US Midterms – we’re probably not going to know the Senate result for a while yet…

Good morning, and welcome to our further coverage of the critical US midterm elections. Many thanks to Paul Walter, who set the scene yesterday.

On the plus side, it looks as though the ‘red tsunami’ only just made it to the shoreline, but the prospects still look on the gloomy side. We’ll start with the knife edge that is the Senate, where just one flipped seat (net) would hand control to the Republicans. Starting with Paul’s ‘five to watch’:

New Hampshire was, traditionally, a Republican bastion in New England but, as the southern part of the state has seen a population shift from Massachusetts in search of lower housing costs and lower taxes, voting patterns have shifted. The preferred Republican candidate was Governor Chris Sununu, the son of John Sununu, a former Governor and George Bush’s Chief of Staff, but he chose to seek re-election. That left the Republicans with Don Bolduc, a retired US Army Brigadier-General, whose primary victory was founded on a strong anti-abortion stance and a belief that the 2020 Presidential election was “stolen”. The fact that, having won the primary, he then almost immediately started rowing away from both positions probably explained his subsequent lack of success, as incumbent Maggie Hassan is currently 50,000 votes ahead with about 120,000 left to be counted.

Pennsylvania was an open race, following the retirement of veteran Republican Pat Toomey, and was widely seen as the best Democrat prospect for a gain. And whilst the Democratic primary saw Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman glide to an easy victory, the Republican primary was a drag down, bitter fight to the last, with TV celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz emerging the winner by just 950 votes and with just 31% of the votes cast. He emerged from the fray damaged, but that was just the beginning, as the Fetterman campaign ran a brutal social media campaign against him, depicting him successfully as an elitist carpetbagger from New Jersey. Polling showed Fetterman as the likely winner until he suffered a stroke in May, and what was perceived to be a poor debate performance two weeks before polling day saw the polls narrow to well within the margin of error. But, Fetterman had done just enough, and hung on to win the seat, according to projections with 90% of the votes cast.

Arizona isn’t an open seat, although Mark Kelly was elected in a special election two years ago to fill a vacancy left by first John McCain’s death and then his temporary successor’s resignation. It is, however, a state where election denial was pretty much a given amongst Republican candidates. The Republican primary turned on two key factors, a Trump endorsement and vast levels of spending on behalf of one candidate by Peter Thiel, a conservative libertarian who has made substantial donations to American right-wing figures and causes. Blake Masters rode that all the way to the nomination, only to be exposed for espousing a series of extremist views. With 62.5% of the votes counted, Kelly leads by over 100,000 votes, or 6%, but the rural counties may yet swing this one.

Nevada was another Democratic seat under threat, with first term incumbent Catherine Cortez Masto always likely to be on the defensive in a state which Donald Trump lost by just 2% in 2020 and where Democratic victories rely on a solid vote in Clark County (Las Vegas), where nearly 70% of the state’s voters live. Republican nominee Adam Laxalt comes from a family with a long political history – his father was the US Senator for New Mexico and his grandfather a former Governor and US Senator – and he himself was a former Attorney General, thus starting with significant name recognition. This one’s probably too close to call but seems to be leaning slightly Republican.

Thus, it all comes down to Georgia, where Democrat incumbent Reverend Raphael Warnock is locked in a battle with former American Football star running back Herschel Walker. On the face of it, Walker’s huge name recognition on a night when the Republicans have the electoral tide flowing their way should have been enough, were he not such a flawed candidate. Taking an anti-abortion stance when you’ve allegedly paid two women to have one tends not to look good, and a series of bizarre statements on the campaign trail left the contest wide open. Georgia, however, requires the winning candidate to obtain more than 50% of the votes cast, and the intervention of a Libertarian Party candidate makes a run-off almost inevitable. It looks as though the Senate will hang on that.

Elsewhere, Wisconsin is tight, but it looks as though Ron Johnson is going to hang on there, whilst in Alaska, incumbent moderate Republican Lisa Murkowski is currently just behind her Republican opponent. That matters because she represents that very rare thing in the US Senate, a potential swing voter. We’ll keep an eye out on that one.

* Mark Valladares is a member of Federal International Relations Committee.

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2 Comments

  • “”””New Hampshire was, traditionally, a Republican bastion in New England but, as the southern part of the state has seen a population shift from Massachusetts in search of lower housing costs and lower taxes, voting patterns have shifted.””””

    The irony of this hypothesis shouldn’t be lost. Democrat voters escape from high-cost high-tax Massachesetts and find refuge in low-cost low-tax New Hampshire, but then proceed to vote continue to vote Democrat which will make New Hamshire high-cost and high-tax like the place they escaped from. Where will they escape to when their voting habits turn the place they have settled turn into a place that they will have to up sticks from? Is the value of being able to virtue-signal and be a Democrat voter so high that it trumps their manifest preferences and goes against their expressed self-interest?

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