Republicans favored to win U.S. House in close-fought midterm elections

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(C) Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A view of the U.S. Capitol building as the sunrises in Washington, U.S., February 10, 2022. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

By Nathan Layne and Tim Reid

ALPHARETTA, Ga./PHOENIX, Ariz. (Reuters) – Several Republican senators easily won re-election on Tuesday in U.S. midterm elections that could usher in an era of divided government and scale back President Joe Biden’s power in Washington.

With polls closed in six states, the initial results would not alter the balance of power in the 50-50 Senate, which Democrats currently control with a tie-breaking vote.

Edison Research projected that incumbent Republican Senators Tim Scott in South Carolina and Todd Young in Indiana would win re-election. Fox News projected Republican Rand Paul would win re-election in Kentucky and Democrat Peter Welch would win an open Senate seat in Vermont.

Thirty-five Senate seats and all 435 House of Representatives seats are on the ballot. Republicans are widely favored to pick up the five seats they need to control the House, but control of the Senate could come down to tight races in Pennsylvania, Nevada, Georgia and Arizona. Some 36 governors’ races are at stake as well.

The final outcome will unlikely be known any time soon.

More than 46 million Americans voted ahead of Election Day, either by mail or in person, according to data from the U.S. Election Project, and state election officials caution that it will take time to count all of those ballots. Control of the Senate might not be known until a potential Dec. 6 runoff in Georgia.

Live election results from around the country are here.

Motivated by concerns about high inflation and crime, voters were poised to usher in an era of divided government in Washington, despite warnings from Democrats about the erosion of abortion rights and the undermining of democratic norms.

An Edison Research exit poll of midterm voters showed that inflation and abortion were the top issues on voters’ minds, with three of ten citing one or the other as their top concern.

U.S. officials said they did not see a “specific or credible threat” to disrupt election infrastructure. Local officials reported isolated problems across the country: a bomb threat in Louisiana, a paper shortage in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, and a downed website in Champaign County, Illinois.

In Maricopa County, Arizona – a key battleground – officials said they were in the process of fixing malfunctioning tabulating machines and said every vote would be counted.

That stoked claims among right-wing figures that the failures were deliberate.

“The people will not stand for it!!!” former President Donald Trump wrote on Truth Social, his online platform, without offering evidence of vote fraud.

Experts reported new conspiracy theories spreading across Twitter days after the company fired half its staff and new owner Elon Musk endorsed Republicans.

Biden said hundreds of Republican candidates had echoed Trump’s false claims that his 2020 loss to Biden was due to widespread fraud.

“They deny that the last election was legitimate,” Biden said on a radio show aimed at Black voters. “They’re not sure they’re going to accept the results unless they win.”

ECONOMIC WORRIES

Many voters said they were motivated by frustration with annual inflation, which at 8.2%, stands at the highest rate in 40 years.

“The economy is terrible. I blame the current administration for that,” said Bethany Hadelman, who said she voted for Republican candidates in Alpharetta, Georgia.

Fears of rising crime were also a factor in left-leaning areas like New York, where incumbent Democratic Governor Kathy Hochul faced a tough challenge from Republican Lee Zeldin.

“We have criminals constantly repeating crimes. They go to jail and come out a few hours later or the next day,” said John Delsanto, 35, a legal assistant who said he voted for Zeldin.

In Congress, a Republican-controlled House would be able to block bills addressing Democratic priorities such as abortion rights and climate change. Republicans could also initiate a showdown over the nation’s debt ceiling, which could shake financial markets, and launch investigations into Biden’s administration and family.

Republicans will have the power to block aid to Ukraine if they win back control of Congress, but analysts say they are more likely to slow or pare back the flow of defense and economic assistance.

A Republican Senate would hold sway over Biden’s judicial nominations, including any Supreme Court vacancy, intensifying the spotlight on the increasingly conservative court.

(2022 U.S. elections poll closing times https://graphics.reuters.com/USA-ELECTION/POLL-CLOSE/gkvlgrknzpb/chart.png)

INFLATION AND ABORTION

The Supreme Court’s June decision to overturn the nationwide right to abortion had galvanized Democratic voters around the country, temporarily raising the party’s hopes of stemming losses.

But stubbornly rising prices have left voters dissatisfied despite one of the strongest job markets in history.

A Reuters/Ipsos poll this week found just 39% of Americans approved of the way Biden has done his job. Some Democratic candidates deliberately distanced themselves from the White House as Biden’s popularity languished.

Trump’s polling is similarly low, with just 41% of respondents to a separate recent Reuters/Ipsos poll saying they viewed him favorably.

Trump, who cast his ballot in Florida, has frequently hinted at a third presidential run. He said on Monday that he would make a “big announcement” on Nov. 15.

The prevalence of election deniers among Republican candidates has elevated down-ballot races that typically receive little attention.

In swing states such as Nevada, Arizona and Michigan, the Republican nominees to head up the states’ election apparatus have embraced Trump’s falsehoods, raising fears among Democrats that, if they prevail, they could interfere with the 2024 presidential race.

Those concerns swayed even some Republican leaning voters like Henry Bowden, 36, an Atlanta lawyer who said he voted for a mix of Republican and Democratic candidates.

“I was really trying not to vote for any of the Republicans that are too much in Trump’s pocket and all the election denial stuff. I was very tired of that,” he said.

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