Control of the House was still up in the air on Saturday as vote counting continued days after an election that began with Democrats set to suffer heavy losses as midterm elections have historically favored the party over power. But Democrats held their ground and even made gains in many key contests, leaving many Republicans baffled. By regaining control of the Senate, they dashed GOP hopes of a complete takeover of Capitol Hill.
That’s good news for Biden, who was considering the possibility of humiliating defeats as the election neared. From now on, the Senate, which oversees the confirmation of executive branch staff and federal judges, will stay in its party’s corner. A majority in the Senate will also give the president and his party more leverage in legislative debates over domestic and foreign spending and other major issues.
“I feel great and look forward to the next two years,” Biden told reporters. He called Cortez Masto and Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (DN.Y.) to congratulate them from Cambodia, where he is participating in a summit of Asian nations, according to the White House.
Schumer called the results “vindication” for Democrats and their platform, and said Republicans pushed voters back with extremism and “negativity,” including some candidates’ false insistence that the 2020 election had been stolen. “America has shown that we believe in our democracy,” he told reporters in New York, while praising the quality of Democratic incumbents.
Most National Republicans remained silent on the projected outcome Saturday night, and the Laxalt campaign has yet to publicly acknowledge Cortez Masto’s projected victory.
Still, a few Republicans began to express their displeasure as they faced at least two more years of minority. “The old party is dead. It’s time to bury it. Build something new,” Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) tweeted shortly after the race was called.
Shiree Verdone, a Republican fundraiser, said Saturday night that donors and GOP activists were upset by the election outcome.
“We need to look at what went wrong. There needs to be some sort of study on what happened in this election. said Verdone, who hosted a fundraiser for Laxalt and acknowledged that Democrats know how to get the vote in Nevada with the “Reid machine,” named after late Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid.
Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), who in October predicted as head of the Senate GOP campaign arm that his party would hold 53 to 55 seats, had yet to make a statement Saturday night.
Cortez Masto announced she would give a victory speech on Sunday.
Democrat Cisco Aguilar was also expected to win the race for Nevada Secretary of State, defeating a Republican candidate, Jim Marchant, who sought to monitor the Nevada election while groundlessly denying the 2020 results. Former President Donald Trump has approved Marching in the race.
Democrats were also expected to clinch a House seat in Washington state held by Republican Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler, who was ousted in a Republican primary after voting to impeach Trump over the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol by a pro-Trump Mafia.
In the Nevada Senate race, Cortez Masto’s victory was part of a perfect record so far by incumbent senators seeking re-election midterm, as voters leaned heavily against overthrowing the order. established in the room. It was part of a strong performance by Democrats in battleground areas where Republicans faltered after emphasizing rising prices and concerns about crime in an era of one-party control in Washington.
Republicans started the election needing to win a seat to take control of the Senate. Democrats flipped a seat in Pennsylvania and held on to several other states considered vulnerable, casting themselves as the protectors of abortion rights after the end of Roe vs. Wade and portray GOP rivals as extremists. One of those states was Arizona, where Sen. Mark Kelly (D) was expected to win Friday night against Republican challenger Blake Masters.
In Nevada, Laxalt sought to tie Cortez Masto to Biden while blaming inflation and crime on Democratic policies, pointing to a $1.9 trillion stimulus bill that Cortez Masto helped pass at its peak of the pandemic.
Republicans predicted their economic message would be particularly resonant in a working-class state with one of the highest inflations in the country. But both sides still expected the race to be decided by wafer-thin margins, and Cortez Masto claimed a second term in a state the GOP has long seen as a prime pickup opportunity.
Cortez Masto, who is the first Latina elected to the Senate, has put abortion access at the heart of her campaign, warning that her opponent could help pass a federal abortion ban even as Nevada has guaranteed access to the procedure by popular vote. She also touted Democrats’ efforts to cut costs, including the price of prescription drugs.
Laxalt said he would not support a nationwide abortion ban, although he would support a state referendum to ban abortion after 13 weeks. In the general election, he said little about his role in stoking former President Donald Trump’s false claims of voter fraud, as Democrats attacked him on the issue.
At a press conference earlier Saturday, Clark County registrar Joe Gloria was asked if any campaigns had raised concerns about the counting process. “I have nothing to report there,” he said. Later, Gloria added that he had heard “nothing from any campaign” regarding allegations of fraud.
The Senate was evenly split between the two parties during Biden’s presidency, with Vice President Harris empowered to cast deciding votes. The fight for the majority was at the center of the midterm campaign, with huge sums of money pouring into key states. Inexperienced candidates bred by Trump have made it easier for Democrats in some important races, sometimes stumbling and giving Democrats more room to attack.
In Pennsylvania, Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman (D) defeated famed physician Mehmet Oz, a top Republican candidate backed by the former president. Oz came under scrutiny for its popular TV show, which promoted questionable products; his longtime residence in New Jersey; and examples Democrats used to portray in him as an out-of-touch candidate, including his reference to raw vegetables as “crudite.”
The race in Arizona also featured a Trump-backed newcomer in Masters who Democrats have called an extremist. They seized on comments he made about privatizing Social Security and his support for abortion restrictions, including a 15-week nationwide ban.
Democrats fended off other challenges, thwarting Republican attempts to advance in Colorado, Washington state and New Hampshire. Republicans nominated more moderate candidates in the first two states, but in New Hampshire the GOP nominee was Don Bolduc, a far-right candidate who adopted much of Trump’s platform and claimed wrongly that Trump had won the 2020 election.
Republicans kept control of open seats in North Carolina and Ohio and will send two new senators to those states’ upper house: Representative Ted Budd and author JD Vance, respectively. In Wisconsin, Senator Ron Johnson (R) narrowly won re-election in a contest.
In Georgia, Sen. Raphael G. Warnock (D) edged Republican nominee Herschel Walker, a former football player, slightly. But none of the candidates reached the 50% threshold required to avoid a second round. The two will face off again in a second round next month. Both parties prepared in the purple state.
In Alaska, vote counting continues under a new ranked choice system. Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski, a Trump target, and Kelly Tshibaka, a challenger backed by the former president, were competing in that race.
In total, Democrats were playing Senate defense in 14 states this midterm year — all of which were won by Biden in 2020. Republicans were playing defense in 21 states, including two where Biden won. One was Pennsylvania, so far the only reverse seat.
Schumer praised the quality of the Democratic incumbents and said they won in part because Republicans nominated “flawed” candidates. Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), chairman of the Senate Democrats’ campaign arm, said in a statement that the victories represented a “resounding endorsement by the Democratic majority in the Senate” and “a rejection of extremism adopted by the GOP.”
The losses have sparked discontent among Republicans in the Senate, and at least six of them have pushed for next week’s leadership election to be delayed in a leadership challenge from Senate Minority Leader Mitch. McConnell.
The Senate Leadership Fund, an outside group closely associated with McConnell, R-Ky., has spent more than $230 million this cycle supporting Republicans in races across the country. Without directly criticizing Trump, McConnell lamented ahead of the election that “candidate quality” issues made it harder for Republicans to unseat the Senate than the House.
Since several Trump-backed Senate candidates lost, Trump and his allies have tried to shift the blame to McConnell, blaming him for not spending more in Arizona to support Masters and other decisions.
Azi Paybarah contributed to this report.
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