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) tweeted on Saturday. Now, don't get it twisted — that doesn't mean the Dec. 6 Georgia runoff between Sen. Raphael Warnock (D) and Republican Herschel Walker doesn't matter. Though a Walker win wouldn't change much for the GOP in terms of power, it would starve Democrats of a particularly advantageous legislative edge. Among other advantages, a 51st vote would allow the Democrats a "cushion" to pass important bills without having to win over every member of their caucus (like the notably hard-to-please West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin), writes The Washington Post. It could also break up the evenly divided Judiciary Committee, thereby denying Republicans the option to hold up certain votes, adds NBC News. Abandoning Georgia now would be "super shortsighted," Kendra Cotton, chief executive of civic engagement organization New Georgia Project, told the Post. "It's like if you're playing a football game and you're winning by three and you have the opportunity to score a touchdown — and you're like, 'Oh, no, I'm already winning by three,' but there's like 10 minutes on the clock," she continued. "You look stuck on stupid. Score a touchdown."

Whose House is it anyway?

Speaking of unexpected outcomes — the House is somehow still in play six days after Election Day. Yes, it's likely Republicans take over (even President Biden's betting on it), but Democrats still have a chance, albeit slim, to eke out a win. As of Monday afternoon, the GOP was boasting an eight-seat lead, 212 to Democrats' 204. Either party must win 218 for full chamber control. So … what's left? There are currently 19 uncalled House races, "many of them in western states where Democrats are hoping to flip Republican-held seats," writes The New York Times. As for those that might actually decide lower-chamber control, watch Arizona's 1st and 6th Districts, Colorado's 3rd District (where far-right Rep. Lauren Boebert is leading by just over 1,100 votes), Oregon's 6th District, and a handful of races in California, the Times reports. Overall, Republicans currently lead 10 of the 19 uncalled races, and Democrats will need to flip five of those to secure control, explains Vox's Andrew Prokop. Doing so "isn't exactly easy," Prokop continues, noting Dems would have to hold onto their other advantages simultaneously, "but it is possible considering how close some of those races are and how many mail ballots haven't been counted." The Times' Nate Cohn is nevertheless predicting an incoming Republican majority, especially after Democrats over the weekend "fell short of their targets in the late count in critical battleground districts in Arizona and California."

Feelin' blue

After a curious three-way race, Democrat Tina Kotek (D) on Thursday defeated Republican Christine Drazan and independent Betsy Johnson to become the new governor of Oregon. Kotek now joins Massachusetts governor-elect Maura Healy (D) as one of the first openly lesbian governors in the country. The Oregon race was (surprisingly) one of the most competitive in the U.S., in part because of Johnson, who siphoned a sizeable bit of support away from the Democratic Kotek, NPR notes. Johnson also early on secured the backing of "one of Oregon's richest men, Nike co-founder Phil Knight," who later "switched his allegiance and started donating to Drazan's campaign." Though she lost, Republicans saw Drazan as their best chance at reclaiming Oregon's solidly blue governorship in years (the state hadn't elected a GOP leader since 1982). But even with outgoing Gov. Kate Brown's (D) faltering popularity, Democrats nonetheless prevailed (perhaps because "there are still more registered Democrats in the state than there are Republicans," NPR reports). "I am honored and humbled to serve Oregon. I promise to be a governor for all of Oregon. And I'm ready to get to work and move Oregon forward," Kotek wrote on Twitter. Drazan conceded on Friday. As of 1 p.m. ET on Nov. 14, Kotek held 47 percent of the vote with 90 percent of votes accounted for, while Drazan held just 43.6; Johnson, meanwhile, commanded 8.7 percent. Oregon's elections are conducted completely by mail — the state allows "ballots postmarked by Election Day to arrive up to seven days later (Nov. 15)," writes The New York Times

"We did it," says Joe

President Biden on Wednesday celebrated his party's victories with a post-election night press conference, during which he described the 2022 midterms as a good day for democracy and "a good day for America." Biden also used the opportunity before reporters to rebuff the once-overwhelming predictions of a so-called "red wave," in which Republicans were forecast to absolutely shellack Democrats in races across the country. "I know you were somewhat miffed by my — my obsessant [sic] optimism, but I felt good during the whole process," Biden said of the speculation. "I thought we were going to do fine." In continuing, the president thanked the "young people of this nation" who "voted in historic numbers again … just as they did two years ago," and also appealed to voters who made it clear "they're still frustrated." "I get it," Biden said. "I understand it's been a really tough few years in this country for so many people." After touting a few of the wins of his administration, as well as some of his upcoming agenda items, Biden concluded his address with a poignant attempt at unification: "On this election season, the American people made it clear: They don't want every day going forward to be a constant political battle. … The future of America is too promising — too promising to be trapped in an endless political warfare." And of course, the topic later turned to 2024 and the president's plans during the question and answer session: "Our intention is to run again, that's been our intention, regardless of what the outcome of this election was," Biden said when asked, noting a decision could be made "early next year."

Hanging chads:

  • What's next for Pennsylvania Senator-elect John Fetterman? [The Week]
  • Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.): The midterms results are a 'clear victory for team normal' [The Washington Times]
  • Why Florida is no longer a swing state. [The Week]
  • Republican Kari Lake is closing the gap in the Arizona governor's race, but Democrat Katie Hobbs is still ahead. [AP, Axios]
  • A number of prominent conservatives want House and Senate Republicans to pump the breaks on their scheduled leadership vote … sorry Kevin McCarthy. [The Week, The Week]

Coming up … 

  • If the rumors are true … tomorrow is the big day: Former President Donald Trump will formally announce his plans to run again in 2024. Keep your eyes peeled for that (but only after buying your Taylor Swift tickets, of course.)
  • Biden is in Bali this week for the Group of 20 summit. Keep up with all our G20 coverage at TheWeek.com.

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