Democrats look to curb losses to Republicans in US Congress

Control of Congress was up for grabs early on Wednesday after the US mid-term elections, with many of the most competitive races uncalled, leaving it unclear whether Republicans would crack Democrats'tenuous hold on power. File Photo.

Control of Congress was up for grabs early on Wednesday after the US mid-term elections, with many of the most competitive races uncalled, leaving it unclear whether Republicans would crack Democrats'tenuous hold on power. File Photo.

Published Nov 9, 2022


By Tim Reid and Nathan Layne

In a critical win for President Joe Biden's party, Democrat John Fetterman flipped a Republican-held US Senate seat in Pennsylvania, beating Republican celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz and bolstering his party's chances of holding the chamber.

The mood at the White House improved as the night wore on, with once-nervous aides allowing smiles to creep onto their faces and saying early signs for Democrats were better than expected. On Twitter, Biden posted a photo of himself happily congratulating some of the Democratic winners by phone.

In the House of Representatives, Republicans remained favoured to win a majority that would allow them to halt Biden's legislative agenda. Early on Wednesday, the party had flipped six Democratic House seats, Edison Research projected, one more than the minimum they need to take over the chamber.

That number could change. Only 13 of the 53 most competitive races, based on a Reuters analysis of the leading non-partisan forecasters, had been decided, raising the prospect that the final outcome might not be known for some time.

The party that occupies the White House almost always loses seats in elections midway through a president's first four-year term, and Biden has struggled with low public approval for more than a year.

But Republican hopes for a "red wave" of victories faded as Democrats showed surprising resilience in several key races.Democrats were projected as the winners in 11 of the 13 close contests that had been decided.

"Definitely not a Republican wave, that's for darn sure," Republican US Senator Lindsey Graham told NBC.

The Democratic speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, said: "It is clear that House Democratic members and candidates are strongly outperforming expectations around the country."

Voter anger over the Supreme Court's June decision to overturn the nationwide right to abortion helped Democrats to curb their losses.

A Republican majority in the House, even a narrow one, would be able to block Biden's priorities while launching politically damaging investigations into his administration and family.


The Senate was a toss-up, with pivotal battles in Arizona, Georgia and Nevada in play.

The Georgia Senate race could end up in a December 6 run-off, possibly with Senate control at stake. Democrats control the 50-50 Senate with Vice President Kamala Harris able to break any ties.

Thirty-five Senate seats, all 435 House seats and three dozen governors' races were on the ballot. Florida Governor Ron De Santis, a leading contender for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024, added to his growing national profile with a dominant victory over Democratic Representative Charlie Crist, Edison projected.

More than 46 million Americans voted before Election Day, either by mail or in person, according to data from the US Election Project, and state election officials caution that counting the ballots will take time.

High inflation and abortion rights were voters' top concerns, with about three in 10 voters picking one or the other as their top concern, exit polls showed. Crime, a major focus in Republican messaging in the campaign's final weeks, was the top issue for just about one in 10 voters.


Both parties notched victories in competitive districts.

In Virginia's second congressional district, Democratic US Representative Elaine Luria lost to Republican challenger Jennifer Kiggans in a district Biden carried by two points. But in the state's seventh district, which Biden won in 2020 by seven percentage points, Representative Abigail Spanberger held off a Republican challenger.

Officials reported isolated problems across the country, including a paper shortage in a Pennsylvania county. In Maricopa County, Arizona – a key battleground – a judge rejected a Republican request to extend voting hours after some tabulation machines malfunctioned.

The problems stoked evidence-free claims among Republican former president Donald Trump and his supporters that the failures were deliberate.

Scores of Republican candidates have echoed Trump's false claims that his 2020 loss to Biden was due to widespread fraud, raising fears among Democrats that they could interfere with the 2024 presidential race.

In Pennsylvania, Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano, who sought to overturn the state's election results after Trump lost, was defeated by Democrat Josh Shapiro. Democratic governors also fended off strong Republican challenges in Michigan and Wisconsin, two states likely to remain political battlegrounds in the 2024 presidential race.

Trump, who cast his ballot in Florida, has frequently hinted at a third presidential run. He said on Monday that he would make a "big announcement" on November 15.


Voters in Michigan, Vermont and California approved referendums enshrining abortion rights in their state constitutions, a measure that would establish Kentucky's state constitution does not protect abortion was too close to call.

The primary issue weighing on Democrats was stubbornly high annual inflation, which, at 8.2%, stands at the highest in 40 years.

"The economy is terrible. I blame the current administration for that," said Bethany Hadelman, who said she voted for Republican candidates in Alpharetta, Georgia.

A Reuters/Ipsos poll this week found just 39% of Americans approved of the way Biden has done his job. Some Democratic candidates deliberately distanced themselves from the White House as Biden's popularity languished.

Trump's polling is similarly low, with just 41% of respondents to a separate recent Reuters/Ipsos poll saying they viewed him favourably.

In Congress, a Republican-controlled House would be able to thwart Democratic priorities such as abortion rights and climate change, while a Republican Senate would hold sway over Biden's judicial nominations, including any Supreme Court vacancy.

Republicans could also initiate a showdown over the country's debt ceiling, which could shake financial markets.

Republicans will have the power to block aid to Ukraine if they win back control of Congress, but analysts say they are more likely to slow or pare back the flow of defence and economic assistance.