US heads to polls in midterms to decide who controls Congress

Americans today vote in the high-stakes midterms that will decide who controls Congress: Forecasts predict Republicans will take the House but the Senate race is down to the wire in epic battle that could leave Biden a ‘lame duck’ president

  • Joe Biden faces a stern test today as Americans go to the polls with Republicans expected to surge
  • The Democrat-controlled House is expected to turn Red, with all 435 seats up for grabs
  • In the Senate, 35 seats out of 100 are on offer, with a swing of one to the Republicans securing a majority

Joe Biden could face a humiliating setback in his presidency today as Americans go to the polls for the first time since his election win.

The veteran Democrat is set to be a lame duck for the remainder of his term if Republicans seize control of the House and Senate in the midterms, as pollsters predict.

Midterms are always held at the midpoint of a president’s four-year term to decide the makeup of the two chambers of Congress, the House and the Senate.

Unlike in the UK, separate elections are held in the US just to decide the president and to elect representatives in government.

Each of the 435 seats in the House, the lower chamber of Congress currently controlled by the Democrats, is up for grabs today.

Joe Biden could face a humiliating setback in his presidency today as Americans go to the polls for the first time since his election win

Republicans need to only win five seats to gain a majority in the chamber, with latest figures by Real Clear Politics suggesting they will pick up at least 15 seats, taking their total to 227, with the Democrats on 174, and the remaining 34 seats still too close to call.

But that alone would already secure a majority for the party of Donald Trump, past the magical 218 figure needed to control the legislative agenda.

In the Senate, 35 of the 100 seats are up for election this year, and only a few of them are tightly contested.

Both parties currently have 50 seats in the higher chamber, but Vice President Kamala Harris can cast a tie-breaking vote, effectively handing control to the Democrats for now.

But a swing of just one seat to the Republicans will mean Biden faces legislative gridlock and an uphill battle to secure reelection, because his opponents will be able to decide the congressional agenda.

The vote is also seen as a bellwether for an administration and a heavy defeat could signal a swing back to the GOP in 2024. 

Republicans have focused on kitchen-table issues like inflation and crime while the Democrats say democracy is at stake with Trump still looming over today’s vote.

The former president is widely expected to declare another White House bid, and teased a ‘major announcement’ on November 15 at Mar-a-Lago yesterday. 

He has deliberately avoided making a formal announcement until after the midterms in a bid to avoid making today’s vote a referendum on Trump, and to see how weakened Biden is.

But the Republican has been a major figure in the midterm campaigns, holding regular rallies across the country and lending support and endorsements to candidates to shore up their support. 

On top of the congressional elections, voters are also choosing their governors in 36 of the 50 states, legislative officials and local authorities. 

Here, MailOnline explains what to look out for on a mammoth election day.

What to look for in the House 

In their last prediction based on poll averages, Real Clear Politics has the GOP with 53 Senate seats when the votes are counted and picking up at least 15 in the House races to take their total to 227, with the Democrats winning 174.

Thirty-four races for Congress are still considered toss-ups but it is becoming clear that Republicans have the momentum, despite the Democrats making a small comeback in the closing stages.

President Biden’s low approval and voters trusting Republicans to deal with the economy, inflation and crime have turned the tables towards the GOP in recent months.

Surveys have also shown white suburban women, black and Latino voters moving to the Republicans, fed up with rising prices and surging violence across the country.


It is a dire sign for the Democrats who focused their early campaigning on abortion – spending more than $300 million on ads on the issue – and the danger the GOP poses to democracy in the late stages.

In the House, results in New York, New Jersey and Virginia could set the stage for the rest of the night.

Democrats Elaine Luria, Jennifer Wexton and Abigail Spanberger in Virginia and Tom Malinowski in New Jersey are most at risk of defeat in what are considered purple districts.

Rep. Cindy Axne is also bracing for a loss against her Republican rival in Iowa.

Republicans are growing increasingly confident that they can even flip districts in blue areas such as New England and New York, and end the night for the Democrats before it has even began.

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, the head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, is facing a tough battle in his Hudson Valley, New York, seat.

What to look for in the Senate 

The Senate is already on a knife’s edge with a 50-50 split between Democrats and Republicans.

Real Clear Politics’ average of polls has the GOP picking up four seats, but candidates in battles in crucial states are separated by less than one point.

In Pennsylvania, Republican TV star Dr. Oz is leading his Democratic opponent by just 0.1 percent in poll averages. 

The TV doctor has gained momentum since John Fetterman’s eye-opening debate performance last month that posed questions about his stroke recovery. 

The candidates are also separated by one percent or less in New Hampshire and Arizona, and Herschel Walker’s slim 0.4 percent lead over Raphael Warnock in projections for Georgia shows the the strong possibility of a runoff election on December 6.

All Republicans need to do on November 8 is flip one seat and keep their territory, and Mitch McConnell will be the new Senate Majority Leader.

The GOP have momentum on their side, with national surveys showing voters trust them to deal with top concerns such as rising prices and crime.

Democrats want to try and avoid the red wave that is predicted in the House, and hope issues they have focused on such as abortion and the threat of election deniers drives voters their way at the ballot box.

What does it mean for Trump? 

Donald Trump has been increasingly explicit about his plans to seek another term, saying in recent days that he would ‘very, very, very probably’ run again and would be formalising his intentions ‘very, very soon.’

‘I will probably have to do it again but stay tuned,’ he said Sunday night in Miami. ‘Stay tuned to tomorrow night in the great state of Ohio.’

Last night in Ohio, he said: ‘I’m going to be making a very big announcement on Tuesday, November 15 at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida.’

Donald Trump has been increasingly explicit about his plans to seek another term, saying in recent days that he would ‘very, very, very probably’ run again

Republican officials and some people in Trump’s orbit had been urging him for months to wait until after the midterms were over to launch.

They wanted to avoid turning the election into a referendum on him and to shield him from potential blame should Republicans not do as well as the party hopes on Tuesday.

But Trump has been eager to move forward, hoping to piggyback off expected Republican wins after endorsing nearly 300 candidates, as well as to stave off potential challengers like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and others who have indicated they will run.

Indeed, the date of Trump’s announcement – November 15 – is the same day former Vice President Mike Pence will be releasing a book that is seen as part of his own potential campaign rollout.

What does it mean for Biden?

Democrats have been able to control the legislative agenda for Biden’s first two years in office thanks to their effective control of Congress.

That has allowed them to carry out investigations into the January 6 riots, and hold hearings on abortion, voting rights and healthcare.

But if they lose control of congress, Republicans will impose a radically different agenda.

Some Republicans have already pledged to investigate Biden’s son Hunter and his ties to China, while other controversial topics such as the origins of Covid and Biden’s immigration policies will also be probed.

Major losses today would make Biden’s path to reelection even trickier and could benefit Trump, suggesting a growing swathe of support for the GOP

If another Supreme Court vacancy arises, it is unlikely to be filled during this presidency, with Biden’s nomination unlikely to pass through a Republican-controlled congress.

Major losses today would make Biden’s path to reelection even trickier and could benefit Trump, suggesting a growing swathe of support for the GOP.

The president’s party tends to fare badly in the midterms, which are often seen as a bellwether for their administration, but heavy defeats can spark panic.

It could even lead to calls for Biden to stand aside in 2024 and allow a new Democrat to succeed him. 

When will the result be announced?

There is no federal government agency that tells the country who has won the election right away, and different states count ballots at different times. 

That means it could take longer to declare a winner in some spots. 

Varying rules on when recounts or runoff elections might be required could also factor in.

States including Pennsylvania and Wisconsin don’t allow officials to open the envelopes until Election Day, leading to a possible ‘red mirage’ in which Republican-leaning Election Day ballots are reported earlier, with many Democratic-leaning mail ballots counted later. 

Other states allow grace periods for votes to be counted as long as they were postmarked by Election Day.

All of this means that we likely will not know who won every race on election night.

The earliest vote tallies will be skewed by how quickly states count mail-in ballots, with some states reporting mail-in ballots results earlier, which could make it seem like Democrats have the lead in the state

The Associated Press calls races when it determines a clear victor. 

But no state releases complete and final results on election night, nor have they ever done so in modern history, according to experts.

The earliest vote tallies will also be skewed by how quickly states count mail ballots.

Because Democrats vote by mail more often than Republicans, states that let officials get an early jump on counting mail ballots could report big Democratic leads early on that evaporate as vote counters work through piles of Republican-leaning ballots that were cast on election day.

In these ‘blue mirage’ states – which include Florida and North Carolina – election officials are allowed to remove mail ballots from their envelopes before Election Day and load them in vote counting machines, allowing for speedy counting.

Experts like Joe Lenski, co-founder of Edison Research, which will be tracking hundreds of races on Tuesday and supplying Reuters and other media organisations with results, will keep an eye on the mix of different types of ballots each state is counting throughout the night.

‘Blue mirage, red mirage, whatever. You just have to look at what types of votes are getting reported to know where you are in that state,’ said Lenski.

The first wave of vote tallies are expected on the East Coast at around midnight GMT.

An early indication of Republican success could come if the races expected to be close – like Virginia’s 7th congressional district or a US Senate seat in North Carolina – turn out to be Democratic routs.

By around 3am GMT, when polls in the Midwest will be closed for an hour or more, it’s possible Republicans will have enough momentum for experts at U.S. media organisations to project control of the House, said Kyle Kondik, a political analyst at the University of Virginia’s Centre for Politics.

If the fight for the House still looks close as vote tallies start coming in from the West Coast – where there could be more than a dozen tight House races – it could be days before control of the chamber is known, experts said.

California typically takes weeks to count all its ballots, in part because it counts ballots postmarked by Election Day even if they arrive days afterward. Nevada and Washington state also allow late ballots if postmarked by November 8, slowing down the march to final results.

‘If the House is really on the edge, that would matter,’ said Kondik.

It may take longer, perhaps weeks longer, to know which party will control the Senate, with close contests in Pennsylvania, Arizona and Georgia likely to determine final control.

If Georgia’s Senate race is as close as expected and no candidate receives more than 50 per cent of the vote, a run-off election would be scheduled for December 6, possibly meaning it will be unclear who will control the chamber until then. The new Congress is set to be inaugurated on January 3, 2023.

What are the other votes today?

Competitive governors contests are on the ballot in about a dozen states out of the 36 races, with outcomes that hold far-reaching consequences on issues such as abortion, voting rights and guns.

The high stakes have brought increased money and attention to the state-level races, which typically get overshadowed in midterm elections by the fight for control of Congress.

Democrats are fighting to keep control of governorships in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan to maintain the power to veto any legislation by the three states’ Republican-controlled legislatures that might curb abortion rights and voting access.

Republican victories in presidential battleground states including Arizona could have implications for the 2024 White House election. 

In Florida, polls show Republican incumbent Ron DeSantis (pictured) poised to defeat Democratic challenger Charlie Crist ahead of DeSantis’ widely expected run for the presidency in 2024

The party’s nominees in several such states have embraced former President Donald Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was stolen.

In Arizona, which has one of the country’s closest gubernatorial races, Trump-backed candidate Kari Lake has repeated his assertions about voter fraud and said she would not have certified President Joe Biden’s victory in that state. She has vowed to ban mail-in voting if she wins.

Her opponent is Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, a Democrat who rose to national prominence in 2020 when she defended Arizona’s election results.

Lake backed off the stolen election theme at a campaign event near Phoenix on Monday. She told supporters they needed to vote ‘like your life depends on it.’

In all, 36 of the country’s 50 states will elect governors on Tuesday, with the majority safely in either Democratic or Republican hands. Republicans hold 28 governor seats nationally, compared to 22 Democratic governorships.

In Florida, polls show Republican incumbent Ron DeSantis poised to defeat Democratic challenger Charlie Crist ahead of DeSantis’ widely expected run for the presidency in 2024.

In Texas, Republican Governor Greg Abbott is expected to win a third term despite a lively campaign by his Democratic opponent, former U.S. congressman Beto O’Rourke. Georgia’s Republican governor, Brian Kemp, also looks likely to prevail against Democratic challenger Stacey Abrams in a rematch of their 2018 race.

In Texas, Republican Governor Greg Abbott (pictured) is expected to win a third term despite a lively campaign by his Democratic opponent

Democrats are expected to flip Republican-held governorships in the states of Maryland and Massachusetts, but they face tough battles in a couple of other Democratic states.

A three-way race in Oregon could result in a Republican winning the state’s governorship for the first time in 40 years.

Democrat Tina Kotek and Republican Christine Drazan are locked in a close battle for the open seat, and independent candidate Betsy Johnson, a former Democrat, could potentially siphon votes from Kotek.

Biden campaigned on Sunday in New York, where Democratic Governor Kathy Hochul’s lead in the polls over Republican challenger Lee Zeldin has shrunk to single digits as Zeldin has hammered away on the crime issue. No Republican has won statewide office in New York in 20 years.

As with congressional races across the country, Democratic candidates for governor have warned of the threats Republicans could pose to abortion rights and elections should they win on Tuesday. Republicans have focused largely on crime and the economy, blaming inflation on Democratic policies.

Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer has made abortion a focal point of her re-election campaign in Michigan, where voters also will consider a ballot measure that would safeguard abortion rights in the state’s constitution.

Her Republican opponent, Trump-backed conservative commentator Tudor Dixon, supports a near-total ban on abortion but says the topic is not an issue in the governor’s race because of the ballot question.

Wisconsin’s Democratic incumbent Tony Evers faces a strong challenge from Republican construction magnate Tim Michels, who has promised to enforce a 19th-century abortion ban that Evers is challenging in court.

Michels has raised concerns about how he would handle future elections, telling supporters at a recent campaign event that ‘Republicans will never lose another election in Wisconsin after I’m elected governor.’

In Pennsylvania, the governor appoints the secretary of state, who oversees election administration. Biden and former presidents Barack Obama and Trump all spent part of the final weekend before Election Day rallying with their party’s nominees in the pivotal state.

Republican candidate Doug Mastriano has echoed Trump’s false claims of voter fraud and was present at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, to protest the outcome of the 2020 presidential election.

Democratic candidate Josh Shapiro, the state’s attorney general who is leading in opinion polls for the open seat, has cast Mastriano as too extreme for Pennsylvania.

What are the main issues at the ballot box?

Victory at the US ballot box hinges on offering the right answers to the questions that matter most to voters. But their shifting priorities have proved difficult to pin down in this year’s midterm election.

Democrats made significant headway in recent months arguing that moves to curb voting rights and abortion access amounted to fundamental threats to freedom and democracy that ought to count for more than partisan politics.

But Republicans have managed to return the campaign to a more traditional tussle over the economy and law and order, with inflation stubbornly high, violent crime on the rise and the ever-thorny issue of uncontrolled migration at the border with Mexico.

With grocery prices spiralling, gas price still elevated and economists making dark noises about a looming recession, the economy has figured at the top of almost every poll of voters’ priorities in the final weeks of the campaign.

Voters consider the economy one of the most important factors at the ballot box for the midterm elections – followed by abortion, inflation and democracy – a new poll published Sunday shows

Inflation stands at a vertiginous 8.2 percent in the United States.

Although it is a global issue over which presidents have very limited power, Republicans have blamed Democrats for exacerbating price hikes through runaway spending.

The number of people who rate inflation as extremely important in Monmouth University’s polling has increased from 37 percent in September to 46 percent.

In a Harvard CAPS-Harris Poll survey of around 2,000 registered voters, 48 percent said inflation was more likely to make them vote Republican, while 36 percent said it pushed them towards Democrats.

Law and order is not new ground for Republicans, who have been hitting Democrats particularly hard on the issue since violence and vandalism marred nationwide racial justice protests in 2020.

Violent crime as a whole is soaring – up 28 percent from 640,836 incidents in 2020 to 817,020 in 2021, according to FBI data.

More than three-quarters of voters said violent crime was a major problem in a recent Politico/Morning Consult poll, and a Fox News survey showed similar levels of concern.

In Pennsylvania, one of the country’s closest Senate races, Republican hopeful Mehmet Oz accuses his Democratic rival John Fetterman almost daily of being ‘soft on crime.’

Republicans have adopted the same tactics in other swing states, including Nevada and Wisconsin.

Voters believe strongly that democracy is imperiled, according to a recent New York Times/Siena College poll, yet they frame the issue differently from the media.

Almost three-quarters of registered voters agreed that democracy was ‘under threat,’ yet their concern was institutional corruption – the kind of low-level greed that undermines public confidence in officialdom.

They did not appear anywhere near as worried about the themes preoccupying the Washington press pack, such as the multiple allegations of misconduct against Donald Trump, the US Capitol assault and election denialism.

In fact, the widely-praised work of the House committee investigating the 2021 attack on the US Capitol, and whether Trump is culpable for the violence, has not affected the former president’s approval rating.

Illegal migration into the US from Mexico has been surging past last year’s record-breaking levels, its deadly consequences laid bare by the discovery of more than 50 dead migrants in an abandoned lorry in Texas.

Economic catastrophes, turmoil and natural disasters in Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Venezuela and a handful of other countries have been fuelling the influx, which Republicans say is the source of America’s fentanyl crisis.

Immigration has been ranking high to mid-table among voters’ priorities, often placed fourth behind inflation, crime and threats to democracy.

A Monmouth University poll in September showed just 31 percent of Americans approving of the job Biden is doing on the issue, compared to 63 percent who disapprove.

Reproductive rights at one point appeared to be the issue that would decide the election. Voter registrations, particularly among women, surged after the US Supreme Court ended federal protections for abortion access in June.

But it has lost momentum as a campaign issue more recently, sparking concern among Democrats that they may have relied too heavily on the subject in favour of ‘kitchen table’ fare like inflation.

It’s not clear that the issue is a straightforward winner for liberals in any case.

In the Harvard CAPS-Harris Poll, 41 percent of voters said abortion was more likely to get them to vote Democratic but almost as many – 38 percent – said it would turn them towards the Republicans.

Several more peripheral issues have dropped in and out of polls on voters’ priorities, important enough to get a mention in debates and the occasional campaign ad but not seen as a dealbreaker for support in the midterms.

These include racial equality, gun control and the climate crisis – perhaps the most pressing issue of all, despite its singular inability to turn heads during election campaigns.

In a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll roughly half of registered voters said climate change was ‘very important’ or ‘one of the most important issues’ in their vote for Congress.

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