Republican ‘red wave’ hopes fizzle in US midterm vote

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Republican wave hopes fizzle US midterm vote

WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden’s agenda hung in the balance early Wednesday as a predicted Republican wave failed to materialize in congressional elections fought against a backdrop of stubbornly high inflation and fears for US democracy.

Tuesday’s election saw a clearer verdict in races for states’ governors with rising Republican star Ron DeSantis winning by a crushing margin in Florida, cementing his status as a top potential White House candidate in 2024.

Democrats suffered disappointment in Ohio as writer J.D. Vance, a Trump-endorsed chronicler of working-class white life, won a Senate seat that was already in Republican hands.

But in House races, one Ohio Republican conceded defeat to a Democrat and two Democratic congresswomen in Virginia seen as at risk survived challenges, although a third seat in the eastern state flipped.

The election is “definitely not a Republican wave, that’s for darn sure,” Senator Lindsey Graham, a top Trump ally, told NBC News.

Senator Ted Cruz, who had previously forecast a “red tsunami,” still predicted Republicans would win both chambers but said, “It hasn’t been as big of a wave as I’d hoped it would be.”

The president’s party has traditionally lost seats in midterm elections, with Republicans roaring back after the first two years of both Barack Obama and Bill Clinton.

With Biden’s favorability ratings hovering in the low 40s and Republicans pounding him over inflation and crime, many pundits predicted major losses — which would raise new questions on whether America’s oldest-ever president, who turns 80 this month, should run again.

All eyes are on a handful of Senate races including in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Arizona and Wisconsin, with a single seat enough to swing control of the Senate — now evenly divided and controlled by Democrats only through the tie-breaking vote of Vice President Kamala Harris.

More than 100 Republicans who denied results of the 2020 US elections won their midterm races Tuesday, capturing seats in Congress and key statewide offices that will oversee future polls, media projections said.

But there were setbacks for vocal supporters of former President Donald Trump’s unfounded claims of election fraud such as Doug Mastriano, a far-right conspiracy theorist who failed in his bid to become Pennsylvania governor.

Despite no evidence, Trump’s claim that the last presidential election was stolen has spread like wildfire through the Republican Party and its base, prompting fears over the future health of American democracy.

According to a Washington Post analysis, nearly 300 Republicans on the ballot for midterms had questioned the validity of the last presidential election — a figure also highlighted by Democratic President Joe Biden.

By late Tuesday more than 140 of those had won their races, including House and Senate seats, as well as state-level contests.

Those who capture state offices such as governor and secretary of state will be in positions of power to change election rules to the advantage of their favored candidates.

Among the election deniers winning Tuesday were Georgia congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene and Katie Britt, who ran for Alabama’s open US Senate seat.

But Mastriano — who participated in January 6, 2021 protests against Biden’s victory that turned into an insurrection, and endorsed the idea that state legislatures have the legal authority to override the popular vote — lost to Democrat Josh Shapiro.

Don Bolduc, who had embraced election conspiracy theories, also lost his bid for a Senate seat in New Hampshire.

Vote-counting is ongoing in Arizona, the southwestern state that has become ground zero for election denialism, and which has several key races.

Former local news anchor Kari Lake has spread election disinformation in her bid for governor.

Arizona’s Republican candidates for a US Senate seat and secretary of state have also said they would not have certified Biden’s win in the state.

Trump, who endorsed more than 200 Republicans in their nominating contests for Tuesday’s election, made belief in his “Big Lie” a prerequisite for his support.

On a night of close contests, one of the most decisive wins was for DeSantis, who has made a name in Florida by railing against Covid mitigation measures and transgender rights.

He was projected to have won by up to 20 points against a folksy former governor, four years after squeaking by in his longtime swing state.

Among other gubernatorial races, two solidly Democratic states, Massachusetts and Maryland, elected Democrats to succeed popular moderate Republican incumbents.

In Massachusetts, Maura Healey will make history as the first openly lesbian governor in the United States.

And in New York, where recent polls gave Democrats a scare, Governor Kathy Hochul fended off a Republican challenge.

Trump, who is facing criminal probes over taking top secret documents from the White House and trying to overturn the 2020 election, has returned to his playbook of airing unsubstantiated claims of fraud.

In Arizona, expected to be one of the closest states, Trump and his chosen candidate for governor, Kari Lake, alleged irregularities after problems with voting machines.

Officials in surrounding Maricopa County said about 20 percent of the 223 polling stations experienced difficulties related to printers but that no one was denied the right to vote.

Biden has warned that Republicans pose a dire threat to democracy with more than half their candidates repeating Trump’s debunked claims of cheating in the 2020 election.

If both the House and Senate flip, Biden’s legislative agenda would be paralyzed as Republicans launch aggressive investigations and oppose his spending plans.

That would raise questions over everything from climate policies, which the president will be laying out at the COP27 conference in Egypt this week, to Ukraine, where some Republicans are reluctant to maintain the current rate of US military support.


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