Home USA News What to watch for in the high-stakes 2022 midterm elections

What to watch for in the high-stakes 2022 midterm elections

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WASHINGTON (AP) — After months of primaries, campaign events and fundraising appeals, the midterm elections that will determine the balance of power in Washington and state capitals are finally here.

Republicans are predicting a massive red wave as worried Democrats defend their narrow majority in Congress as they struggle to overcome widespread concerns about the economy, crime and the leadership of President Joe Biden. Democrats are hoping that the backlash against the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade will save them.

The political environment has resulted in an unusually wide playing field as emboldened Republicans push into Democratic strongholds like New York, California, New Mexico and Washington state. However, marquee races are taking place in states like Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, all of which could help determine the outcome of the 2024 presidential election.

Due to close contests and lengthy vote counting, it could be days or weeks before the final result is known in several key races.

What we’re watching on Election Day:

RED WAVE RISING?

All signs point to the Republicans making significant gains on Tuesday. But whether this is a red tide or a tsunami remains to be seen.

Voters are overwhelmingly pessimistic about the direction the country will take as inflation rises and political divisions flare. And history shows that voters will take their frustrations out on the party in power.

The party that holds the White House has suffered significant losses in nearly every first presidential midterm election in more than a century. The exceptions were in 1934 during the Great Depression; in 1998 during the impeachment effort against Bill Clinton; and in 2002 after the September 11 attacks.

Democrats initially hoped the Supreme Court’s decision to eliminate abortion rights might be enough to reverse historic trends — or at least limit their losses — but party leaders grew increasingly concerned as Election Day neared.

Operatives in both parties expect the Republican Party to win a majority in the House of Representatives, which would require a net gain of five seats. But with a big wave, the Republican Party could win 25 new seats or more. Sensing an opportunity, Republican groups poured millions of dollars into Democratic districts in California, New York, Illinois and Pennsylvania in the final days of the election.

The battle for the Senate majority is more competitive. If Republicans pick up at least one seat, they will control the upper chamber of the Senate.

Democrats are fighting to protect vulnerable incumbents in Arizona, Georgia, Nevada and New Hampshire, while Republicans believe they are within striking distance in Colorado and Washington. The GOP’s chances are somewhat dampened by flawed candidates in Arizona, Georgia and New Hampshire who received endorsements from former President Donald Trump.

Pennsylvania presents the best opportunity for Democrats to flip a Republican-held seat, while GOP-held seats in North Carolina and Wisconsin also remain close.

At the same time, the race for governor and state officials such as secretary of state is becoming more intense than usual. The political environment gives Republicans confidence in gubernatorial races in blue states like Oregon and New Mexico.

If a massive red wave materializes, Democrats can fight everywhere.

ROE EFFECT

After the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade in June, Republicans, including Trump, have been vocally concerned that the decision could spark a backlash against GOP candidates who oppose abortion rights. And there have been signs in recent months that voters — suburban women and young voters in particular — are energized and ready to vote Democratic on Nov. 8.

But more than four months after the ruling, the effects of abortion may fade.

In recent weeks, Democratic candidates have turned away from abortion, at least somewhat, in favor of the economy, Social Security and Medicare. And some elected officials, including Vermont independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, have warned that Democrats are relying too much on abortion rights as a touchstone issue.

The issue is particularly important in the battle for suburban women, a group that opposed Trump’s GOP in 2020 and appeared to retreat after Trump left office as the GOP shifted its focus to pandemic restrictions and the economy.

ARE HISPANIC VOTERS GOING FURTHER TO THE RIGHT?

Democrats have sought to improve their reach among Latinos after failing to field the group in 2020. But there are reasons to believe that Democrats could do even worse this year among a key voting bloc that has long been a pillar of the party’s coalition.

Both sides have been particularly focused on the predominantly Latino south Texas Rio Grande Valley, where the Biden administration’s struggle to resolve issues along the US-Mexico border is a central issue. The Republican Party expects to win as many as three seats in the House of Representatives in the former stronghold of the Democratic Party.

The GOP is also optimistic about its position in Miami-Dade County, Florida, home to 1.5 million Hispanic voters and a Democratic stronghold for the past 20 years. The Republican Party made significant gains in the last presidential election.

If Democrats lose Miami-Dade, it will virtually eliminate their path to winning statewide contests, including presidential elections.

The Hispanic vote will have ramifications in other states, but none more so than in Arizona and Nevada, where Democrat Catherine Cortez Masta, the nation’s first Latino senator, is waging a tough fight.

HOW ARE TRUMP’S CANDIDATES OPERATING?

Trump remains the dominant force in the Republican Party, but Tuesday’s contest will test his strength among the general electorate.

Of course, he is not on the ballot, but dozens of candidates supported by Trump are. Among them were several controversial elections that defeated alternatives supported by the party establishment.

If Trump’s more prominent supporters struggle, it will raise questions about his political strength when he is in the 2024 presidential race, which could begin soon after the midterm elections.

In Pennsylvania, Trump loyalist Doug Mastriano, the GOP gubernatorial candidate, battled Democrat Josh Shapiro. Trump’s Senate pick, Dr. Mehmet Oz, is in a close race with Democrat John Fetterman. In Arizona, gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake and Senate challenger Blake Masters, who promoted Trump’s lie about a stolen 2020 election, could win.

Other Trump supporters to watch include Ohio Senate candidate Jay D. Vance, North Carolina Senate candidate Ted Budd, Michigan gubernatorial candidate Tudor Dixon and New York gubernatorial candidate Lee Zeldin.

IMPACT OF 2024

In ways big and small, the 2022 midterm elections will help shape the 2024 election.

A bad night for Democrats could undermine Biden’s case for a second term. And Trump would almost certainly use the sweeping Republican victories as proof of his political strength ahead of a possible third bid for the White House.

Advocates of good government are particularly concerned about the dozens of deniers running for public office in several presidential races.

In Nevada, Republican Jim Marchant is running for secretary of state, the state’s top election official. Marchant is the head of America’s First Secretary of State’s Coalition, a group of Trump loyalists who falsely claim the 2020 election was plagued by voter fraud.

The same is true in Arizona and Michigan, where coalition members Mark Fincham and Christina Karamo are running for secretary of state. And in Pennsylvania, GOP gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano, another staunch election denier, would have the power to appoint his chief election official if he wins.

In addition to the election administration, other statewide candidates could use Tuesday’s strong showing to file for the 2024 nomination.

Lake, the Republican candidate for governor of Arizona, is already considered a potential running mate for Trump. And in Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is running for re-election on Tuesday, is also considering a run for president in 2024, whether Trump runs or not.

WHAT WILL WE KNOW BEFORE SLEEPING?

It’s possible—perhaps, even likely—that it could take days or even weeks to finalize the results of several key contests.

There are many reasons.

In Georgia, a candidate must win at least 50% of the vote to win. Otherwise, the second round of elections will take place on December 6. Strategists from both parties believe the state Senate race could do just that.

In other states, the process of counting votes can be long and complicated, especially as mail-in voting becomes more popular.

Under Arizona law, for example, all ballots must be returned by 7 p.m. on Election Day, but officials have 20 days to complete the count. In Nevada, counties have four days to count ballots that arrive late and give voters two more days to correct ballots that arrive in envelopes with errors or missing information.

Some states, including Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, do not allow officials to begin checking mail-in ballots until after Election Day. Nineteen states provide a grace period for receiving mail-in ballots if they are mailed before Election Day. Such ballots can be obtained in California in seven days.

This may take some time.

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Learn more about the issues and factors during the midterm elections at https://apnews.com/hub/explaining-the-elections. Follow AP’s 2022 election coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/2022-midterm-elections.

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