Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty Images
With the next two years of his presidency on the line and Congress in the balance, Joe Biden picked up the phone Tuesday night and began posting a series of congratulations.
Related: The winner of the midterms is not yet clear – but the loser is Donald Trump
In the beginning, the president sent good wishes to candidates widely expected to win their races, such as Wes Moore, who was overwhelmingly elected as Maryland’s first black governor. But he soon congratulated Democrats in more competitive races, such as Virginia congressman Abigail Spanberger, whose race was seen as a measure of Republicans’ fortunes. And then a text to Pennsylvania Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman, who won one of the most hotly contested Senate games and gave the Democrats their only gain in the room.
By Wednesday, control of Congress was on the line, but Democrats had defied the most bleak predictions after what a prominent forecaster stated. used to be “the craziest election night I’ve ever seen”. Voices were still being tabulated across the country, but it appears Biden has avoided the devastating political rebuke expected given the depth of the country’s economic slump and the president’s dismal approval ratings.
On battlefields in the industrial Midwest, the party hit back a “red wave” even as Republicans stormed to victory in Florida and Ohio. Several critical Senate races were too close to call several key states, including Georgia, which looked set to go to a runoff election in December that could determine the majority, just like it did two years ago.
In the district-by-district battle for 435 seats in the House, Democrats held out in parts of suburban Virginia, Michigan and Kansas. Republicans, meanwhile, secured seats in Florida, and the chairman of the Democrats’ campaign arm admitted that they conceded defeat in his New York district, which could lead to a narrow majority in the House of Representatives.
Related: Progressive candidates win crucial midterm elections
There were losses that hurt. Democratic star Stacey Abrams failed to oust Georgian Republican Brian Kemp in a rematch of their bitter 2018 contest. A strong Republican display in Texas cooled Democratic hopes of turning Texas blue. And even more worrisome for the party’s long-term national prospects, Republicans’ advantage in the House proved to be due in no small part to an aggressive partisan effort to redraw electoral districts to favor their own candidates after the census. of 2020.
Despite Democrats’ brighter-than-expected outlook, a Republican-controlled House still threatened to change the trajectory of his presidency. Biden, who turns 80 this month, also faces a looming decision over whether to run for re-election in 2024, as Trump teases a presidential bidding announcement for later this month. Biden has publicly said he plans to run, despite some Democrats’ concerns about his age and unpopularity, but he has not formally announced the decision.
Trump may not be the only Republican that Biden will have to worry about in 2024. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, long seen as a more disciplined, conservative alternative to Trump, declared victory in front of a crowd chanting “two more years.”
Limited control of the House could encourage the increasingly pro-Trump wing of the Republican conference, which has demanded a slew of investigations into officials of the Biden administration and his family.
Some have threatened to impeach the president or his top officials. And Republican leaders have already made it clear that they plan to use indispensable spending bills as leverage to enforce legal concessions, promising political brinkmanship that could lead to a government shutdown or even a risky default.
Biden has mocked Republicans for failing to offer a serious government agenda while claiming their plans would jeopardize popular programs like Social Security and Medicare. Republicans, in turn, blamed Biden’s policies for deepening inflation and causing chaos at the US-Mexico border.
The Senate, currently split 50-50 with Kamala Harris as the deciding vote, remained within reach for Democrats on Wednesday, though a result may not be known until after the second round in Georgia next month. With a Democratic Senate majority, Biden could confirm cabinet officials, ambassadors and judges, including a Supreme Court justice, should a vacancy arise. If the Republicans win, they can block or block Biden’s judicial nominees and federal nominations.
It was no longer possible for Democrats to gain the two-seat majority in the Senate: Biden had promised to codify Roe if voters elected two more senators willing to eliminate the filibuster, which takes 60 votes to pass most legislation. to approve. Still, fulfilling the promise probably required a Democratic House.
Speaking in Chicago last week, Biden was blunt about what Republican majorities would mean for his ability to govern.
“If we lose the House and the Senate,” he told Democratic donors in Chicago, “it’s going to be two terrible years.” He added: “The good news is I have a veto pen.”
There were also signs that the loss of federal abortion protection was mobilizing young people and women, leading to democratic victories across the country. In Michigan, where voters enshrined abortion rights in their constitution, Democrats won up and down the vote, even unexpectedly taking control of the state legislature. Voters in California and Vermont also chose to protect abortion in their state constitutions. And in Kentucky in reliably red, voters rejected an amendment seeking to deny constitutional protections for abortion.
In a statement, Nancy Northup, CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said the election was “an undeniable repudiation” of the overthrow of Roe v Wade.
“From Kentucky to Michigan to Vermont to California, Americans want their abortion rights protected,” she said.