Takeaways from the 2022 midterm elections

The battle for control of Congress is coming into focus as votes are counted in competitive races across the nation.

Republicans flipped Democratic-held House seats in Florida, Georgia and Virginia. But several Democratic incumbents, including two House members in Virginia, have won competitive races, and others were leading — a sign that Republicans have an edge but not the wave they hoped for nationwide.

The battle for control of the Senate remains tight, with both parties holding onto competitive seats: Democrats in New Hampshire and Colorado; Republicans in North Carolina and Ohio.

In Florida, though, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis romped — flipping heavily Latino counties that had historically been Democratic strongholds on the way to a reelection victory that could serve as a launching pad for a 2024 presidential bid.

Here are seven early takeaways as votes are being counted in key races:

Democrats go a long way to protecting their Senate majority

Republicans were not shy about the importance of Pennsylvania’s Senate race: “This is a must-win race. We believe if we win Pennsylvania, we win the majority,” said Steven Law, president of the preeminent Republican Senate super PAC.

Early on Wednesday morning, CNN projected that Democrat John Fetterman would be the next senator from Pennsylvania, defeating Republican Mehmet Oz in the most expensive and high stakes Senate campaign in the country.

Fetterman’s win was a thunderclap for Democrats. While the race long represented the best chance for the party to pick up a Senate seat in 2022, Fetterman’s near fatal stroke in May — and the lengthy recovery he endured in public — injected uncertainty into the race. But on Wednesday morning, the Pennsylvania lieutenant governor gave Democrats the pick-up they needed to have a better chance to hold the United States Senate next year.

“Fetterman’s win makes it next to impossible for the GOP to get a majority. Pennsylvania was the fire wall,” said Mike Mikus, a Democratic operative based in Western Pennsylvania.

Although a number of key Senate races remain uncalled, including contests in Nevada, Arizona and Georgia, earlier on Tuesday, CNN projected one Democratic incumbent: Sen. Maggie Hassan, a first-term Democrat who faced Republican retired Army Brig. Gen. Don Bolduc, won her race.

A Hassan loss would have effectively ended Democrats’ hopes of retaining their majority. The party is still defending seats in Arizona, Georgia and Nevada, and attempting to make up for any loss in the battle for a Republican-held seat in Wisconsin — so it will take time to settle Senate control.

Democrats hold their own in the suburbs

In 2018, the suburbs delivered Democrats the House majority. In 2020, they vaulted Joe Biden to the presidency.

And in 2022, suburbs across the country went a long way to helping Democrats avoid a significant red wave.

Republicans may still win the House, but if the 2022 election was going to be a red wave, it was likely to come through suburban victories that have not materialized yet.

In a district made up of the Kansas City suburbs, CNN projected Democrat Sharice Davids would win reelection. In Ohio, CNN projected two suburban wins: Democrat Greg Landsman defeated Republican Rep. Steve Chabot in a district that included Cincinnati and some of the surrounding suburbs and Democratic state Rep. Emilia Sykes defeated Republican Madison Gesiotto Gilbert in a district that includes areas around Cleveland and all of Akron. In Illinois, CNN projected that Democratic incumbent Lauren Underwood would win reelection against Republican Scott Gryder in the Chicago suburbs. And in Virginia, CNN projected Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger would win reelection, largely because of the votes she picked up from the suburbs of Washington, DC.

Republicans did score some suburban victories — CNN projected Brandon Ogles the winner in a district around Nashville, Tom Kean Jr. winning in a suburban New Jersey district and Rich McCormick the victor in a district that included Atlanta’s northern suburbs — but it was their defeats that spoke volumes about the size of the GOP wave.

Virginia’s split decision offers early signals

Three Democratic-controlled House races in Virginia were widely viewed as an early warning signal of the night’s results. With all House districts in the commonwealth projected by CNN, the results hint at a night where Democrats could lose the House — but would not face a 2014-style wave.

Democrats held seats in two Virginia districts Biden won in 2020.

CNN projected that Democratic Jennifer Wexton won her reelection bid in Virginia’s 10th District. Republicans were hoping Wexton could fall on Tuesday if the night was particularly bad for Democrats.

In an even more competitive race, CNN projected Spanberger also won reelection in Virginia’s 7th District. Spanberger was widely seen as a vulnerable incumbent, especially after Republican Glenn Youngkin carried the district in his successful gubernatorial campaign in 2021.

But Democrats lost in southeastern Virginia, with CNN projecting that Republican state Sen. Jen Kiggans defeated Democratic Rep. Elaine Luria.

“I was in the White House in 2010 when the big wave rolled in. I know what it feels like. It doesn’t feel like this,” said David Axelrod, the top political adviser to former President Barack Obama.

Scott Jennings, a Republican operative and CNN contributor, said whether the results are a wave or just a slight shift in the House, the impact will be the same on President Joe Biden’s administration.

“Whether it is a wave, a ripple, or whatever you want to call it, the oversight is going to feel all the same,” Jennings said.

Another January 6 committee member loses

Luria, a member of the House select committee investigating the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, lost her Virginia Beach-based House seat, CNN projected.

Luria’s loss to Kiggans, Republican Navy veteran, was the latest demonstration that the lasting focus on the insurrection — even as it sheds light on a dark chapter in the nation’s capitol — is a political anchor for those involved.

Luria had defeated former GOP Rep. Scott Taylor in 2018 and 2020. But the district had become slightly more favorable ground for Republicans in redistricting: Biden carried the previous version by 5 points, and would have lost the new district by 2 points.

And Luria provided the latest evidence that voters are not rewarding those involved in the committee probing the insurrection. Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney was routed in a primary by Trump-backed challenger Harriet Hageman, while Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois and Rep. Stephanie Murphy, a Florida Democrat, both retired rather than seeking reelection.

DeSantis’ big win could be a 2024 launchpad

Gov. Ron DeSantis led a dominant Republican ticket in Florida — delivering historic margins in Democratic territory in his victory over Democratic Rep. Charlie Crist on a night that provides him a powerful argument if he seeks the GOP’s 2024 presidential nomination.

The easy wins by DeSantis, who led by nearly 20 percentage points with 92% of the estimated vote counted, and Sen. Marco Rubio, who was 17 points up, were enough to cast doubt on Florida’s status as a national bellwether.

The most eye-popping outcome — and one that demonstrates the breadth of DeSantis’ appeal in the eyes of Sunshine State voters — came in Miami-Dade County, which is heavily Hispanic and historically a huge source of Democratic votes.

Republicans had made gains there in recent years: Hillary Clinton defeated former President Trump there by 29 percentage points in 2016. DeSantis did slightly better in the 2018 governor’s race, losing the county by 21 points. Trump made inroads there in 2020, losing by just 8 points. But a GOP candidate for governor hadn’t actually won Miami-Dade County since Jeb Bush in 2002.

The political reality is straightforward: Democrats have no realistic path to victory in statewide races in Florida without big wins in Miami-Dade County. That reality makes county’s outcome into an exclamation point on a dominant GOP performance.

DeSantis’ win comes as a battle over the future of the Republican Party takes shape, with Trump signaling a potential 2024 announcement next week. Exit polls in Florida showed that 45% of the state’s voters would like to see DeSantis run for president, compared to 33% who want Trump to run in 2024.

In a victory speech Tuesday night, DeSantis offered a glimpse at how he might describe his governorship to a national audience. Touting his refusal to impose lockdowns during the Covid-19 pandemic, he said that Florida “was a refuge of sanity when the world went mad.” He also described the state as “where woke goes to die” and “a ray of hope that better days still lie ahead.”

GOP makes gains with Latinos in Florida

Republicans hoped to build on Trump’s inroads among Latino voters in 2020, a trend that could reshape the political landscapes in several swing states if it continues.

The strongest early signal that the GOP had continued to make gains came in Miami-Dade County, home to a large Cuban population.

But Latinos are not a monolith, and there were more important signs in Florida, too: Another traditional Democratic stronghold won by DeSantis was Osceola County, a majority Latino county south of Orlando with a heavily Puerto Rican population.

However, it’s not clear if those GOP gains are materializing outside Florida.

One key gauge was the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, where three House races in heavily Latino districts were up for grabs. Democrats have won two of those races, CNN projected. Rep. Henry Cuellar, the only House Democrat who votes against abortion rights, won reelection in his Laredo-based 28th District, while Democratic Rep. Vicente Gonzalez defeated Republican Rep. Mayra Flores — the two were drawn into the same district — in the McAllen-based 34th District. The 15th District race, which was widely seen as the GOP’s best chance, is still too early to call.

“The RED WAVE did not happen. Republicans and Independents stayed home,” Flores tweeted just after midnight.

Arizona and Nevada, both competitive states with significant Latino populations, are also important to watch. So are a spate of House races in California, where it could take days or weeks for winners to become clear.

A night of firsts

Up and down the ballot, in red states and blue, candidates from both parties are celebrating pathbreaking victories.

In Massachusetts, Democratic state Attorney General Maura Healey is poised to become the state’s first elected female governor and the nation’s first out lesbian state executive. Republican Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the former Trump White House press secretary, has been elected the first female governor of Arkansas. And Maryland Democrat Wes Moore will be the state’s first Black governor.

Alabama’s Katie Britt, a Republican former aide to retiring Sen. Richard Shelby, will replace him next year, winning election on Tuesday to become the state’s first female US Senator.

Down the ballot, Democratic state Rep. Summer Lee will be the first Black woman elected to Congress from Pennsylvania.

Florida has also elected the youngest-ever House member, 25-year-old Maxwell Alejandro Frost, now on track to become the first Gen Z candidate to hold federal office.

This story has been updated with additional developments.

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