The battle for control of Congress – both the House and the Senate – is coming down to a dwindling number of key races, with Democrats dashing Republicans’ hopes for a red wave and both parties hanging onto hopes of winning narrow majorities.
Republicans began the night with a rout in Florida, where Gov. Ron DeSantis won heavily Latino, historically Democratic regions on his way to a blowout victory that could serve as a launch pad for a 2024 presidential run.
But in the hours that have followed, Democrats have fought back. In Pennsylvania, Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman defeated Republican Mehmet Oz for the seat of retiring Republican Sen. Pat Toomey.
Meanwhile, the battle for the House majority – one that favored Republicans, who expected to benefit from high inflation, historical trends and friendly new district lines after 2021’s redistricting – remains unsettled.
Here are some key takeaways as votes continue to be counted in key races:
Democrats go a long way to protecting their Senate majority: Republicans were not shy about the importance of Pennsylvania’s Senate race: “This is a must-win race. We believe if we win Pennsylvania, we win the majority,” said Steven Law, president of the preeminent Republican Senate super PAC. Early on Wednesday morning, CNN projected that Fetterman would be the next senator from Pennsylvania, defeating Oz in the most expensive and high stakes Senate campaign in the country. Fetterman’s win was a thunderclap for Democrats.
Democrats and the suburbs: Suburban areas across the country went a long way to helping Democrats avoid a significant red wave. Republicans may still win the House, but if the 2022 election was going to be a red wave, it was likely to come through suburban victories that have not materialized yet. Republicans did score some suburban victories – CNN projected Brandon Ogles the winner in a district around Nashville, Tom Kean Jr. winning in a suburban New Jersey district and Rich McCormick the victor in a district that included Atlanta’s northern suburbs – but it was their defeats that spoke volumes about the size of the GOP wave.
Virginia’s split decision offers early signals: Three Democratic-controlled House races in Virginia were widely viewed as an early warning signal of the night’s results. Democrats held seats in two Virginia districts Biden won in 2020. CNN projected that Democratic Jennifer Wexton won her reelection bid in Virginia’s 10th District. In an even more competitive race, CNN projected Rep. Abigail Spanberger also won reelection in Virginia’s 7th District. But Democrats lost in southeastern Virginia, with CNN projecting that Republican state Sen. Jen Kiggans defeated Democratic Rep. Elaine Luria.
Another Jan. 6 committee member loses: Luria, a member of the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, lost her Virginia Beach-based House seat, CNN projected. She had defeated former GOP Rep. Scott Taylor in 2018 and 2020. But the district had become slightly more favorable ground for Republicans in redistricting: Biden carried the previous version by 5 points, and would have lost the new district by 2 points.
DeSantis and 2024: Gov. Ron DeSantis led a dominant Republican ticket in Florida – delivering historic margins in Democratic territory in his victory over Democratic Rep. Charlie Crist on a night that provides him a powerful argument if he seeks the GOP’s 2024 presidential nomination. The easy wins by DeSantis, who led by nearly 20 percentage points with 92% of the estimated vote counted, and Sen. Marco Rubio, who was 17 points up, were enough to cast doubt on Florida’s status as a national bellwether.
GOP makes gains with Latinos in Florida: Republicans hoped to build on Trump’s inroads among Latino voters in 2020, a trend that could reshape the political landscapes in several swing states if it continues. The strongest early signal that the GOP had continued to make gains came in Miami-Dade County, home to a large Cuban population. But it’ll take a while to fully gauge whether those GOP gains take place outside of Florida.
Win for abortion rights: In Michigan, Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer – who staked her reelection campaign on her successful efforts to block the enforcement of the state’s 1931 law banning abortion in almost all instances – defeated Republican challenger Tudor Dixon, who had waged a campaign focused on cultural battles. Michigan voters also approved a Whitmer-backed amendment to the state’s constitution that will scrap that 1931 law and guarantee abortion rights. Voters in California and Vermont also green-lit constitutional amendments enshrining abortion rights.
A night of firsts: Up and down the ballot, in red states and blue, candidates from both parties are celebrating pathbreaking victories. Read about some of them here.