Washington woke up Thursday to a second day of waiting as vote counters in Arizona and Nevada tally the ballots that will decide the balance of power on Capitol Hill for the next two years.
The two battleground states remained too close to call as of Thursday morning with hundreds of thousands of ballots yet to be tallied. A third uncalled Senate race in Georgia will head to a runoff election on Dec. 6, with neither candidate able to meet the 50 percent threshold needed to win.
The Senate’s fate comes down to the three remaining uncalled races, as Republicans would need to pick up two Democratic seats to take back the Senate majority. If the parties split Arizona and Nevada, senatorial control will rely entirely on the outcome of the Georgia runoff in December.
Control of the House, too, remains up for grabs, though Republicans are on track to take the majority — albeit a much narrower one than they’d hoped.
With about 70 percent of the vote tallied in Arizona, incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly maintains a 5-point lead over Republican challenger Blake Masters. But election officials in Democrat-heavy Maricopa County, Arizona’s most populous county, have said it could take until at least Friday to tally the hundreds of thousands of remaining votes.
About 80 percent of the vote has been tallied in Nevada, where Republican Adam Laxalt has a slight edge over Democratic incumbent Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto. But late-arriving mail-in ballots, especially in Democratic strongholds of Clark and Washoe Counties, that have yet to be counted could still tip the scales in the incumbent’s favor.
The waiting has left congressional leaders on edge as the fate of both chambers of Congress remains uncertain two days after the midterm elections — and could potentially remain undecided for the Senate until the Georgia runoff in December.
With the size of a likely Republican House majority much slimmer than expected, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy on Wednesday took precautions to help ensure he has the speakership locked up should his party gain control of the House. He called together House members of the Donald Trump-aligned Freedom Caucus to find areas of common ground in some of their requests — hearing out their concerns without making concessions to the group.
As they await results in Nevada and Arizona, both Democrats and Republicans are largely turning their attention on Georgia as the state is likely to become the deciding factor of Senatorial control.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is pumping $7 million into field operations for the runoff to conduct get-out-the-vote work over the next four weeks to secure incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock’s win over Republican Herschel Walker. On the GOP side, both Georgia and national Republicans have vowed to stump for Walker to help get him past the finish line.
Democrats performed better than expected in House races across the country as the red wave that Republicans had promised largely failed to reach the shore. President Joe Biden in a press conference on Wednesday declared it a “good day for democracy” after it became clear a GOP romp was no longer a possibility, even though the House is still likely to have a slim Republican majority.
“While the press and the pundits were predicting a giant red wave, it didn’t happen,” Biden said, chiding the media and pundit class for underestimating his party’s chances.
White House deputy chief of staff Jen O’Malley Dillon said Thursday Biden is “quite pleased” with the results of the midterms so far, and she thinks “the House is truly still in play here” for Democrats.
“To be here today and to see how close it will be and that there is still a path when we look at the races that are outstanding, when we look at the votes coming in on the west, there’s definitely still a path for Democrats to hold the House,” O’Malley Dillon said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”
She added that the president has spoken with McCarthy and other Republicans and Democrats — some who won and some who lost — and that regardless of the final outcomes of the uncalled races, he’s committed to working with leaders of both parties. Biden delivered a similar sentiment at Wednesday’s press conference, declaring he’s “prepared to work with my Republican colleagues.”
“I think he’s making clear what he’s made clear to the American people: He’s going to work with anyone to get done the business of the American people,” O’Malley Dillon said.