Key takeaways so far:
- We’re still some way off the final results, but Democrats are performing better than expected and a widely-predicted Republican resurgence has not materialised.
- Just who will control both the House and the Senate is not yet known and will come down to a small number of races, with both parties clinging to the hope of winning small majorities.
- Ron DeSantis scored a major victory for Republicans in Florida, setting the stage for an expected 2024 presidential run and a potentially messy battle with Donald Trump.
- Democrat John Fetterman flipped a Pennsylvania Senate seat, defeating Dr. Mehmet Oz, who had been endorsed by Trump.
- Republican JD Vance, author of Hillbilly Elegy, defeated Tim Ryan, dashing Democratic hopes of adding to their majority.
- Democrat Wes Moore has become Maryland’s first black governor.
- Marjorie Taylor Greene, the QAnon-supporting conspiracy theorist who said “under Republicans, not another penny will go to Ukraine” has been reelected with 66% of votes.
- The result of a key race in Nevada that could decide who controls the Senate will not be known for several days, officials have said.
- Results so far do not bode well for Trump, who is expected to announce another run for president in 2024. He had hoped to ride a wave of winning endorsements in the midterm elections but many of the horses he backed have already been beaten.
Does it look like Republicans are currently out in front?
In the race for the House this is true, but there’s a phenomenon at play that we saw during the 2020 presidential election – smaller jurisdictions that can quickly count and file results tend to be Republican, while larger jurisdictions where mail-in absentee ballots that take longer to count are more prevalent tend to lean towards the Democrats.
Therefore, just as in 2020, it’s likely there will be a surge in Democratic votes the closer we get to the final result, so any apparent Republican lead now could very well be chipped away in coming days.
Is this bad for the Democrats?
One thing to bear in mind is that historically, the party in power almost always performs badly in midterms – it’s far easier to criticise and express dissatisfaction with the people in the White House delivering on policies (or not as the case may be), than the people in opposition who are free to make grand promises and statements without the pressure of actually following through with them. This sentiment inevitably manifests itself at the ballot box.
Why were the Democrats expected to perform badly?
High inflation is a major economic concern to Americans as the price of essentials such as food and fuel surged throughout 2022 and, as we all know, the buck stops with the president.
And as ever, any election is to some degree just a popularity contest, and Joe Biden has struggled to win over voters on a personal level with his approval rating falling from a high of around 59 percent (with 39 percent disapproving) in March 2021, to just 39 percent (with 57 percent disapproving) on Nov. 7 of this year.
What explains their apparent success?
According to an AP poll, there are a number of issues influencing people’s voting choices. As mentioned above, inflation is a major concern, but only a slight majority blame Biden’s policies, with many instead recognizing that global factors such as Russia’s reinvasion of Ukraine have also played a significant part.
Democrats have also been helped by the rhetoric from the more extreme elements within the Republican Party and on the campaign trail, Biden repeatedly stressed that the MAGA wing of the GOP, still fanned by rallies and statements from Donald Trump and still casting doubt on the results of the 2020 presidential election, posed a direct threat to democracy. A significant 44 percent of voters told AP that the future of democracy was the main concern influencing their midterm voting decision.
Another major factor has been the U.S. Supreme Court’s hugely controversial and unpopular decision earlier this year to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that enshrined the right to abortion. The issue has been a central feature in the campaigns of Democrats.
What does this mean for Ukraine?
As Kyiv Post reported yesterday, fears that Republicans could take control of both the Senate and the House and cut off aid to Ukraine have been overstated but even so, the better-than-expected performance of Democrats is certainly good news.
If Democrats can retain control of the House then they can pass spending resolutions more easily and keep up the supply of weapons and aid that Ukraine so badly needs to fight back against Russia’s reinvasion of the country without the possibility of Republicans challenging or watering them down.