Control of the US Congress hung in the balance early Wednesday, with both Republicans and Democrats notching victories in some of the most competitive races in a midterm election that centered on voter frustration over high inflation and the sudden rollback of abortion rights, with elections for Congress, Senate and state governors up for grabs.
In Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis, who is thought to be considering a possible run for the White House in 2024, won reelection after support from Donald Trump.
In Georgia, incumbent Governor Brian Kemp defeated the high profile Democratic challenger Stacey Abrams, who campaigned to sign up more minority voters during the last two years. And former Trump White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders was elected as Arkansa’s first female governor.
There were Republican wins too in North Carolina, Wisconsin and in Ohio where Trump-backed candidate JD Vance held the Senate seat.
But there were also some notable wins for the Democrats, winning a Senate seat in California, and holding two key House seats in Texas, fending off an aggressive play by Republicans to remake the US-Mexico border into a midterm battleground.
Democrats also won gubernatorial seats in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Massachusetts and Hawaii.
In other races further down the ballot, Republicans who backed Donald Trump’s failed efforts to overturn the 2020 election were positioned in several states to win key offices overseeing voting in the next presidential contest.
Half of the 22 Republicans vying to be secretaries of states — and overseeing elections in most states — have repeated Trump’s election lies. Seven endorsed his attempts to overturn the will of the people and remain in power.
Joe Biden’s presidency agenda in the balance
The outcome of races for House and Senate will determine the future of President Joe Biden’s agenda and serve as a referendum on his administration as the nation reels from record-high inflation and concerns over the direction of the country.
Republican control of the House would likely trigger a round of investigations into Biden and his family, while a GOP Senate takeover would hobble Biden’s ability to make judicial appointments.
Democrats were facing historic headwinds.
The party in power almost always suffers losses in the president’s first midterm elections, but Democrats had been hoping that anger from the Supreme Court’s decision to gut abortion rights might energize their voters to buck historical trends.
A survey by the Associated Press found that nationally, high inflation and concerns about the fragility of democracy were heavily influencing voters.
Half of voters said inflation factored significantly, with groceries, gasoline, housing, food and other costs that have shot up in the past year. Slightly fewer — 44% — said the future of democracy was their primary consideration.
Overall, 7 in 10 voters said the ruling overturning the 1973 decision enshrining abortion rights was an important factor in their midterm decisions.
The survey also showed the reversal was broadly unpopular. About 6 in 10 say they are angry or dissatisfied by it, while about 4 in 10 were pleased. And roughly 6 in 10 say they favor a law guaranteeing access to legal abortion nationwide.
There were no widespread problems with ballots or voter intimidation reported around the country, though there were hiccups typical of most Election Days.
It could be days or even weeks before races — and potentially, control of Congress — are decided.
Some states with mail voting, such as Michigan, saw an increase in ballot returns compared with the 2018 midterm. Those votes can take longer to count because, in many states, ballots must be postmarked by Tuesday but might not arrive at election offices until days later.
In Georgia’s Senate race, the candidates must win at least 50% of the vote to avoid a 6 December runoff.