Midterm polls: US Congress still up in the air, Democrats prevent rout

Yashwant Raj-

US voters have spoken, but the control of US Congress hung in balance on Wednesday as several key races in the midterm polls remained undecided.

Republicans are favoured to wrest control of the House of Representatives, but the Senate could go either way though Democrats are ahead narrowly. Democrats also flipped two governorships.

But the Republican “wave” predicted by many did not happen, as Democrats defied the headwinds of history — the party that controls the White House loses the incumbent President’s first midterm elections — to minimise losses and flip seats previously held by Republicans.

John Fetterman’s projected victory in Pennsylvania was most notable of them all. The former Democratic Lt Governor of the state was way ahead of Mehmet Oz, a TV celebrity doctor endorsed by former President Donald Trump. And then he suffered a stroke which took him off the campaign and left him with lingering after-effects. Republicans pushed hard in the ending days of the campaign to close the gap. But he prevailed, winning one of the most closely-watched Senate races.

Democrats currently hold both the House of Representatives and the Senate. Historically, they should have lost both, and badly. Democrats lost the 2010 midterm, which was the first of President Barack Obama’s first term, by 63 seats; and Republicans had lost the 2018 midterm, which was President Donald Trump’s first, by 43 seats.

Biden appears to have done far better, though the final numbers are still awaited.

The biggest winner of the 2022 midterm with future ramification is Ron DeSantis, the Republican Governor of Florida. He won his re-election bid beating Democrat Charlie Crist by a large margin, which, according to many conservatives, gave him just the right platform for his 2024 presidential bid, which he is said to be contemplating.

DeSantis’ victory also gave Republicans hope of rescuing the party from the grips of Trump, who, they believe, may have hampered the party’s chances of doing better by fielding and backing undeserving candidates solely for their loyalty to him, and his lies about his 2020 election defeat.

Trump is toying a third run for the White House and has said an announcement might be coming next week. But Jason Miller, a top aide, told a radio interviewer on Wednesday that he would advise the former President to delay his announcement till after the Georgia Senate race is settled; it’s headed for a December run-off because no candidate got more than 50 per cent of the total votes. Sitting Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock is ahead, but only marginally.

Among other notable winners and projected winners are Republican Senators Marco Rubio and Rand Paul and Republican Sarah Sanders Huckabee, erstwhile spokesperson for former President Trump, who became the first woman Governor of Arkansas, and Wes Moore, a Democrat who has become the first African American elected Maryland Governor.

Also among the winners are members of the ‘Samosa Caucus’, as the Indian Americans in US Congress call themselves. Ro Khanna, Pramila Jayapal and Raja Krishnamoorthi, all sitting members, won their reelection bids, while the fourth, Ami Bera, is leading. The caucus acquired a new member, Shri Thanedar, from Michigan. Indian Americans also made history as one of them became the first to be elected Lt Governor — Aruna Miller in Maryland.

At stake in the 2022 midterms is control of US Congress, all 435 seats in the House of Representatives are up for grabs, 35 of the 100 in the US Senate and 36 governorships.

Democrats currently control the White House, the House of Representatives (220 to 212, with three vacancies) and the Senate (50-50 and Democrat Vice President Kamala Harris’s tie-breaker vote).

Republicans must get to 218 to take control of the House. They are on the way, but still some way off. But no matter how narrowly they win, their control of the chamber will mean the end of President Biden’s legislative agenda.

Additionally, they have threatened to also initiate impeachment proceedings against the President and launch investigations against his officials.

But Biden will draw some consolation at having escaped the fate that met all his predecessors — Obama had famously called his midterm defeat a “shellacking”.

Just to be clear, though, these midterm outcomes do not automatically determine re-election chances of the President — Obama won a second term, as did Bill Clinton, whose midterm losses were upwards of 50. Trump, on the other hand, did lose his re-election bid.

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