US Midterm Elections, A User’s Guide

Why are Americans heading to the polls on Tuesday? Which party is the favourite? What are the races to follow? Why are these votes important for the future? When will we know the results? France 24 takes stock before the big election night.

The United States is organizing its mid-term elections, or Midterms, on Tuesday, November 8, legislative elections coupled with local elections organized every four years, alternating with the presidential election. Joe Biden’s Democratic Party, which currently has a slim majority in the House of Representatives and an even slimmer majority in the Senate, is on the defensive against a GOP hoping to see a ‘red wave.’ [des couleurs du parti] surge in Washington. The results of these elections will determine the political climate for the next two years in the country. Deciphered in five questions.

– Hall of representatives

Every two years the 435 seats in the Lower House are up for grabs. In 2020, the Democrats had won a narrow majority of 222 seats to the Republicans’ 213 [aujourd’hui, après défections et décès, 220 contre 212]. The latter hope to regain power and only need five additional seats for that, the lowest figure since 1932.

– The Senate

Of the 100 seats in the upper house, 35 (12 Democrats, 23 Republicans) are up for grabs this year, for six-year terms. In 2020, the Democrats had won the majority on a knife edge. There are currently 50 Republican seats, 48 ​​Democratic seats, and 2 Independent seats voting with the Democrats. It is the decisive voice of the vice president of the United States, the Democrat Kamala Harris, who currently allows the presidential party to control the Senate. Therefore, to regain power, the Republicans only need one additional seat.

– Local races

On November 8, some Americans also elect their state governor, with 36 seats out of 50 up for grabs. The midterm elections are also an opportunity to elect local secretaries of state, attorneys general and local caucuses. Other local elections are also held at the county level.

According to the latest polls, the advantage is taken by the Republicans.

The latter are on their way to regain control of the House of Representatives. The five clean wins at stake appear to be within reach, as there are 45 particularly competitive races, according to the Cook Political Report. And all the more so since they benefit from a slight structural advantage, thanks to the redesign of the electoral districts carried out from the 2020 census.

In the Senate, the battle is close and the suspense could last until the last minute in a handful of key states.

Traditionally, the presidential match begins with a handicap. Midterm elections are a kind of referendum on the incumbent head of state. Since Truman, US presidents have lost an average of more than 29 seats in the House of Representatives in their first midterm elections. But Joe Biden suffers from a low popularity rating. Therefore, logic would dictate that the Republicans regain control of both chambers.

However, after the Supreme Court struck down the federal abortion law in June, Democrats believed they might escape the historic trend of the ruling party taking a beating in midterm elections. Donald Trump’s presence on the campaign trail and memories of the attack on Capitol Hill gave them hope of keeping independent voters on their side. His bet: to campaign on the defense of reproductive rights and on the threats to American democracy. They were encouraged by polls showing a smaller-than-expected loss in the House and the Democratic majority in the Senate.

Still, in recent days, Republicans have regained the upper hand, attacking their opponents on the issues of inflation and crime, among others. So it looks increasingly difficult for Democrats to defy gravity.

  • 3) What are the key careers to pursue? ?

– In the Senate

Here are four closely contested races to watch on Tuesday night: Arizona, Georgia, Nevada and Pennsylvania. Democrats need to win three to maintain control of the upper house. Republicans only need two wins in those four states to win.

• Pennsylvania Republican Pat Toomey is retiring and therefore must be replaced. Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, a Democrat, is up against surgeon and TV star Mehmet Oz, a Republican dubbed by Donald Trump. It was one of the most lucrative races in this midterm campaign, with Pennsylvania being one of the most closely contested states by both parties: Joe Biden won it by a margin of points in 2020 alone. John Fetterman has long been the favorite, but the gap has narrowed to a trickle in recent weeks.

• Arizona Astronaut Mark Kelly, a Democratic senator since 2020, is challenged by Republican Blake Masters, who has questioned the legitimacy of Joe Biden’s election. Here too, the Democrat was in the lead during the campaign, but the gap has narrowed in recent days.

• Georgia Pastor Raphael Warnock, a Democratic senator elected in 2020, is facing former football player Herschel Walker, a Republican supported by Donald Trump. Two women have publicly accused this anti-abortion conservative of pushing them to have an abortion, pointing out his hypocrisy on this hot-button issue. Herschel Walker denies it, and these cases don’t seem to hurt him, as he has caught up with Raphael Warnock in recent days. This race is particularly watched, because it could lead to a third round in December. As in 2020, Georgia would then be the state that could determine the majority in the Senate.

• Snowfall Another very close duel between outgoing Democratic Senator Catherine Cortez-Masto, the first Hispanic American elected to the Senate in 2016, and pro-Trump Republican Adam Laxalt, well known in his state. Catherine Cortez-Masto was counting on the Latino vote in particular to win, but this support did not materialize as much as she would have liked. The Hispanic community, and in particular its evangelical fringe, is voting more and more for the Republican Party.

We’ll also have to keep an eye on senatorial races in North Carolina, New Hampshire, Ohio and Wisconsin.

– In the House of Representatives

• Virginia (2me district) The seat held by Democrat Elaine Luria is in jeopardy and Republican Jen Kiggans could win it back. Experts are particularly interested in this race, because she is the “middle seat.” If one were to rank all 435 seats in the House of Representatives by their district’s vote for Joe Biden or Donald Trump, then that district would be 218.me seat, right in the middle. His shift to the Republican side, likely aided by conservative redistricting, would therefore be significant.

• Shingles (34me district) Democrat Vicente González is facing Republican Mayra Flores, whose stunning victory in a special election six months ago showed that the Democratic Party can no longer take the Latino vote for granted. The two candidates are neck and neck.

• Rhode Island (2me district) Democrat Jim Langevin has held the seat for more than twenty years, but he will not run again this year. His successor candidate, Seth Magaziner, faces Republican Allan Fung in a close matchup that could lose a stronghold to the Democrats.

• California (22me district) David Valadao, the incumbent Republican, voted to “impeach” Donald Trump. He still won his primary, but now faces Democrat Rudy Salas in a close race. The district map was redrawn to the benefit of the Democrats. The result will show whether any of Donald Trump’s critics within his own party manage to keep his seat in Congress.

– Governors

• Arizona Republican Kari Lake, a former local TV star, opposes Democrat Katie Hobbs. Kari Lake is a pro-Trump far-right candidate who believes Joe Biden’s election is not legitimate. She questions her own acceptance of possible defeat. And if she wins, she has indicated that as governor she could retain the victory certification of a 2024 Democratic presidential candidate.

• Georgia Republican incumbent Brian Kemp is opposed by Democratic star Stacey Abrams. Unlike Kari Lake, Brian Kemp made himself an enemy of the pro-Trump field by refusing to block Joe Biden’s victory in his 2020 state. That didn’t stop him from winning his primary this year.

• Pennsylvania Republican Doug Mastriano is, along with Kari Lake, one of the most extreme candidates in this campaign. He was outside the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, and he too could refuse to certify a Democrat’s victory in 2024 if he is elected governor. He opposes Josh Shapiro.

It should be noted that this year there are fewer women candidates than two years ago. In fact, according to calculations by FiveThirtyEight, 43% of Democratic candidates are women in 2022 compared to 47% in 2020. Among Republicans, the figure has gone from 22% of women in 2020 to 20% in 2022.

  • 4) Why are these surveys important?

– For Joe Biden’s agenda

If he loses the majority in one of the two houses, almost all the reforms that the President hoped to carry out in the second half of his term will be doomed to failure. Democrats can thus say goodbye to a possible text to legalize abortion at the federal level, or to more efforts to fight the climate crisis. The issue of aid to Ukraine will also be put back on the table.

Joe Biden’s nominations across the various courts, including a potential Supreme Court nomination in the event of the death of one of the current members, could also be blocked by a Republican majority in the Senate.

On the contrary, the Republicans will be able, thanks to a majority in the House of Representatives, to put an end to certain parliamentary investigations, such as that of the Commission on the attack of January 6, and open others, for example, on the withdrawal from Afghanistan or about Joe Biden’s son. Some elected officials have also hinted that they could launch impeachment proceedings against the president.

– Because of the political climate in the United States

Most of this year’s Republican candidates have questioned the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election. Some could question the outcome of their own ballot again if they are defeated, and violence could result. Among them, some could be chosen for decisive positions for the next elections, such as the positions of governor or local secretary of state, in charge of elections. The left fears for 2024 a scenario in which the Republicans in power will do everything possible to prevent the victory of the opposing party, even if it is necessary to free themselves from democratic rules.

  • 5) When will we have the results?

In 2020, due to mail-in ballot counting, it took several days for Joe Biden to be declared president-elect. This year, in the battleground states of Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, counting mail-in ballots is still not allowed until after Election Day. Therefore, it is necessary to wait a certain delay before knowing the results. And the Republican candidates in the lead at the beginning of the evening, before a possible shortening of the distance with their Democratic rivals. Democratic voters are more likely to vote by mail.

You know all ! Don’t hesitate to follow our live blog so you don’t miss anything on election night on Tuesday, November 8.

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