Voters did not deliver Republicans the decisive House and Senate victories the GOP anticipated on Tuesday night. Democratic House candidates held onto seats the GOP had been certain to capture. The only Senate seat that changed partisan hands as of Wednesday morning flipped turned blue, not red. For now, the outcome in dozens of House races and a handful of Senate seats remain uncertain, leaving the reins of each chamber unclaimed.
The results of four U.S. Senate races remain outstanding. A fifth race, Wisconsin’s Senate contest between incumbent Republican Ron Johnson and challenger Mandela Barnes, had been in play on Wednesday morning. But by midday, the Republican had been declared the winner. Johnson, true to form, accused the media of intentionally delaying the call. “Truth has prevailed over lies,” he said of his contest with Barnes.
With Barnes out, Democrats are, for now, stuck on 48 Senate seats, and need at least 2 more to hold on.
In Arizona, Sen. Mark Kelly (D) has a steady lead over GOP challenger Blake Masters, but more than 30 percent of the vote remains uncounted. In Nevada, Republican Adam Laxalt has a narrow lead over Sen. Catherine Cortez-Masto, but who wins that nailbiter may come down to outstanding absentee ballots, which the state will continue to count in the days that follow. The Senate race in Alaska has also not been called, but the contest between two Republicans — Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Donald Trump-endorsed challenger Kelly Tshibaka — guarantees the seat will remain in GOP hands.
So, in a familiar rerun of the 2020 election, the fate of the Senate majority likely remains in Georgia’s hands. Neither Democratic incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock nor GOP candidate Herschel Walker secured the 50 percent of the vote needed to avoid a runoff election. That means control of the Senate may not be known until Georgia holds a runoff election until early December.
Control of the House will likely be known sooner, but not soon. The winner of roughly a dozen congressional races along the East coast, all currently within a margin of just a few thousand votes, will offer some hints. The deciding races, however, are in Western states, where the outcomes of 18 competitive contests hang in the balance — and could for days, if not weeks. California, host of 12 of such races, didn’t begin counting ballots until the polls closed on Tuesday and will count any mail-in ballots received through next Tuesday, provided they were postmarked by Election Day. Nevada, Washington, and Oregon, too, count mailed ballots received through that deadline, and those votes will likely determine which party wins a half dozen House seats.
House incumbents in both parties suffered blows few could have predicted.
In New York, Democratic Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney conceded to his GOP challenger midday Wednesday, an ironic twist for the head of the House Democrats’ campaign arm charged with seeing his party to electoral victory. Maloney had done everything at his disposal to avoid that fate — including running in a district more favorable to Democrats than his own became redder post-redistricting. (“Yikes” tweeted Rep. Mondaire Jones, the first-term House Democrat who represented the region where Maloney ran. Jones is headed out of office as well: He’d run in a different New York district but lost in the primary.)
On the Republican side, Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.), an ultra Trump loyalist who elevated QAnon conspiracies during her two years in the House, is staring down a likely upset in a district so red it wasn’t even viewed as competitive.
What happens if the GOP takes back the House? A laundry list of investigations into President Joe Biden and his administration, to start. Rep. Jim Comer (R-Ky.), who will take over the House Oversight Committee if his party wins the chamber, has floated hearings on the administration’s 2021 withdrawal from Afghanistan — as well as Hunter Biden’s business dealings abroad. The latter harkens back Trump’s first impeachment, a memory not lost to the former president’s loyalists in the House. (Trump, for his part, has been hounding the would-be GOP leaders on their plans for impeachment.)
Should impeachment in the House come to pass, a vote to convict would almost certainly fail in the Senate, even if Republicans regain control. But that GOP majority would almost certainly railroad the confirmation of Biden administration appointees and judges. Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has previously said he’d be “picky” about which Biden nominees would clear the chamber if he were in charge, though he has refused to announce precisely how he’d handle Democrat-picked appointments.
Republican control of both chambers would surely wreak havoc on Biden’s ambitions for the remainder of his term, but Democratic control of the White House offers a check on untamed power. Biden previewed that flex of power during a press conference on Wednesday, when he vowed to veto any GOP attempts to ban abortion nationwide.
Such veto power was nearly lost at the state level this cycle. In Wisconsin, Republicans looked positioned to win both the governorship and a supermajority of both state house chambers and, in turn, lock in power so “Republicans will never lose another election in Wisconsin,” as GOP gubernatorial nominee Tim Michels said before the election. But those ambitions both failed last night. Democratic Gov. Tony Evers squeaked by Michels, and Democrats won enough seats to deny the GOP a veto-proof majority.
It had been a good night for Democratic governors in close races. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer won a second term, buoyed on her fight to keep abortion rights in the state, as did Colorado Gov. Jared Polis. Democrats won gubernatorial races in Illinois, Maryland, and Pennsylvania against GOP election deniers who had been financially bolstered in their primary by Democratic groups assuming that would lead to easier contests. Those victories vindicated the risky method in all but one race: Arizona, where MAGA megastar Kari Lake may still win.
Despite the dismal outcomes for the MAGA faithful, the results have reportedly not dissuaded Trump from announcing his third run for the presidency next Tuesday. Trump even took an early shot at Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.), his likely top 2024 rival. “Now that the Election in Florida is over, and everything went quite well, shouldn’t it be said that in 2020, I got 1.1 Million more votes in Florida than Ron D got this year, 5.7 Million to 4.6 Million?” he noted on Truth Social, his social media site. “Just asking?”
And what of Biden’s reelection campaign? “Our intention is to run again,” Biden told reporters during his Wednesday press conference. He added that he’s a “great respecter of fate” and that “ultimately, this is a family decision” he’ll sort out over the winter holidays. “I don’t feel any hurry, no matter what my predecessor does,” Biden said of his timeline. “My guess will be early next year, we make that judgment.”
A reporter asked Biden about recent polling that found two-thirds of Democrats don’t want him to run again. Would that factor into his decision? “It doesn’t,” he replied staunchly. “Watch me.”