The Hill’s Morning Report — Majorities too close to call as Democrats stave off red wave

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House, Senate majorities too close to call

You are reading: The Hill’s Morning Report — Majorities too close to call as Democrats stave off red wave

House and Senate control in the new year remain uncertain this morning as voters’ ballots continue to be counted and key midterm contests remain remarkably close.

Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman flipped a seat and defeated Republican challenger Mehmet Oz in a roller coaster Senate contest considered crucial for Democrats (The Hill). 

Republicans are celebrating Senate victories in North Carolina with candidate Ted Budd and in Ohio with J.D. Vance, holding on to GOP seats in both open races, while Democratic incumbents beat back challengers in Washington, New Hampshire and Colorado to return to the nation’s capital.

The Boston Globe: New Hampshire Sen. Maggie Hassan (D) defeats conservative election denier Don Bolduc.

The Associated Press: Sen. Mark Kelly (D) takes an early lead in battleground Arizona.

Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock (D) and Republican challenger Herschel Walker this morning are grappling in a tight race in the state that determined partisan control of the Senate nearly two years ago and could do so again. If neither can win the contest outright, they would head to a Dec. 6 runoff. “We’re not sure if this journey is over tonight or if there’s still a little work yet to do, Warnock told supporters in an Atlanta hotel ballroom just before 2 a.m.

In Wisconsin, incumbent Republican Sen. Ron Johnson leads challenger Mandela Barnes (D) this morning with 94 percent of the votes counted (The New York Times).

House and Senate projections and results called by The Associated Press are HERE.

Amid voters’ anxieties about inflation and the Supreme Court’s abortion ruling, the narrow results hand each nervous party some terrain on which to claim victory. Among Tuesday’s surprises was the durability of some vulnerable incumbents in both parties and the absence of a decisive “red wave” that had been predicted by some analysts based on election history and this year’s evident GOP voter enthusiasm.

President Biden could face a divided government and a loss of power that would shift his policy agenda and perhaps amend his political future. He will be 80 in 11 days and says he will soon decide whether to seek reelection. Two-thirds of voters surveyed in an NBC News exit poll said they do not want Biden to run again.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who is in line to be Speaker if his party takes control, huddled with Republicans after midnight in a Virginia restaurant and vowed to win the majority as he addressed a crowd. “We are expanding this party,” he said, while ticking off a list of the House seats captured by Republicans. “The American people are ready for a majority that will offer a new direction that will put America back on track.”

A few hours later, McCarthy told the sleepless assembly, “It is clear we are going to take the House back,” pointing to what he called historic gains in New York as well as wins in Iowa and Florida, now a solidly Republican state. “When we wake up tomorrow, we will be in the majority and Nancy Pelosi will be in the minority,” he said of the House Speaker from California who this week hinted she may retire.

In 2018, Republicans lost 40 House seats when former President Trump was in office and gained two Senate seats. Former President Obama used the word “shellacking” in 2010 to describe Democrats’ loss of 63 House seats and six Senate seats on his watch. Former President Clinton was forced to alter his agenda in 1994 after 54 Democrats in the House and eight in the Senate were defeated and a divided government resulted.

“Hat’s off to the Democrats,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said late Tuesday during an interview with NBC News. “It’s not a wave for sure.

The Hill’s Niall Stanage has five early takeaways from midterm results. 

Politico: The red wave that wasn’t: Five takeaways from a disappointing night for the GOP.

The Washington Post: Democrats show strength, leaving the fight for control of Congress unresolved.

The Hill: Democrats feel something unfamiliar: hope

Politico: White House staff changes are coming. Will chief of staff Ron Klain be part of them?

In Virginia House races considered bellwethers on Tuesday, Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D) narrowly won her third congressional race as a moderate, this time in redrawn District 7 after campaigning with endorsements from GOP surrogates. She defeated Republican Yesli Vega (The Hill). In Virginia’s District 10, Democratic Rep. Jennifer Wexton fended off a challenge from Republican Hung Cao (The Hill). 

NBC4: Incumbent Virginia Democrats Spanberger, Wexton win third terms in House Districts 7, 10.

As hopes for a sweeping red wave faded, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) emerged as a clear winner among Republicans on Tuesday night, fueling talk of a 2024 presidential bid with his landslide reelection victory over Democratic challenger Charlie Crist, writes The Hill’s Brett Samuels. His double-digit victory fueled a possible 2024 bid, as the governor emerged as a preferred alternative to former President Trump among parts of the conservative base.

But the GOP’s early win in a key governor’s race didn’t stop Democrats from holding on to a number of governorships in states that pollsters had just days before predicted to be tough contests. 

In Pennsylvania, Democrat Josh Shapiro defeated Republican Doug Mastriano,who was central to efforts to overturn Pennsylvania’s 2020 election results. The race, which Shapiro finished with a comfortable two-digit lead, was characterized by the candidates’ views on abortion, and allegations of antisemitism after Mastriano attacked Shapiro, who is Jewish, for attending and sending his children to what he called a “privileged, exclusive, elite” school that evidenced Shapiro’s “disdain for people like us” (The New York Times).

Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer won re-election in Michigan, defeating Republican challenger Tudor Dixon and securing Democratic leadership in the critical swing state (NBC News). In Wisconsin, Democratic Gov. Tony Evers was also reelected, securing a second term as he defeated challenger Tim Michels (The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel).

Republicans maintain control of the governor’s mansions in Texas, where Gov. Greg Abbott defeated challenger Beto O’Rourke, and Georgia, where Gov. Brian Kemp again secured victory over Democrat Stacey Abrams in a repeat of the 2018 elections (The Wall Street Journal and The Hill). 

Despite warnings about possible violence at polling places, recounts and lost ballots, Tuesday proved a fairly calm election night. While a handful of state election websites were hit with low-level cyberattacks (The Hill), and voting machine problems in Arizona fueled right-wing fraud claims (The New York Times), Americans voted without major problems in elections that drew intense scrutiny after two years of false claims and conspiracy theories about how ballots are cast and counted (The Associated Press).

FIRSTS & PATHBREAKERS

Tuesday marked a series of firsts in races across the country, as candidates broke barriers of race, age and sexual orientation. 

In Maryland, Democrat Wes Moore became the state’s first Black governor, and only the third Black governor to be elected nationally (NPR). Republican Sarah Huckabee Sanders is the first woman to be elected governor in Arkansas, and she will follow in the footsteps of her father, former Republican Gov. Mike Huckabee (NPR). Massachusetts elected its first female governor, Democrat Maura Healey, who is also the first openly lesbian governor in the country (The Hill).

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“Tonight, to all of you out there and with the help of so many, we made history,” Healey told supporters at an election night celebration in Boston (The Boston Globe). “Tonight I want to say something to every little girl and every young LGBTQ person out there: I hope tonight shows you that you can be whatever — whoever — you want to be. I stand before you tonight proud to be the first woman and the first gay person ever elected governor [in Massachusetts].”

Vermont will send its first woman to Congress in January with Democrat Becca Balint’s election in the Green Mountain State, becoming the last state to do so (The New Republic and The 19th). And in Florida, Democrat Maxwell Frost won his race at just 25 years old, making him the first member of Gen Z to head to Congress (The Hill).

New Hampshire will send the nation’s first openly transgender man to the state legislature after Democrat James Roesener won his election (The Hill). 

The Hill: Ten candidates that made history Tuesday night.

CNN: Meet the history-makers of the 2022 midterm elections.


Related Articles

The Washington Post: Election deniers score big wins, but also suffer significant setbacks.

The Associated Press: Democrats beat Trump-backed GOP candidates in liberal states.

The Hill: Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R), who drew Trump’s ire, wins reelection, according to AP’s projection. 

The Hill: Trump warned DeSantis against a 2024 White House bid during a Monday interview with Fox News, saying it wouldn’t be “good” for the GOP. “If he runs, he runs,” he added. The former president may launch his third bid for the White House on Tuesday at his Florida estate.

The Hill: After his reelection victory, DeSantis touted Florida’s “rewritten,” gerrymandered political map as supporters chanted “two more years.” 

The Hill: During the same Fox News interview Monday, Trump vowed, if elected president in 2024, to force Republicans to replace Sen. Mitch McConnell (Ky.) as their Senate leader. Florida Sen. Rick Scott is the “likely candidate” for the job, Trump asserted.


LEADING THE DAY

VOTERS’ VIEWS

Exit polls showed that voters on Tuesday are discouraged about the state of America and its future, but also worried about key issues such as abortion and inflation (The Hill). The Associated Press VoteCast exit poll indicated high inflation and concerns about the fragility of democratic institutions weighing heavily on voters. Meanwhile the NBC News Exit Poll saw Americans focused on inflation and abortion, key issues for Republicans and Democrats, respectively.

The NBC exit poll found that voters mostly disapprove of Biden’s job performance and a plurality said they think his policies are hurting the country. A majority of voters also said they are dissatisfied or angry about the way the country is going.

The Edison Research exit poll, used by other television networks, suggested that this midterm electorate skewed older than voters in 2018, with about one-tenth of voters in this election under age 30, while roughly one-third were age 65 or older (CNN).

Americans around the country regardless of party appeared to agree that voting matters. 

“I want to do everything I can to use my voice to create the kind of democracy that deserves to exist,” Cheryl Arnold, a voter in Haymarket, Va., told The New York Times.

ProPublica: How Tennessee disenfranchised 21 percent of its Black citizens.

Across the country, ballot measures offered an unfiltered glimpse into voters’ stances on some of the most pressing and polarizing issues, including voting rights and gun restrictions (The New York Times).

Voters made the importance of abortion clear in ballot measures in multiple states (The New York Times). Vermont became the first state to enshrine abortion rights in the state constitution, with a decisive 72 percent of voters supporting the measure (The Vermont Digger). California followed suit hours later, similarly passing a proposition to codify abortion rights in the state (NBC LA). In Michigan, voters supported a state constitutional right to reproductive freedom, including decisions “about all matters relating to pregnancy,” such as abortion and contraception (WXYZ). 

In Montana and Kentucky, voters turned out against amendments that would have stated there is no right to abortion in their states’ constitutions (WCPO and The Hill).

Maryland and Missouri, meanwhile, both voted to legalize recreational marijuana (The Hill and The St. Louis Post-Dispatch).

CONGRESS:

The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol attack is set to dissolve this year, but if there is a GOP takeover of the House, it leaves a near zero chance it will be revived, reports The Hill’s Rebecca Beitsch.  

The Hill’s Colin Meyn explains what the midterms could mean for the U.S. role in the Ukraine war. 

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) increased pressure on the Federal Reserve over recent ethics lapses, sending a new letter to Chairman Jerome Powell after two more incidents that she called “egregious and embarrassing” (Bloomberg News).

“The revelations underscore my long-held concerns that Fed officials could be seen as profiting from their positions by leveraging sensitive information, and that they are overly cozy with the Wall Street banks they oversee,” Warren wrote in the letter. “These conflicts of interest erode the Fed’s integrity and make a mockery of its vaunted independence.”

CNBC: Debt ceiling showdown could be the first battle for the new Congress and the White House.

ABC News: What to expect if Republicans take the House in the midterms: Investigations, possible impeachments.


IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

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INTERNATIONAL   

Ukraine says it is open to talks with Russia to end the war, but on Ukraine’s terms. It wants Russia to withdraw its troops, return territory and pay damages, President Volodymyr Zelensky said late Monday as the United States, which has joined with other nations to hold Russia responsible for war crimes, presses Kyiv to keep the door open to peace negotiations with Moscow. Zelensky, who is dubious the Kremlin would honor commitments to peace with its democratic neighbor, shifted his rhetorical emphasis from a harder line he took this summer in pursuit of military victory (The New York Times).

Zelensky on Tuesday condemned the Russia invasion for exacerbating the “catastrophic” effects of climate change (The Hill).

Bloomberg News: U.S. and Russia to resume nuclear talks as the war in Ukraine rages on.

“There are still many for whom climate change is just rhetoric or marketing or political ritual,” Zelensky said in a video address to COP27, the United Nations climate change conference.“They are the ones who start wars of aggression when the planet cannot afford a single gunshot because it needs global joint actions.”

Zelensky slammed Russia for creating a situation in which dozens of countries have had to resume coal-fired power generation to reduce energy prices, and blamed the war for triggering “an acute food crisis” that has stricken countries that were already enduring “the existing manifestations of climate change, catastrophic drought, large-scale floods.” 

Kyiv denied on Tuesday that it was under Western pressure to negotiate with Moscow, again insisting that talks could be held only if Russia relinquishes all occupied territory (Reuters).

North Korea denied American claims that it is shipping artillery shells and ammunition to Russia for use in its war against Ukraine, accusing the U.S. of lying on Tuesday. The denial follows dozens of weapons tests, including short-range missiles that are likely nuclear-capable and an intercontinental ballistic missile that could target the U.S. mainland. North Korea said it was testing the missiles and artillery so it could “mercilessly” strike key South Korean and U.S. targets (The Hill).


OPINION

■  The DeSantis Florida tsunami, by The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board. https://on.wsj.com/3hhK11y 

■  Spanberger again shows how to win as a centrist Democrat, by Jennifer Rubin, columnist, The Washington Post. https://wapo.st/3WMgOw5


WHERE AND WHEN

👉 YOU’RE INVITED: Share a news query tied to an expert journalist’s insights: The Hill has launched something new and (we hope) engaging via text with Editor-in-Chief Bob Cusack. Learn more and sign up HERE

The House meets at noon on Thursday for a pro forma session. Members are scheduled to return to the Capitol on Nov. 14. ​​

The Senate convenes on Thursday at 3 p.m. for a pro forma session. Senators make their way back to Washington on Nov. 14. 

The president will receive thePresident’s Daily Brief at 11:45 a.m. Biden is expected to speak about the results of the midterm elections and take questions at the White House.


ELSEWHERE

PANDEMIC & HEALTH 

Cancer researchers think they have found an explanation for why some cancer drugs don’t always work, The Washington Post reports. The answer could lie in the gut microbiome, which consists of trillions of bacteria and other microbes. Scientists running a clinical trial at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Care Center in Houston theorize that a person’s gut microbiome may influence whether a cutting-edge cancer treatment called immunotherapy is successful in some patients. 

They found that patients with specific gut bacteria respond better to immunotherapy than those who lack them and suggest that prescribing a fiber-rich diet of fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts and whole grains might improve the odds of the treatment being effective.

“My patients who are starting treatment often ask if there’s something else they could be doing to enhance their chances of responding to immunotherapy,” Jennifer McQuade, an assistant professor and physician scientist in melanoma medical oncology told the Post. “We’re trying to test this diet with the same rigor that we use to test drugs.”

SF Gate: Why this could be a nasty flu season.

DCist: D.C. region sees early surge in flu cases, worrying some experts about the winter ahead.

Today: Pediatric ER doctor gives glimpse into front lines of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) surge: “No space anywhere.”

Information about COVID-19 vaccine and booster shot availability can be found at Vaccines.gov.

Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported as of this morning, according to Johns Hopkins University (trackers all vary slightly): 1,072,943. Current U.S. COVID-19 deaths are 2,504 for the week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (The CDC shifted its tally of available data from daily to weekly, now reported on Fridays.)


THE CLOSER

And finally … 🌳 In Dr. Seuss’ famous children’s book, the Lorax speaks for the trees. But on Earth, the public is fascinated by the wood-wide web — a wispy network of fungal filaments scientists think may exist to shuttle nutrients and information through the soil and to help forests thrive. In other words, there’s a chance the trees are talking to one another. 

The theory stems from the late 1990s, when studies showed that sugars and nutrients can flow underground between trees. And in some forests, researchers traced fungi connecting the roots of different trees, challenging the conventional view of forests as merely a population of trees. Rather, trees and fungi work together on the ecological stage.

But does that mean the trees and fungi are actually talking, like some research — which is often referenced in books and TV shows — suggests? On this question, scientists are split (The New York Times).


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