Dawn skies at the Capitol in Washington. PHOTO: AP
WASHINGTON (AFP) – Republican hopes of a “red wave” carrying them to power in the US Congress faded yesterday as Joe Biden’s Democrats put up a stronger-than-expected defense in a midterm contest headed for a cliff-hanger finish.
With a majority of Tuesday’s races called, Republicans seemed on track to reclaim the House of Representatives for the first time since 2018, but the Senate was still in play, with forecasts tentatively leaning Democratic.
And the midterms delivered a decidedly mixed bag for Donald Trump, who though not on the ballot loomed large over the contest, teasing a 2024 run and airing unsubstantiated allegations of Election Day fraud.
While the night saw wins by more than 100 Republicans embracing Trump’s “Big Lie” that Biden stole the 2020 election, several high-profile, election-denying acolytes of the former president came up short.
Aiming to deliver a rebuke of Biden’s presidency, against a backdrop of sky-high inflation and bitter culture wars, Republicans needed one extra seat to wrest control of the evenly-divided Senate.
But by early yesterday the only seat to change party hands went to the Democrats, with John Fetterman, a burly champion of progressive economic policies, triumphing in Pennsylvania.
In the House, early results suggested Republicans were on track for a majority – but only by a handful of seats, a far cry from their predictions.
Top Republican Kevin McCarthy – who hopes to be the lower chamber’s next Speaker – struck an upbeat note, telling supporters in the early hours: “It is clear that we are going to take the House back.”
But Senator Lindsey Graham, a top Trump ally, bluntly conceded to NBC that the election is “definitely not a Republican wave, that’s for sure”.
The president’s party has traditionally lost seats in midterm elections, and with Biden’s ratings stuck in the low 40s and Republicans pounding him over inflation and crime, pundits had predicted a drubbing.
That would have raised tough questions on whether America’s oldest-ever commander in chief, who turns 80 this month, should run again.
Instead Biden stands to emerge in much better shape than either of his Democratic predecessors, Barack Obama or Bill Clinton, who both took a hammering at the midterms.
Control of the Senate hinged early yesterday on four key races that were still on a knife-edge.
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