US midterms 2022: five key takeaways from election night

The predicted Republican ‘red wave’ was held off by an encouraging night for the Democrats

Voters wait in line outside a polling station in Texas
Voters wait in line outside a polling station in Texas
(Image credit: Jordan Vonderhaar/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The polls may have closed and some results declared, but US midterm elections and the battle for control of Congress remain uncertain.

Ahead of the elections, the Republicans were expected to make gains and the Democrats to “follow that pattern” of the president’s party losing seats in the midterms, wrote The Guardian.

President Joe Biden attempted to rally his party the night before election day, warning that the coming elections will “shape what the next couple decades look like”. The current president is “regarded as something of a liability” by his own party, said James Matthews at Sky News ahead of the elections, though he was “confident” of holding on to the Senate.

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US political consultant and pollster Frank Luntz told The Times that Republicans would find success thanks to their focus on the economy and curbing inflation, and Democrats would suffer for their focus on abortion and former president Donald Trump. “Democrats ran on abortion and Trump while ignoring Americans’ growing economic hardship,” Luntz said, with polls suggesting that the economy and inflation were top of the list of voters’ concerns.

Trump was hoping to deliver “wins for candidates he endorsed” in order to strengthen his support base before announcing his “third campaign for the White House”, wrote The Guardian.

As votes continue to be counted, what can we take away from the US midterm results so far?

Red wave fails to appear

While the Democrats could still lose control of the House of Representatives, they’ll give a “huge sigh of relief”, wrote Sarah Smith at the BBC, adding that the “red wave” that was predicted to sweep the midterms “looks like more of a ripple”.

It turned into a night of “razor-thin victories for Republicans”, who failed to execute a “major House sweep”, wrote Ben Domenech in The Spectator. The Republicans have “effectively earned the ability to block things. But that’s all,” with a slim majority in the House still projected. The Senate race remains in the balance.

Senator Lindsey Graham told Fox News that it was not a wave “for darn sure” but described it as a “very good night” if the Republicans ended the election with majorities in the House and the Senate.

“Flawed candidates and concerns about abortion rights ended up proving major obstacles to Republicans”, wrote Alex Seitz-Wald at NBC News, adding that they had hoped to ride “dissatisfaction about the economy” into power.

Better than expected for Biden and Democrats

The Democrats had “as good a midterms outcome as President Biden’s party could have dared to expect”, said The Hill, after key Senate victories in Pennsylvania and New Hampshire, and retaining House seats on the “endangered list”, including in Ohio, Virginia and Michigan.

The Democrats may not have control in the House or the Senate by the end of the elections, but they are “so evenly split that partisan control remained unknown”, said Seitz-Wald at NBC News.

As it stands, President Biden “appears set to lose fewer seats than either Barack Obama or Donald Trump” did at the same point, said the BBC. The midterms were predicted to be a “rejection of Joe Biden’s presidency”, said The Telegraph, but a “Gen Z ‘youthquake’” that was “energised by the issue of abortion”, seems to have stemmed the red wave.

Fetterman wins key battleground

The Democrats received one of their biggest boosts of the midterms after John Fetterman flipped the Senate seat in Pennsylvania in their favour. His campaign of “searching for votes in ‘ruby red’ parts of Pennsylvania”, wrote The Independent, seemed to work, as he defeated celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz.

The victory increased the Democrat “chances of retaining control of the chamber” in a tight race, said The Guardian. It proved Fetterman’s “brand of progressive populism” worked in the swing state, said The Hill, describing it as a “vital” victory for the Democrats.

Lacklustre night for Trump

While Fetterman’s victory delivered a boost for the Democrats, Oz’s loss was a blow to Donald Trump.

Though Donald Trump is not running, he still “cast a shadow” over the elections, said the BBC. That’s because the former president had endorsed a number of high-profile candidates ahead of a possible run at the White House in 2024. He was expecting an “overwhelming victory” for his endorsed candidates, but it has been nowhere near decisive.

“He helped saddle the GOP with poor candidates.” wrote Politico, and turned “the midterms into a choice between unpopular Biden and deeply unpopular Trump”.

Any bid to be the Republican candidate in 2024 will be launched “from his back foot”, concluded the BBC.

DeSantis takes Florida in landslide

Florida governor Ron DeSantis may have had the “best night of any Republican in the country”, wrote Vox, retaining his position in the swing state by a landslide.

The victory is seen as a boost for a potential presidential campaign in 2024, having had “success on a night that was underwhelming” overall for the Republicans.

The rumours of his potential presidential run have put him in Donald Trump’s firing line, with the former president using “blunt threats” to try and dissuade DeSantis from running, said The New York Times.

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