WASHINGTON ( Associated Press) – After months of primary elections, campaign rallies and fundraising, the midterm elections in the United States finally approach Tuesday, where control of Congress and several state governments will be decided.
Republicans are predicting overwhelming victories, while anxious Democrats will try to defend their slim majority in Congress amid widespread discontent over the economy, crime and the leadership of President Joe Biden. Democrats are hoping that the popular backlash against the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down abortion rights will save them.
The current political climate has left the contest unusually open, and incumbent Republicans are now trying to make inroads in Democratic bastions such as New York, California, New Mexico and Washington state. Still, the most compelling contests are in Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, which could help decide the 2024 presidential election.
Due to the closeness of many races and the long vote count, it may take days or weeks for the final results to be known.
Here’s what to watch on Election Day:
A Republican Wave?
Everything points to Republicans scoring important victories on Tuesday. But whether it will be a wave or a tsunami, it remains to be seen.
A majority of voters are pessimistic about the direction the country is headed amid high inflation and severe political polarization. And the historical tendency is for voters to take it out on the party in power.
For more than a century, the party that holds the White House has almost always lost the first legislative election, with the exception of 1934 during the Great Depression; during an attempt to impeach President Bill Clinton in 1998; and after the September 11 terrorist attacks in 2002.
Democrats at one point hoped the abortion decision would reverse the historical trend – or at least limit their defeat – but their leaders have expressed more concern in recent days.
Officials in both parties forecast that Republicans would take control of the House of Representatives, needing only a net gain of five seats. But if a Republican surge occurs, the party could take as high as 25 or more. Sensing an opportunity, Republican groups have poured millions of dollars into Democratic-leaning districts in California, New York, Illinois and Pennsylvania.
The Senate race is even tighter. Republicans need to win just one seat to control that chamber.
Democrats are struggling to hold onto Arizona, Georgia, Nevada and New Hampshire, and Republicans believe they can win Colorado and Washington state as well.
The Republican odds have been capped slightly by some flawed candidates in Arizona, Georgia and New Hampshire who have been endorsed by former President Donald Trump.
Pennsylvania is the best chance for Democrats to snatch a seat from Republicans, while the race for Republican seats in North Carolina and Wisconsin is close.
Also, elections this time for local positions such as governors or secretaries of state have taken on unusual significance. In the current political climate, Republicans are confident of winning governorships in traditionally Democratic states like Oregon and New Mexico. If the Republican wave lasts, Democrats everywhere could be in trouble.
After the US Supreme Court dismissed Roe v. Upon Wade’s 1973 bill decriminalizing abortion, Republicans—including Trump—said that popular discontent would hurt their party in the elections. And signs have emerged that many voters — suburban women and youth, in particular — were inspired by that decision and have vowed to vote Democratic.
But even after more than four months have passed since the court’s decision, its political impact seems to be waning.
In recent weeks, Democratic candidates have dropped the abortion argument and focused more on the need to protect the economy and benefits. And some elected officials, including Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent, have warned that Democrats have relied too heavily on the abortion issue to galvanize their supporters.
The issue is particularly reflected among suburban women, a group that turned against Trump and Republicans in 2020 but has now turned again as Republicans focus their attacks on pandemic restrictions and the economy.
Democrats are trying to win back Latinos after their poor showing with that segment of the population in 2020. But there are reasons to believe they will do worse this year.
Both parties have focused on the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas, a Hispanic-majority region where the Biden administration’s struggle to deal with border issues has become a central issue.
Republicans project that they will win at least three seats in the House of Representatives, in an area that has until now been a Democratic stronghold.
Republicans are also optimistic about their chances in Florida’s Miami-Dade County, home to 1.5 million Hispanics and a Democratic stronghold for the past 20 years. Republicans made significant gains there in the last presidential election.
If Democrats lose Miami-Dade, they have almost no chance of winning Florida, including the presidential election.
The Hispanic vote will be important in other states, but none more so than in Arizona and Nevada, where Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto, the first Latina senator in the United States, is locked in a close race.
How will Trump’s candidates fare?
Trump remains dominant in the Republican Party, but Tuesday’s election will test his influence with ordinary voters.
Obviously, Trump is no longer a candidate, but he has endorsed many politicians. And many of them are controversial figures who defeated others who supported the party’s base.
If the Trump-endorsed candidate does not perform well, it will cast a shadow over his eventual candidacy in the 2024 election.
In Pennsylvania, Doug Mastriano is the Republican candidate for governor and is endorsed by Trump. However, he struggles in the polls against Democrat Josh Shapiro. Trump’s appointee to the Senate, Dr. Mehmet Oz, is fighting a close battle against Democrat John Fetterman.
In Arizona, gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake and senatorial candidate Blake Masters, both Republicans who repeat Trump’s lies about voter fraud, are positioned to win.
Other Trump loyalists in the race: Ohio senatorial candidate JD Vance, North Carolina senatorial candidate Ted Budd, Michigan gubernatorial candidate Tudor Dixon and New York gubernatorial candidate Lee Zeldin.
with 2024 in sight
In many ways, the 2022 election will influence the 2024 election.
A poor showing by Democrats could be detrimental to Biden’s chances of being re-elected. And Trump will certainly use a flurry of Republican victories as evidence of his political prowess in a third campaign for the White House.
Associations defending good government are particularly concerned by the fact that several candidates who have repeated the voter fraud lie have run for state office in various parts of the country.
In Nevada, Republican Jim Merchant is running for secretary of state, the state’s top elections official. Merchant heads the America First Secretary of State Coalition, a group of Trumpists that falsely says there was fraud in the 2020 election.
The same is true in Arizona and Michigan, where two members of the same coalition have run for secretary of state: Mark Finchem and Christina Karamo. And in Pennsylvania, Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano, another apparent promoter of voter fraud lies, would have the right to appoint his own election official if he wins.
Apart from the issue of electoral governance, the winning candidates can leverage their good performance to position themselves for the 2024 elections.
Lake, the Republican candidate for governor of Arizona, is already being mentioned as a possible vice presidential nominee for Trump. And in Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is seeking re-election, is considering running for Trump in 2024 regardless.
What will you know on Tuesday night?
Results may not be available for several days or weeks at different locations.
There are many reasons.
In Georgia, a candidate must have at least 50% of the vote to win. Otherwise, a second round is held, which will take place on 6 December. Strategists in both parties believe that is exactly what will happen, especially in the Senate race.
In other states, vote counting can be long and complicated, especially now that voting by mail has become popular.
For example, under Arizona law, all ballots must be cast by 7 p.m., but officials have up to 20 days to complete the count. In Nevada, counties have four days to count late mail-in ballots and can give voters two more days to correct ballots that arrived in envelopes with errors or incomplete information.
In some battleground states, such as Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, officials cannot begin verifying ballots until Election Day.
Nineteen states allow a grace period for receiving ballots, as long as they are mailed before Election Day. In California, this period is seven days.