The Red Wave That Wasn’t: Updates

Biden said Wednesday that voters had proven that “democracy is who we are.”

After all the campaigning, polling, and anxiety, Election Day 2022 ended with a gigantic surprise: Democrats defied history — and widespread predictions of a wipeout due to President Joe Biden’s low approval rating and the highest inflation in decades. Instead, they won key races, indicating that while they may lose the House, there will be no “red wave.” And thanks to the pickup of a Republican seat in Pennsylvania, Democrats retain thin control of the Senate, at least for now. Below are the latest developments.

A preliminary polling report card

Ed Kilgore has gone through how the polls compared with the final results in many of the biggest midterm races. Read it here.

Adam Frisch’s lead over Lauren Boebert is now razor thin

The Florida man with a big red plan

Intelligencer’s Matt Stieb parses the political aftermath for reelected governor (and would-be master of the GOP universe) Ron DeSantis:

In his messianic [victory] speech, DeSantis lauded Florida as a “refuge of sanity when the world went mad.” He was speaking of the early end of coronavirus lockdowns in the state, but the comment could easily be applied to the GOP over the past two years. Trump was not on the ballot, and yet his constant media presence, mediocre endorsements, and personal obsession with his 2020 loss may have cost Republicans winnable races in 2022. Meanwhile, in Florida, DeSantis buttressed his scant win in 2018 by using the pandemic and culture war issues to elevate himself as the only post-Trump option his party has. …

Conservative media was in thrall. The Wall Street Journal editorial board described his win as the “DeSantis Florida Tsunami.” Steve Doocy gushed on Fox & Friends on Wednesday morning that “people love him, they just love him in Florida.” The New York Post crowned him king.

Read the rest of Matt’s review here.

Meanwhile in Trump’s imagination

Intelligencer’s Margaret Hartmann collects the former president’s various public emanations since Tuesday morning:

Trump’s public façade finally started to crack a bit on Wednesday afternoon when he acknowledged that aspects of Election Day were “somewhat disappointing” — though he also touted his candidates’ “219 WINS.” (As Intelligencer’s Ed Kilgore noted back in May, Trump “has been furiously padding his win record by backing unopposed House incumbents in safe seats, so the numbers don’t tell us much.”)

Read the rest of Margaret’s tour of Trump’s fantasyland here.

Biden: The ‘giant red wave … didn’t happen’

In an address on Wednesday afternoon, President Joe Biden touted his economic record while cautiously acknowledging his party’s strong performance in the midterms. “The American people have spoken and proven once again that democracy is who we are,” he said, noting that “pundits were predicting a giant red wave — it didn’t happen.” His most notable takeaway on the election was that the American people “don’t want every day going forward to be a constant political battle.”

In this light, Biden said he would be willing to work with new voices in the Capitol. “Regardless of what the final tally of these elections show — and there’s still some counting going on — I’m prepared to work with my Republican colleagues,” he said. “The American people have made clear they expect Republicans to be prepared to work with me as well.” He added a caveat that he would not budge on abortion restrictions or anything that worsens inflation.

The states where Democrats won power trifectas

Michigan: In addition to Governor Gretchen Whitmer easily winning reelection on Tuesday, Democrats won majorities in Michigan’s House and Senate as well — giving them full control of the state government for the first time in four decades.

Minnesota: Governor Tim Walz won reelection and Democrats took back the state’s Senate, giving them full power in the North Star State for the first time since 2013.

Maryland: Democrats held onto power in both chambers of the Maryland General Assembly, and Wes Moore was elected to be the state’s first black governor, replacing Republican Larry Hogan.

Massachusetts: Democrats already controlled the state’s House and Senate; and Maura Healey won the race to replace Republican Charlie Baker as governor.

As of Wednesday afternoon, Democrats will end up with power trifectas in a total of 18 states, while Republicans still have full control in 23 states. A few more are still up grabs, as well:

The Dobbs dynamic

Voters affirmed abortion rights in several states on Tuesday, as Intelligencer’s Ed Kilgore highlights:

Voters in Kentucky defeated a ballot measure that aimed to eliminate abortion rights from the state constitution. And voters in Michigan, Vermont, and California have amended their state constitutions to explicitly acknowledge abortion rights. The door to state abortion bans opened by the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this year when it reversed Roe v. Wade is being closed by voters whenever they have the opportunity to weigh in on the matter. …

There was a much, much narrower ballot initiative at play in Montana, passed by the legislature long before Dobbs came down, requiring medical interventions to treat “born alive” survivors of botched abortions. It too is currently losing by a six-point margin. So there could be a pro-choice clean sweep at the polls. Reproductive-rights advocates and their Democratic allies are already planning additional ballot initiatives for 2024.

Trumpism really hasn’t made the GOP great again at the polls

All eyes on Arizona and Nevada

The senate races in the states, both of which remain uncalled, may make or break Democrats hold on the Senate, as Intelligencer’s Benjamin Hart explains:

Of the two, Arizona is looking a bit more solid for Democrats. Senator Mark Kelly holds a 4.8-point lead but with only 68 percent of votes reported. The New York Times projects his advantage will eventually dwindle to 2.8 points, based largely on the ballots yet to be counted in Maricopa County, which would come close to matching preelection polling averages. (The polling also accurately depicted Kelly running ahead of Democratic gubernatorial nominee Katie Hobbs, who is locked in a razor-thin race with the frightening Kari Lake.) …

Nevada is even fuzzier. Catherine Cortez Masto, viewed as the most vulnerable incumbent Democrat in the Senate going into Tuesday, is trailing her opponent, Adam Laxalt, by 2.7 points, or 23,000 votes. But a huge question mark looms over the numbers: How many mail-in ballots, which skew heavily Democratic in the state, have yet to be counted? As Nevada election guru Jon Ralston writes, that number will determine her chances of making a comeback. Democratic turnout was low during in-person voting on Tuesday, which may indicate a large store of unprocessed mail ballots. Ralston estimates that if 70,000 or more ballots are outstanding and Democrats win them by a huge majority, Cortez Masto “has a shot.” The higher the number, the better chance she has. Given that, Cortez Masto may hold a slight edge — but unlike in Arizona, officials have not scheduled a time to release any more information, and it may take days to resolve.

That’s a lot of Johns

“Democracy was on the ballot, and democracy won”

That’s one of seven lessons Intelligencer’s Eric Levitz argues the election offered:

All in all, this looks like a poor showing for the “stop the steal” movement. And if things break right in Nevada and Arizona, there won’t be a die-hard Trumpist in charge of overseeing elections in any of the top-six battleground states.

More broadly, the fact that many of the GOP’s most authoritarian candidates — including Pennsylvania gubernatorial nominee Doug Mastriano — drastically underperformed relative to more banal Republicans establishes beneficent incentives for the party going forward. It turns out, the median voter dislikes violent insurrections against the U.S. government and the conspiratorial delusions that justify them.

At the same time, as the Washington Post notes, it looks like at least 143 election deniers will emerge victorious in their House races, “ticking past the 139 House Republicans who objected to the counting of electoral votes on Jan. 6, 2021.” On the other hand:

Read the rest of Eric’s takeaways, including how “voters might not hate the Biden economy as much as they think,” here.

Another runoff in Georgia, where politics have only gotten uglier since 2020

As many expected would happen, Georgia’s senate race will be decided by a runoff election next month, since neither Raphael Warnock nor Herschel Walker were able to secure more than 50 percent of the vote. Explains Intelligencer’s Ed Kilgore:

The fight will continue on December 6, when Warnock faces Walker in a general-election runoff triggered by Georgia’s rare majority-vote requirement for public offices. With the final votes still trickling in, Warnock has just over 49 percent of the vote and Walker has just under 49 percent, with a libertarian candidate holding the balance. On Wednesday afternoon, CNN projected that the race will go to a runoff. It’s unclear whether control of the Senate will hang in the balance once again, as it did in 2020, but the runoff will likely be close.

Zak Cheney Rice meanwhile writes that for all the progress Democrats have made in the state, it has not prompted Georgia Republicans to become any more moderate. Quite the opposite, in fact:

Extremism in Georgia has mostly been rebranded as relative temperance. If 2020 marked a local sea change, highlighted by the blue wave that engulfed the Atlanta metro area, the GOP did not interpret it as a shift that required appeasement but as an opportunity to dig in their heels. Ticket-splitting has allowed Warnock to outperform his fellow Democrats but has mainly advantaged Republicans. The GOP’s big takeaway from 2020 seems to be that the pastor turned politician is a special candidate whose success says little about Georgia’s partisan inclinations or their own need to adapt. Nothing that happened in this election is likely to change that.

Read the rest of Zak’s analysis here.

Trump is lashing out

The former president said on Election Day that if Republicans win, “I should get all the credit, and if they lose, I should not be blamed at all.” One day later, Trump is apparently blaming everyone else instead:

Haberman also reports that some of Trump’s advisers are suggesting he should postpone announcing his presidential run for 2024 until after next week, though doing so would basically admit the Democratic midterm rout.

And DeSantis may soon have him on the ropes

Intelligencer’s Jonathan Chait writes that GOP elites are coalescing around the Florida governor, who had the best night of anyone in the party on Tuesday:

Trump’s greatest advantage over DeSantis, and the one issue on which DeSantis has let Trump outflank him on the right, is the 2020 election. Trump fervently insists he won, while DeSantis (like most Republican officials) refuses to say anything. DeSantis, who appears almost exclusively in party-aligned media, has managed to avoid the topic. In a contested primary, Trump will make it hard for him to dodge the issue and will use it to paint DeSantis as a dissembler.

But I believe DeSantis will have a response. He can call Trump a loser, and if Trump insists the election was stolen, DeSantis will berate him for letting the election get stolen. DeSantis won’t denounce the coup attempt; he will denounce Trump for its lack of success. The promise he will make to the base will be to fight stronger and meaner than Trump and do whatever it takes to win power.

Read the rest of Jon’s thoughts here.

Democrats have overperformed in the House, but they still lost their DCCC chair

Though the Democratic Party appears to have defied expectations in numerous House races, that success came at the expense of one of the party’s leaders. CBS News is reporting that Representative Sean Patrick Maloney has called his opponent, State Assemblymember Mike Lawler, to concede. After redistricting upended the New York political world, Maloney, the head of the DCCC and a five-term congressman, decided to run in a newly redrawn district that now contained his home. Maloney decisively beat back a challenge from the left in the 17th District but soon found himself in a tight race, with Lawler and Republican groups hammering him on the airwaves on crime. He’ll be the first DCCC chair to lose reelection in decades.

Ron Johnson’s resilience

Intelligencer contributor Ross Barkan notes that Johnson’s victory on Tuesday “demonstrated that, on a night when Republicans lost a senate seat in Pennsylvania, no amount of controversy could keep Republicans in Wisconsin from closing ranks around him.”

Where things stand on Wednesday morning

Well, that was unexpected. As of late morning, Democrats appear to have eked out several major wins across the country. On the Senate level, the race in Pennsylvania has been called for John Fetterman, and Mark Kelly looks like he can hold on to his lead in Arizona. Even some losses were far less ugly than expected: Mandela Barnes is currently trailing Ron Johnson by a point in Wisconsin, and Cheri Beasley came close in North Carolina. In the House, Democrats managed to stop the losses early, flipping seats in Ohio and Texas. And at the state level, Democrats performed well in gubernatorial races and are expected to have trifecta control in Minnesota and Michigan, the latter for the first time in 40 years.

Despite the sucker punch last night, Republicans managed a few notable wins. Ron DeSantis shored up his potential as a 2024 candidate with a big win in the governor’s race in Florida, where he will oversee a GOP supermajority in the legislature. In the House, Republicans are still poised to win by a very small margin. And it’s possible they could still take control of the Senate. Adam Laxalt is ahead in Nevada, while the most expensive race of the cycle in Georgia appears headed to a runoff in December. Unfortunately, this is all far from over.

A Lauren Boebert defeat is looking increasingly likely

Democracy was on the ballot, and it appears to be winning

Gretchen Whitmer wins reelection

Michigan’s Gretchen Whitmer has won a second term as governor, defeating the Republican nominee Tudor Dixon, who has promoted lies about the 2020 election. Though a poll from last week reported to show the governor in a tie with her conservative challenger, FiveThirtyEight had been projecting Whitmer as the likely winner.

Fetterman delivers big for Democrats

John Fetterman, the big brash Pennsylvania Democrat who was nearly killed by a stroke during this year’s campaign, has narrowly defeated Mehmet Oz.

Intelligencer’s Ed Kilgore explains how he won the crucial Senate seat for Democrats:

[The result gives] Democrats a crucial takeover of a Republican-held seat and a good chance of maintaining control of the upper chamber after a hard-fought campaign in which the Democratic lieutenant governor lost and found both his health and momentum. Fetterman won big margins in Pittsburgh and in the Philadelphia area. (Late returns and a slow count in Philly, exacerbated by Republican legislation and lawsuits, will only pad his victory.)

Read the rest of Ed’s look back at the race here.

Republicans failed to convince voters to trust them

Intelligencer’s Jonathan Chait writes that Democrats have been vindicated by the results so far:

It is the normal state of affairs for a newly elected president to see his party rebuked decisively in the first midterm election. When the president is presiding over a bad economy — and, despite low unemployment, this very much is one — this tendency becomes something close to an iron law.

The 2022 midterm elections appear to have broken that law. Democratic candidates for House, Senate, and governor have all performed far better than almost anybody expected. By the standards of how midterms elections go, it should be considered a vote of confidence in the party.

Read the rest of Jon’s take here.

The independent impact

ED KILGORE: In the chatter about a late pro-GOP trend heading into Tuesday, one of the factors you heard about a lot was the ancient wisdom that late-deciding independents would break against the party controlling the White House, which they usually do in midterm elections. It seemed particularly likely this time around, given the president’s low job-approval ratings and the big majority of voters unhappy with the general direction of the country.

But according to exit polls, independent voters were actually carried narrowly by Democrats (49-48). Polls also showed that voters who made up their minds in the last month broke for Democrats 51-47.

New Yorkers sign off on big-time green borrowing

A multi-billion-dollar environmental initiative got the green light from New York voters on Tuesday, the Gotham Gazette reports:

Voters across New York have approved $4.2 billion in state borrowing proposed by Governor Kathy Hochul and the State Legislature to pay for major projects environmentalists say are key to developing a more robust response to climate change and pollution. In numbers sure to shift as more votes are counted, initial election night tallies showed about 68% of voters approving the measure, 28% disapproving, and 12% of voters not weighing in at all. The Clean Water, Clean Air, and Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act authorizes the state to take on the debt in the coming years to pay for flood risk mitigation, clean water infrastructure, land conservation, emissions reduction, and other climate initiatives. The only statewide referendum on the ballot this year, the bond act may serve as a litmus test for voters’ anxieties over the environment and state spending.

Blame Florida?

J.D. Vance wins a Senate race that shouldn’t have been competitive

ED KILGORE: In a good example of party eventually mattering more than candidate quality in states that tilt red or blue, Republican J.D. Vance defeated Tim Ryan in an Ohio Senate race that probably shouldn’t have been all that close given the national environment and the state’s recent leanings. Vance, who along with Blake Masters of Arizona was dependent on a Donald Trump endorsement and Peter Thiel’s money to win a multi-candidate primary, needed national help to win his general election. With 91 percent of the vote in, Vance is leading Ryan — who ran a much admired race that would have probably been a winner in a more favorable year or a more favorable state — by seven points. But Vance is running behind his ticket mate Governor Mike DeWine by just over nine points. He’s lucky to be going to the Senate.

Bad news for Lauren Boebert

Colorado representative Lauren Boebert is one of the more extreme members of the House Freedom Caucus, voting against a measure to give the Congressional Gold Medal to police officers who defended the Capitol on January 6. She was expecting a cakewalk on Tuesday night in the Colorado Third Congressional District but is currently losing to Democrat Adam Frisch — though remaining counties suggest she may still be able to hold on.

Kathy Hochul is no longer just a successor

Notes Intelligencer’s Nia Prater:

Hochul managed to beat back a serious, last-minute surge by Lee Zeldin and win her first full term as governor, after the Republican congressman gained on her by focusing almost singularly on the issue of crime.

Read the rest of Nia’s look at the race here. Then again, Zeldin still hadn’t conceded as of midnight.

Stacey Abrams comes up short again in Georgia

Reflects Intelligencer’s Ed Kilgore in his analysis of Brian Kemp’s victory, which did not come as a surprise:

The Abrams-Kemp contest was somewhat asymmetrical. For her part, Abrams drew on her many years of voter registration and voter mobilization work to spur enthusiasm and raised more than enough money for a successful campaign. She put together a voter-pleasing platform and message emphasizing issues on which she was strong and Kemp was weak, including Medicaid expansion, gun violence, and most of all abortion rights. But Abrams had to overcome an identification with the national Democratic Party even as Kemp had already made his bones as being independent of his party’s MAGA extremists and was focused on popular state initiatives, including tax cuts, gas-tax suspensions, and teacher-pay increases.

Read the rest of Ed’s thoughts here.

Pennsylvania Democrats could be in a pretty nice spot

It’s been a particularly stressful cycle for Pennsylvania Democrats, who have had to manage expectations over candidate John Fetterman’s campaign performance as he recovers from a life-threatening stroke. But things are looking up in the second-most-expensive race of the cycle: Fetterman, who currently enjoys a three-point lead with more than half the vote in, is surpassing Joe Biden’s 2020 performance in the state:

Meanwhile, MSNBC has called the governor’s race for Democrat Josh Shapiro. Democrats were less concerned about the state attorney general’s chances in this one thanks to the extremely MAGA gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano’s shaky record, but it’s still a reassuring point on a so far unexpectedly strong night.

Democrats may still lose the House, but if so, it will probably be by fewer seats than expected

An overdue feat in Vermont

Vermont has made history tonight but in a unique way. With the election of State Senator Becca Balint to the U.S. House of Representatives, Vermont officially became the last state in the nation to elect a woman to Congress. Balint is succeeding Peter Welch, who will now become Vermont’s junior U.S. senator.

Insights from the exits

ED KILGORE: While exit polls may evolve a bit to reflect actual vote tallies, we can now get a decent sense of what has changed nationally since the last midterms in 2018.

The shape of the electorate is very similar; there was no disastrous falloff in youth or minority voting (though turnout percentages of the former probably down since they are a significantly larger part of the population now), or any significant shift in the proportion of college-educated to non-college-educated voters. But vote share flipped with very noticeable GOP gains among nonwhite voters. Democrats won nonwhite voters 76-22 in 2018; that dropped to 68-30 this year. Unsurprisingly the drop-off was especially significant among Latinos, who went Democratic 69-29 in 2018 and 60-39 this year. Black voters went 90-9 Democratic in 2018 and 86-13 this year. Democrats broke even among white women in 2018 and lost them by nine points (45-54) this year. Republicans made modest gains among both college-educated and non-college-educated white voters. All in all, the results appear to represent a change in voter preferences rather than a base-driven change in turnout patterns.

Democrats stave off a strong challenge in Rhode Island, of all places

Though Rhode Island’s Second Congressional District voted for Joe Biden by 15 points, the House race there was seen as a toss-up this election cycle. The Republican candidate, former Cranston mayor Allen Fung, led in almost every recent poll against Democrat Seth Magaziner. But in the end, Magaziner prevailed — another indication that Republicans are not having the completely dominant night many Democrats feared.

Abortion is indeed on the ballot tonight

ED KILGORE: Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has overturned Roe v. Wade and sent abortion policy to the states, we are already seeing some state-ballot initiatives on the subject, including attempts to amend state constitutions to either protect or kill abortion rights.

In August, Republican-controlled Kansas decisively voted down an initiative to deny any state constitutional right to an abortion. A very similar measure is on the ballot in Kentucky. At this point, it appears to be going down to defeat (“yes” votes on the abortion ban are running 11 or 12 points behind Senator Rand Paul’s comfortable but not overwhelming majority vote).

Meanwhile, a ballot initiative to enshrine abortion rights in Vermont’s constitution is winning 3-1. A similar measure is expected to win easily in California. And an abortion-rights constitutional amendment in Michigan is currently outperforming Democratic governor Gretchen Whitmer (herself favored to win) by over four points. A very narrow ballot initiative in Montana requiring emergency medical care for “born alive” survivors of botched abortions may pass, but overall, the momentum on this subject is with abortion-rights supporters.

DeSantis romps in increasingly red Florida

In the last midterm election, Governor Ron DeSantis beat his Democratic opponent by 30,000 votes and Senator Rick Scott won his race by just over 10,000. Those margins are unthinkable four years later with races called in favor of DeSantis and Senate incumbent Marco Rubio within minutes of polls closing. The Former Democratic stronghold of Miami-Dade — which Hillary Clinton won by close to 30 points in 2016 — has Rubio with a nine-point lead.

In his victory speech, DeSantis’s presidential ambitions were at the front of his mind, boosting the culture-war issues that he has made his name on: “Florida is where woke goes to die,” he said to applause. Supporters chanted “Two more years.”

No need for Democrats to panic

ED KILGORE: A lot of votes are still out, and polls are still open in big portions of the country, but it’s reasonably safe to assert that a Republican tsunami isn’t happening. Senate races where Republicans were thought to be surging late in the cycle — like those in New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Georgia — now look like toss-ups or better for Democrats. And in a lot of the bellwether House races from New Hampshire to Virginia to Pennsylvania, Democrats are holding their own. Despite rumors to the contrary, Democratic turnout seems good for a midterm election when the White House is occupied by a relatively unpopular Democrat.

The one place where we are seeing a red tide is Ron DeSantis’s Florida. And Republicans will still likely flip the House and have a solid chance to flip the Senate and some key governorships. But by and large, the Democratic panic in some circles going into this election may have been a bit overwrought.

Polls will not be open late in Arizona: Judge

After voting glitches occurred at one-in-four polling places in Republican-leaning Maricopa County, the Republican National Committee — along with Senate candidate Blake Masters and gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake — sued to keep sites open until 10 p.m. But the judge denied the request, a decision that is already fueling election conspiracies from Republicans.

New Hampshire means Democrats may avoid catastrophe

ERIC LEVITZ: As of this writing, it looks like Democratic incumbent Maggie Hassan will win reelection in New Hampshire (the New York Times’ forecast currently gives her a 70 percent chance of victory). If that holds, then Democrats will have averted tonight’s worst-case scenario. Polling of the New Hampshire race had tightened in recent days. Had surveys systematically underestimated the GOP’s standing, we would expect Hassan’s race to be, at the very least, neck and neck right now.

Of course, eliminating the “worst-case scenario” still leaves plenty of very bad scenarios open for Democrats. Republicans remain heavily favored to take the House. And four Senate races look very close right now; it’s possible the GOP could sweep those and end the night with a 52-seat Senate majority. It is possible that Hassan’s relatively strong performance reflects the weakness of her (extremely conservative) opponent Donald Bolduc. But it looks like blue America will be spared a “red tsunami.”

That sound you hear is Democrats taking a tentative breath

(That’s polling nerd for “This might not be a disaster for Democrats after all.”)

The first (expected) calls

With polls now closed in numerous states, results and calls have been coming in at a steady clip. Among the victors:

  • Sarah Huckabee Sanders will be the next governor of Arkansas
  • Democrat Wes Moore will be the next governor of Maryland — and the third black governor in U.S. history
  • GOP Senators Rand Paul (Kentucky), Tim Scott (South Carolina), and Marco Rubio (Florida) won reelection
  • Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia also won reelection
  • Democratic representative Peter Welch won Vermont’s open U.S. Senate seat
  • Governor Mike DeWine of Ohio won reelection
  • State Attorney General Maura Healey (a Democrat) won the Massachusetts governor’s race
  • 25-year-old Maxwell Alejandro Frost, a Democrat, will become the first member of Gen Z in Congress after winning his race in Florida’s Tenth Congressional District

Ticket-splitting is also key in Ohio

ED KILGORE: Republican governor Mike DeWine has won reelection, according to several networks’ projections, while ticket mate J.D. Vance is in a close Senate race with Tim Ryan. In the RealClearPolitics final polling averages, Vance was running 6.2 percent behind ticket mate DeWine. In actual votes with 10 percent reporting, Vance is running 11 points behind DeWine.

At least one promising sign for Warnock in Georgia

The infamous New York Times needle is once again twitching

For those who want to experience a panic attack every 30 seconds, have at it.

Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair! Illustration: Screencap/The New York Times

Keep an eye on ticket-splitting in Georgia

ED KILGORE: While ticket-splitting is likely to be limited in this polarized election, it could be a huge factor in some key races. That’s particularly true in Georgia, where some Republicans backing Governor Brian Kemp have been reluctant to vote for Senate candidate Herschel Walker with all his personal baggage. In early returns (10 percent) from the state, Walker is running 4.4 percent behind ticket mate Kemp, and Kemp’s opponent, Democrat Stacey Abrams, is running 3.5 percent behind her ticket mate, Raphael Warnock. Georgia requires a majority vote to avoid a December 6 runoff, so margins of victory for candidates can be crucial.

Polls have now closed in Georgia, New Hampshire, Virginia, and a handful of other states

ED KILGORE: Typically, Georgia results take about an hour to start pouring in, which should be the case tonight after such heavy in-person early voting in the state. New Hampshire has no in-person early voting and very limited voting by mail, so returns should come in at a reasonably brisk pace after the polls close. Virginia has more in-person early voting than voting by mail, so they should have pretty quick returns as well. (These two states have House bellwether races.)

Out of paper in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania lawmakers approved $45 million in new funding this summer for county election offices, but that apparently didn’t help much in Luzerne County, southeast of Scranton, where polls will be open until 10 p.m. because several voting sites ran out of paper. Not ideal for the region that brought you Dunder Mifflin.

January 6 link prompted removal of two election workers in an Atlanta suburb

The New York Times reports on some early morning drama in Georgia:

Two elections workers, a woman and her son, were removed from their posts at a polling place in suburban Johns Creek, Ga., on Tuesday morning after officials discovered that the woman was linked to the storming of the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 6, 2021, according to officials from Fulton County and the Georgia secretary of state’s office. Mike Hassinger, a spokesman for the Georgia secretary of state, shared with The New York Times a social media post from a woman named Laura Daube Kronen that he said was sent to his office by Fulton County officials. The post shows what appear to be photos of the woman at the Capitol building that day.

Printer problems in Arizona’s Maricopa County

There were technical issues tabulating ballots at 60 voting locations in Maricopa County early Tuesday, which county election officials later announced were caused by a now-resolved printing issue. Maricopa County recorder Stephen Richer apologized to voters affected by the problem and insisted that redundancies were in place and “every legal vote will be tabulated” and counted. Nonetheless, per the Arizona Mirror, the issues quickly prompted some baseless allegations from Republicans:

Arizona Republican Party Chair Kelli Ward took to Twitter to slam Republican Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer and Democratic Secretary of State and gubernatorial nominee Katie Hobbs over the issue. Republican Secretary of State nominee Mark Finchem, one of the state’s leading promoters of conspiracy theories about the 2020 election, used the problem to urge a “return to paper ballots, hand counting, at the precinct on election day.” In fact, all ballots in Arizona are paper ballots.

The Mirror also points out that this was the first time some of the county’s voting machines had been used — thanks to the baseless allegations that followed the 2020 election:

The county had to spend millions to replace most of its vote-counting machines after the 2020 presidential election review conducted by contractors hired by Arizona Senate Republicans. That’s because the secretary of state’s office said the chain of custody on the machines had been broken and their office might not recertify the machines.

Another impact of the postelection chaos in 2020:

Trump says he only deserves credit for victories

A sample of MAGA media pre-spin

Early warning signs for Democrats in Nevada

According to the Nevada Independent’s typically wise Jon Ralston:

If West Coast races end up deciding who controls the House, we may have to wait

ED KILGORE: Just a reminder that there are an unusual number of competitive House races this year in West Coast states that accept mail ballots postmarked by Election Day for quite a few days afterward (nine in California, three in Oregon, two in Washington, one in Alaska, per the Cook Political Report). House control will likely be settled before any of them matter, but if somehow it’s not, we could be waiting a while.

Alaska’s at-large congressional district will be resolved by ranked-choice voting after all the mail ballots are in. So if this is a horrible night for Democrats, the absolute morning-after hangover could be finding out that Sarah Palin is coming to Washington. (She’s not favored to win, but you never know.)

Another GOP Senate candidate says he’ll concede if he loses

Election officials report smooth sailing thus far in Georgia

With several hours to go until polls close at 7 p.m., Georgia election officials are reporting minimal wait times at polling locations across the state. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that, within the first few hours of voting, DeKalb and Fulton Counties saw a wait time of less than six minutes. Gabriel Sterling, the chief operations officer in Georgia’s secretary of state office, wrote on Twitter, “So far voting across Georgia has been spectacularly boring.”

A reminder about GOP voter-fraud claims

Ed Kilgore: Regarding all the cries of fraud we will be hearing today and tonight: Some of this is old-fashioned Republican fear-mongering about urban Democrats stuffing the ballot box, which goes far back to the 19th century. If Republicans win the affected elections anyway, they’ll shut up about it. But another part of this is the MAGA crusade to delegitimize voting generally, and that will continue no matter who wins or loses. As you may recall, Trump complained about voter fraud after winning in 2016.

Voters wait to cast their ballots at the Biltmore Fashion Park on Tuesday in Phoenix, Arizona. Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

Republicans sue to extend the red mirage in Philly

Philadelphia officials announced Tuesday morning that they would reimplement a roughly three-day process called “poll book reconciliation,” which requires election workers to scan all mail ballots with in-person votes to make sure no one voted twice. The decision comes after a Republican legal-advocacy group founded by Karl Rove and William Barr sued the city’s election board, which ditched the process for the 2022 election because it now has more effective practices to catch the extremely rare phenomenon of double voting.

Notably, Republicans only sued to reinstate this practice in the overwhelmingly Democratic city of Philadelphia, meaning that a huge swath of blue votes will come in very late in the race, making the red mirage — the impression on Election Night that Republicans are winning, thanks to higher rates of GOP voters going in-person — more extreme in Pennsylvania.

The final word on Senate polling

Intelligencer’s Ed Kilgore analyzed the countless number of polls released this election cycle to determine what outcomes are being predicted for the midterms. When it comes to the U.S. Senate and which party might wield control come January, he determined it is “a true toss-up.”

Republicans are defending 21 seats, six of which were left open by retirements. Just four of those races are rated competitive (either toss-ups or races leaning to a particular candidate) by the experts at the Cook Political Report. Democrats are defending just 14 seats, only one of which is “open.” Cook considers five of these races competitive. FiveThirtyEight’s projections based on polling and expert opinion now give Republicans 55 percent odds of flipping the Senate (this and their individual race projections are probabilities, not predictions); Democrats have a 45 percent probability of holding the Senate.

Read the rest of Ed’s forecast here.

Oz says he’ll accept election results

Mehmet Oz said Tuesday morning that he will accept the results of the Senate race in Pennsylvania, breaking from the policy of party leader Donald Trump, who endorsed Oz in the primary. “Yes, of course,” he told reporters after casting his ballot in Montgomery County.

Trump hints one more time at his inevitable 2024 run

At a rally for J.D. Vance in Ohio on Monday night, Donald Trump teased his “important” 2024 announcement coming next week. And with it, he gave a reminder of the insanity to come for the next few years. He called Nancy Pelosi an “animal” and called his two impeachments “bullshit.” Referring to the Supreme Court leak, he said that reporters who don’t reveal their sources should be thrown in jail and suggested they be assaulted by prisoners.

Twitter’s misinformation-fighting efforts have reportedly taken a hit

The Associated Press reports that the social-media platform “is struggling to respond to political misinformation and other harmful posts” ahead of Election Day amid the company’s volatile transition under Elon Musk:

The recent mass layoffs spared many of the people whose job it is to keep hate and misinformation off the social-media platform. Musk cut just 15% of those frontline content-moderation workers, compared to roughly 50% job cuts companywide, an executive said last week. But in preparation for the layoffs, employees said the company also sharply reduced how many employees can look into a specific account’s digital history and behavior — a practice necessary to investigate if it’s been used maliciously and take action to suspend it. The company said it froze access to those tools to reduce “insider risk” at a time of transition.

A report created by researchers at Tufts University determined that Twitter “is heading in the wrong direction under [Musk’s] leadership — at a particularly inconvenient time for American democracy.”

Buckle up, America

In Monday’s Politico Nightly, Charlie Mahtesian warns that the election “is going to be a train wreck”:

All the elements of a perfect storm are present: a rise in threats against election administrators and poll workers; outdated and overstrained election infrastructure; a brain drain of officials experienced with the complexities of administering elections; external cyber threats; and an abundance of close races that could extend long past Election Day as mail-in and provisional ballots are counted, recounted and litigated.

Then, there are the hundreds of Republican candidates up and down the ballot with a record of denying or expressing doubts about the 2020 presidential results — a few were even present at the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. At least a dozen candidates running in competitive Senate and governor and secretary of state contests refused to commit or declined to respond when asked whether they’ll accept the results of their races. A blowout Republican victory might remove many of the most combustible elements. But short of a red wave Tuesday, we’re looking at an ugly finish.

Along these lines, Intelligencer’s Ed Kilgore has noted the likelihood of GOP candidates declaring premature victory on Tuesday night, while Jonathan Chait has underlined how “Democracy is on the ballot” isn’t just a slogan.

Fanone backs Fetterman

Michael Fanone, the former D.C. police officer who testified to Congress about his experiences on January 6, is backing John Fetterman in Pennsylvania’s Senate race in what appears to be his first official endorsement in the midterms. In a video posted Monday afternoon, Fanone cites celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz’s support from Donald Trump and the fact that some of Oz’s campaign staffers attended Trump’s January 6 rally, as reported by Rolling Stone.

The most expensive midterms of all time

Getting elected to office is an expensive proposition. According to the nonpartisan group OpenSecrets, Democrats, Republicans, and outside PACs spent a total of $16.7 billion this cycle — surpassing the previous record set in 2018 of $14.1 billion. A few superlatives:

  • The most expensive Senate race was held in Georgia, where the group AdImpact estimates a quarter-billion dollars in combined spending. In close second is the heated Pennsylvania race, where Democrats and Republicans have spent $221 million combined.
  • The Senate Majority PAC and Senate Leadership Fund — the political-action committees largely controlled by Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell, respectively — spent considerably as well. The GOP group spent $230 million compared to the Democrats’ $154 million.
  • George Soros was the most generous donor in 2022, with nearly $127 million handed to Democratic candidates and PACs. The next two closest billionaires, Kenneth Griffin and Richard Uihlein, spent a combined $144 million for Republicans.

DOJ to monitor polls in 24 states

On Monday, the Justice Department announced that it will be monitoring polls in nearly half the states for “compliance with federal voting rights laws” and will also be accepting complaints submitted by the public. In 2020, the department’s civil-rights division sent monitors to just 18 states and 44 jurisdictions. On the DOJ’s list this year are areas that were at the center of debunked election-integrity accusations such as Philadelphia and Arizona’s Maricopa County, but also New York’s Queens County and several counties in Alaska and Nevada.

Republicans sue to disqualify mail-in ballots in swing states

In the aftermath of the 2020 election, promoters of election-fraud lies centered many of their claims around mail-in voting, casting aspersions on a commonly used method of voting. Now, ahead of this year’s midterms, Republicans in swing states such as Pennsylvania and Michigan are seeking to disqualify countless mail-in ballots for reasons such as not dating the outside envelope of the ballot or an incomplete written address for a witness. The lawsuits are being pursued where races are expected to be especially tight and where even the thinnest of margins could potentially determine who controls Congress. The Washington Post reports:

Over the past two years, Republicans have waged a sustained campaign against alleged voter fraud. Experts say the litigation — which could significantly affect Tuesday’s vote — represents a parallel strategy of suing to disqualify mail ballots based on technicalities. While the rejections may have some basis in state law, experts say they appear to go against a principle, enshrined in federal law, of not disenfranchising voters for minor errors.

The suits coincide with a systematic attempt by Republicans — led by former president Donald Trump — to persuade GOP voters to cast their ballots only on Election Day. Critics argue that the overall purpose is to separate Republicans and Democrats by method of voting and then to use lawsuits to void mail ballots that are disproportionately Democratic. 

On Monday, John Fettterman’s campaign asked a federal judge to order Pennsylvania election officials to count mail-in ballots with no date or the wrong date written on the outside envelope, after the state’s supreme court ruled last week those ballots be put aside and not counted. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, “There will likely be tens of thousands of undated and wrongly dated ballots rejected statewide under that ruling.”

Get ready for the blood-moon midterms

If the 2022 midterms didn’t seem foreboding enough on their own, there will be a total lunar eclipse during the early hours of Election Day. For those of us up early enough prior to the polls opening on Tuesday, the phenomenon will begin around 3:02 a.m. ET with the moon appearing to dim, according to NASA. The moon will then enter the Earth’s shadow at approximately 5:17 a.m. At this time, which is known as “totality,” the moon will take on a deep-red hue, hence why it’s frequently nicknamed a “blood moon.” It will be the last total lunar eclipse until 2025.

Yes, democracy really is on the ballot

Intelligencer’s Jonathan Chait writes that there is truth in the now all too familiar Democratic Party slogan:

The most obvious ramifications for democracy lie in those races where Republican candidates for governor and secretary of State who openly support Trump’s election claims are vying for direct control of the election apparatus. It is difficult to predict the effect on 2024 of, say, a Doug Mastriano or a Mark Finchem having legal authority over the elections, but the downside risk is enormous.

The “democracy is on the ballot” skeptics are generally ignoring these contests and instead referencing races for Congress. But here, too, the elections pose a significant peril. The most obvious is that the 2024 election may again come down to a congressional vote to authorize the results of the Electoral College or to pick between competing slates of electors. In 2021, that vote was a formality, but a Congress controlled by Republicans would likely offer a Republican election challenge more than gestures of support.

Read the rest of Jon’s thoughts here.

Arizona Republicans change their tune about voting by mail

As far as state parties go, Arizona Republicans have been among the most conspiratorial of the many GOP groups proposing there was widespread fraud in the 2020 election — including unsubstantiated claims that mail-in voting last cycle was manipulated in favor of Democrats. But as the Senate and governor’s races tighten to within a few points, the Arizona GOP is now encouraging voters to use mail-in ballots and drop boxes they’ve been condemning for years. The Washington Post reported Sunday that Republicans in the state are concerned that their own rhetoric on mail-in voting could stop many likely GOP voters from casting their ballots at all. According to a Post analysis, Republicans are way behind their pace of mail-in votes in Maricopa County, the home to Phoenix, which often decides close races in the increasingly purple state.

This post will be continuously updated.

The Red Wave That Wasn’t: Updates