UPDATE, 11:46 PM PT: After all the rallies, all the ads, all the mudslinging, all the polls and predictions, and all the money, the overall results of the 2022 Midterm elections are up in the air heading towards the midnight hour.
With Senate seats in Arizona, Nevada, Wisconsin, & once again pivotal Georgia too close to call, and GOP hopes of a red wave in at least the House of Representatives dissipating, no one really knows who will hold the balance of power in Congress next year. Even with a December 6 runoff between incumbent Sen Raphael Warnock and Republican challenger Herschel Walker likely, what is sure is that reports of President Joe Biden’s political demise have been greatly exaggerated.
Still, with the economy and abortion rights topping voters’ concerns. the currently 50/50 Senate could go either way at this point.
Hosting a tight gubernatorial race, Arizona also has a taut battle between incumbent Democrat Sen. Mark Kelly and GOPer Blake Masters. Once thought to be low hanging fruit for the Republicans, political princeling Adam Laxalt’s takedown of incumbent Catherine Cortez Masto looks far from a sure thing tonight. Up north in the Badger State, conservative incumbent Sen. Ron Johnson is struggling to fend off Lt, Governor Mandela Barnes in the increasingly blue leaning state.
It may be days before those races are finally called. In the Peach State, Warnock holds a less than 14,000 vote lead over Walker and at this late hour has not broken the 50% barrier required to deny a runoff. Out of that, with a 2024 bid in the wings, the chokehold Donald Trump has on the GOP may be pried away with several of his anointed 2020 election denier candidates failing to close the deal.
“First term presidents always lose a ton of seats,” exclaimed Rachel Maddow late Tuesday on MSNBC as it became clearer that POTUS’ losses Tuesday will be much much less than ever anticipated. In fact, even if Republican leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s prediction comes true, and the GOP win the House it will be a slim majority at best if the trajectory holds. “Let’s get America back on track,” McCarthy told supporters in what was less a victory speech and more an audition for the Speaker job once easily assumed to be his with a bow on.
MSNBC estimates that when the House will be a difference of about three seats in favor of the Republicans in the end. Over on CNN and Fox News, a new round of talking heads came in around 11 PM PT to take viewers into the early morning.
In a race where American democracy was on the line in the eyes of many, it thankful ain’t over until every vote’s counted.
UPDATE #10, 9:42 PM PT: Across news channels, from Fox News to MSNBC, a primary storyline has been the lack of a a red wave for Republicans, albeit there are still a number of races outstanding.
But there had been anticipation that the race for the House and perhaps the Senate would be called by now. Instead, commentators started to focus on who gets the blame for a potential disappointing showing on the right.
“It’s a shift to Republicans so far, but not a wave,” Mark Penn said on Fox News. “I think the House gets a clear rebuke for overspending, inflation and the economy. But I also think that the Senate — particularly the Trump candidates are struggling.”
On CNN, Manu Raju, reporting from House Republican’s election night party in Washington, said that Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy “thought he would be preparing to give a victory speech.” Instead, the stage was empty at 8 PM PT.
“The voters always have the last word, and the voter weren’t listening to narratives or pundits,” said ex-Obama campaign manager David Plouffe on MSNBC on Tuesday night as GOP landslide hopes started to slide away. Having said that, with the exception of Fox News and a sometimes heated discussion about education policy, there were few actual voters on-air tonight amidst the aforementioned pundits and former White House insiders that dominated CNN and MSNBC.
UPDATE #9, 9:10 PM PT: Kathy Hochul was projected to win election to governor of New York, fending off what looked like a closer than expected challenge from Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY).
Hochul ascended to the governorship after the resignation of Andrew Cuomo last year.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D-MI) was projected to win her reelection race against Tudor Dixon, according to Fox News. Whitmer was viewed as vulnerable, particularly in a Republican wave election.
Some networks also projected that Brian Kemp would defeat Stacey Abrams in their rematch for the governorship in Georgia. Abrams had trailed Kemp in polls, unlike the narrow finish in 2018. The New York Times reported that Abrams conceded to Kemp.
In other races, Cheri Beasley was projected to lose her race for the Senate in North Carolina to Ted Budd, missing out on a pickup opportunity for Democrats. But Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH) was projected to win her race for reelection over Don Bolduc.
On MSNBC, commentator Claire McCaskill lamented polls, including a number of Republican surveys, that late last month showed that the GOP was poised for a midterm wipeout.
“This is very, very good, and abortion was on women’s minds in this election,” McCaskill said.
On NBC News, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told anchors Lester Holt and Savannah Guthrie that it was “definitely not a Republican wave” but still predicted that the GOP would hold 51 or 52 Senate seats.
UPDATE #8, 8:01 PM PT: Gavin Newsom was projected to handily win reelection as California’s next governor.
NBC News, the Associated Press and other outlets projected that Newsom would defeat Republican Brian Dahle.
Sen. Alex Padilla (D-CA), appointed by Newsom to fill Kamala Harris’ Senate seat, also was projected to win election.
Newsom and Padilla faced nominal challenges to reelection.
UPDATE #7, 7:59 PM PT: J.D. Vance was projected to win a U.S. Senate seat in Ohio, defeating Democrat Tim Ryan.
Vance, the author of Hillbilly Elegy, depended heavily on the endorsement of Donald Trump to win the primary. Ryan had waged a race that was praised by pundits on both sides of the aisle, but national Democrats put their money elsewhere, seeing the trendlines of the state to the right.
UPDATE #6, 7:12 PM PT: As polls closed in a number of western states, Democrats breathed a sigh of relief as Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) was projected to win reelection to the Senate in Colorado.
Republicans had hopes that Joe O’Dea could pull an upset in a red wave.
Polls closed in Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Utah at 7 PM PT.
In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott led Democrat Beto O’Rourke, who was seeking to pull a surprise upset.
On Fox News, Karl Rove said there “ain’t very much good news” for Democrats in the results, but commentator Mo Elleithee talked of the party so far doing better than expected. He cited the victory of Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA) in her reelection race in Virginia.
On MSNBC, Steve Kornacki outlined how Democrats actually may hold the House, considered highly unlikely earlier in the evening. He said that California seats could help offset Republican gains elsewhere.
One of the closely watched races was in Colorado, where Democrat Adam Frisch was running ahead of Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO), known for her far right views.
UPDATE #5, 6:17 PM PT: A number of major midterm races across the nation are still in play, but the polls have just shut the doors in a batch of major states and a couple of high profile wins are now on the board.
Polls in New York, Texas, Michigan, Arizona, New Mexico, Iowa, Louisiana, Wyoming, South Dakota, North Dakota, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Colorado, Kansas, and Minnesota all closed at 9 PM ET/6 PM PT.
Within seconds, almost every outlet called a successful and unsurprising Empire State reelection for Democrat and current Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Soon afterwards, former Donald Trump White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders won her bid for her father’s old job as the GOP Governor of Arkansas.
Over in Maryland, Democrat Wes Moore, author and TV producer, handily won election as governor over Republican Dan Cox. Moore hosted a show for the Oprah Winfrey Network. Moore also is the state’s first Black governor. Winfrey endorsed and campaigned for Moore, unlike protege Mehmet Oz, running for Senate in Pennsylvania. In that race, Winfrey endorsed his opponent, John Fetterman.
A big contrast to Moore’s victory was that of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who in his victory speech said, “We have not only won reelection. We have rewritten the political map,” DeSantis said. As he often does, the potential 2024 POTUS candidate railed against what he called the “woke” agenda, telling his “two more years” chanting supporters, “We will never surrender to the woke mob.”
A simmering storyline was taking place in Arizona, where a judge rejected Republican efforts to keep polls open. Fox News’ Laura Ingraham complained about “voting irregularities” in the state that included “difficulty counting votes.”
“We’re going to keep going through this every two years,” she said, unless the GOP took control of Congress and fixed it.
In traditionally Blue New York Democrats are shuddering as Gov. Kathy Hochul is facing a serious competitive challenge from Republican and MAGA-card holder Lee Zeldin. Perpetual candidate Beto O’Rourke looks to lose to third-term seeking GOP Gov. Greg Abbott in the Lone Star State, while the Great Lake State’s incumbent and rising star Gov. Gretchen Whitmer will likely defeat the GOP’s Tudor Dixon. Big stakes in the Grand Canyon State as ex-news anchor and Democrat Keri Lake has gone full GOP Big Lie MAGA in her battle against Arizona’s Secretary of State Katie Hobbs for governor. Also, in John McCain’s old stompin’ ground, incumbent and ex-astronaut Mark Kelly is in a tight bid with Republican Blake Masters.
As in-person votes are counted, mail-in ballots will be tallied in various manners depending on each state’s rules. Some will be put in their respective column rather quickly, others may take late into the night, even tomorrow or later in the week before the true totals are known or sadly accepted.
With all that, among the millions of Americans watching tonight for results from the cable newsers and others, the man in the White House Joe Biden and his predecessor and likely 2024 rival Trump have their respective eye on the lay of the land for that next campaign.
— Tom Tapp contributed to this story.
UPDATE #4, 5:15 PM PT: Ron DeSantis was projected to win reelection as governor of Florida.
DeSantis defated Rep. Charlie Crist (D-FL), the state’s former governor who switched from Republican to independent to Democrat.
Networks also projected that Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) would win reelection over Rep. Val Demings (D-FL), who initially was viewed was a key candidate to flip a seat this year.
But Florida has trended to Republicans in recent years, and DeSantis is viewed as perhaps the leading prospect to take on Donald Trump for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024.
Although DeSantis turned in a lackluster debate performance against Crist, he has remained a popular if still polarizing governor, as he has adopted Trump’s brash tactics, like attacks on the media and the so-called liberal elite. He championed an effort to strip The Walt Disney Co. of its special district status at its Florida theme park operations after the company weighed in opposition to state legislation that came to be known as the “don’t say gay” bill.
UPDATE #3, 5:01 PM PT: Polls have now closed in Pennsylvania, Texas, Maryland, Massachusetts and 15 other states.
The highest profile race in those states is in Pennsylvania, where Republican Mehmet Oz is seeking a Senate seat against Democrat John Fetterman.
UPDATE #2, 4:31 PM PT: Polls have now closed in North Carolina, Ohio and West Virginia.
Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH) is seeking to flip to seat against Republican J.D. Vance, and perhaps defy the GOP-trending state. The race remained too early to call, but networks quickly projected that Republican Governor Mike DeWine would win reelection.
In North Carolina, Rep. Ted Budd (R-NC) was facing Democrat Cheri Beasley in a race that didn’t draw as much national media attention, but polls showed it was close.
UPDATE #1, 4:02 PM PT: Polls have now closed in Florida, Georgia, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Vermont and Virginia, which should unleash a wave of initial results and perhaps an indication of Republican and Democratic prospects.
The closest watch race among the states is between Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) and Republican Herschel Walker in Georgia, although there is the possibility that the race will end up in a Dec. 6 runoff if no candidate obtains a majority. Democrat Stacey Abrams is in a rematch with Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, who has led in the polls.
In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis is favored to win reelection against Rep. Charlie Crist (D-FL), the state’s former governor. Rep. Val Demings (D-FL) was hoping to unseat Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), although polls have shown Rubio ahead.
PREVIOUSLY, 2:15 PM PT: Months of punditry, analysis and polling will give way tonight to actual midterm results, as Republicans seek to regain control of the House and the Senate, Democratic gubernatorial candidates seek to defeat Donald Trump-endorsed election deniers and Los Angeles decides a hotly contested mayor’s race.
Inflation and abortion were nearly tied among the issues voters cited as the most important to their vote, according to initial exit poll data provided to news outlets from Edison Research/NEP.
Broadcast and cable networks see this is perhaps the most important night of the year, hoping to win back audiences that tuned out once Trump exited the White House.
The former president and former Celebrity Apprentice host is not on the ballot but will be a presence in coverage. In an interview with NewsNation set to run this evening, Trump was asked about about all the candidates he endorsed this cycle. He said, with a bit of a smirk, “Well, I think if they win I should get all the credit, and if they lose, I should not be blamed at all.”
The focus on 2024 has already started, with Trump, reportedly expected to soon announce another presidential bid, told NewsNation that he thought Florida governor Ron DeSantis “could have been more gracious” after he endorsed him for his statewide race back in 2018. DeSantis, who has been leading in the polls for his own reelection, is viewed as perhaps Trump’s strongest challenger for the GOP nomination if he ultimately decides to run. Last weekend, Trump even referred to DeSantis as “Ron DeSanctimonious.”
Networks spent much of the day attuned to any reports of troubles at the polls, as well as concerns of election violence. Those concerns increased following the attack on Paul Pelosi, the husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, last month.
Democrats, led by President Joe Biden, also have been warning that no less than democracy is at stake in the midterm races, as a number of 2020 election deniers are on statewide ballots, potentially giving them some authority over the vote count in the next presidential election.
Given what happened in the last election cycle, with Trump advancing false claims that the presidency was stolen from him, there also will be scrutiny of the way that networks call election results. Arnon Mishkin, who is again leading the Fox News Decision Desk, explained the process to anchor Martha MacCallum while offering his latest assessment.
“My gut has been sort of leaning in in the red direction,” Mishkin said. “On the other hand, there are a couple of sort of last minute stuff signs you see that say not so fast. Some of these numbers are a little there’s a little more strength to the Democrats than we thought. And so I’m somewhere in the range between it could be a very good night for the Republicans to a surprising night, at least in some ways for the Democrats.”
All 435 House seats and 35 U.S. Senate seats are on the ballot, with Democrats holding the a slim majority in the former and a one vote edge in the latter, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting tie-breaking votes.
Perhaps the most closely watched Senate race is in Pennsylvania, where the state’s Democratic lieutenant governor John Fetterman is facing Republican celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz. Fetterman’s campaign was hoping for a boost from a late endorsement from Oprah Winfrey, who was largely responsible for giving Oz his career break, while Oz has capitalized on his support from mainstream Republicans and from Trump. Their race is far and away the most expensive of all, with almost $374 million spent, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
In Georgia, Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) is facing a tough challenge from another celebrity candidate, former football pro Herschel Walker. That race has been dominated by headlines about Walker, avidly anti-abortion, having allegedly paid for a girlfriend to abort her pregnancy. He denies the claim. The story also appears not to have sunk his campaign, as polls still show the race tight. About $271 million has been spent between the candidates, according to CRP.
Warnock wrote on Twitter this afternoon, “C’mon folks, I can’t have Herschel Walker representing my mama.”
Other Senate races that have also drawn extensive interest — and money — from entertainment industry donors include the contest in Arizona, where Sen. Mark Kelly (D-AZ) is facing off against Trump-endorsed Blake Masters; Wisconsin, where Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes is trying to unseat Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI); and Ohio, where Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH) is vying for an open seat against author J.D. Vance.
All told, entertainment industry donors have donated $36.4 million to federal candidates, surpassing the amount shelled out in the 2018 midterms, when Democrats, fueled by anti-Trump fervor, were seeking to win back the House, which they did.
Also on the ballot are 36 gubernatorial races, including in New York, where the state’s governor, Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, is seeking election to a first term against Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY). Hochul, who ascended to the governorship after Andrew Cuomo’s resignation last year, looked to be on a clear path to victory, but polls show the race having tightened substantially this fall, with Zeldin, like many Republicans, hammering her on issues like crime.
Former White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders is expected to win her race for Arkansas governor against Democrat Chris Jones. Sanders would take the office once occupied by her father, Mike Huckabee, and she also would be the first former press secretary to ascend to a statewide office since Pierre Salinger was appointed a U.S. senator from California in 1964.
California’s gubernatorial race has been a non-event, with polls showing Gavin Newsom with a wide lead over Brian Dahle.
The race drawing the most attention is that for Los Angeles mayor, as Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA), with the backing of Biden and former President Barack Obama, as well as a long list of Democratic leaders, faces a close race against real estate developer Rick Caruso, who has reportedly been on track to surpass $100 million in campaign spending. Their race has split the entertainment community, with Jeffrey Katzenberg helping to bankroll an independent committee supporting Bass, and Netflix’s Ted Sarandos taking out an open letter ad in The Hollywood Reporter to explain his backing for Caruso.
Another race drawing extensive attention from the industry is that for Los Angeles sheriff, as controversial incumbent Alex Villanueva faces Robert Luna.
Not to be forgotten is the race for mayor of Ojai, where Anson Williams, the director and producer and former Happy Days star, is seeking to unseat incumbent Betsy Stix.