Control of US Congress to depend on handful of undecided midterm races

Washington, Nov 9 (EFE).- The battle for control of the United States Congress remains up for grabs on Wednesday, a day after midterm elections in which Republicans fell short of their own expectations for big gains in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

History was on the side of the GOP, since typically the opposition party performs well in the midterms.

And the sense of optimism was particularly high considering polling indicated voter dissatisfaction with President Joe Biden, an inflation rate of 8.2 percent (near a 40-year high) and the direction of the country.

But no “red wave” materialized, as Democratic incumbents repeatedly held off challenges by Republican House and Senate candidates.

The House tally currently stands at 203-175 in favor of the Republicans, while the GOP has a narrow 49-48 lead in the Senate count as both in-person and mail ballots continue to be processed.

The most optimistic GOP strategists were predicting their party would handily wrest back control of the House, considering Democrats held a slim 220-210 majority (with three vacant seats) as of Tuesday and all 435 seats were in play.

Instead, races seen as winnable like New Hampshire’s 2nd congressional district – where Democratic incumbent Ann McLane Kuster handily defeated Republican Robert Burns by a margin of 56.62 percent to 43.38 percent – turned into blowouts.

More discouraging for Republicans, contests that seemed like great opportunities to flip a seat – such as one pitting incumbent Democrat Abigail Spanberger against Republican Yesli Vega in Virginia’s 7th Congressional district – went for their opponents.

Despite those losses, however, the GOP still have a House majority in their sights thanks to key wins such as Jen Kiggans’ defeat of Democratic incumbent Elaine Luria in Virginia’s 2nd Congressional district.

Control over the Senate is also unclear and could come down to a runoff election in Georgia, just as it did in early 2021 when Democrats won a pair of runoffs to secure a 50-50 split in the upper house (effectively a majority due to Vice President Kamala Harris’ tiebreaking vote).

Among the most-watched of the 35 Senate races on Tuesday night was one in Pennsylvania in which the Democratic candidate, John Fetterman, who suffered a stroke in May just before winning his primary contest, beat out Republican opponent Mehmet Oz by a margin of 50.41 percent to 47.17 percent.

That counts as a flipped seat because it had previously been held by Republican Pat Toomey, who had announced two years ago that he would not seek a third term.

Republicans, however, fared much better in Florida, where incumbent Sen. Marco Rubio sailed to a 16-percentage-point victory over a well-funded Democratic challenger, Val Demings.

Three other key races though are too close to call.

In Arizona, Democratic incumbent Mark Kelly leads Republican Blake Masters by five percentage points with around 66 percent of votes tallied.

In Georgia, Democratic incumbent Raphael Warnock is leading Republican challenger Herschel Walker, a former American football star, by a margin of 49.41 percent to 48.52 percent with nearly all votes counted.

However, with neither likely to garner 50 percent of the ballots, that race appears likely to be decided in a Dec. 6 runoff.

And in a race in Nevada that is nearing the finish line, Republican Adam Laxalt has a narrow lead over Democratic incumbent Catherine Cortez Masto.

Democrats need to win two out of those three races to maintain control of the Senate.

The solid performance by incumbents extended to governor’s races, where the GOP has thus far been unable to score victories over any sitting Democrats.

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