US midterms: Control of US Senate in the balance with tight race in key state Georgia

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A supporter of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wes Moore watches the campaign rally at Bowie State University during the US midterms.
A supporter of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wes Moore watches the campaign rally at Bowie State University during the US midterms.
  • Democrats may lose control of the US' Congress, despite enjoying victories as midterm results trickle in.
  • Republicans may win the majority in the House and Senate.
  • Democrats, however, appear to be in a jolly mood. Key races in Arizona, Georgia and Nevada are undecided.

US President Joe Biden had plenty to enjoy as midterm election results came in, even though his Democrats could lose control of Congress.

Republicans may eke out a narrow majority in the House and the Senate is still up for grabs with key races in Arizona, Georgia and Nevada undecided.

But that is all better-than-expected news for the White House.

Control of the US Senate may once again be decided in Georgia, as a tight race between Democratic incumbent Raphael Warnock and Republican challenger Herschel Walker could be headed to a 6 December runoff.

With more than 99% of the vote counted, Warnock is narrowly leading against Walker, a former football star endorsed by President Donald Trump. But Warnock has not yet reached the 50% threshold needed to avoid a runoff, according to data from Edison Research.

A third candidate, libertarian Chase Oliver, siphoned off 2% of the vote.

Democrats bucked dire forecasts in national races, clinched governors' races in states seen as crucial to the next election in 2024, and passed left-leaning measures like codifying abortion rights in Michigan.

"Amazing," said one stunned Biden aide as results results trickled in at the White House overnight.

Donald Trump saw Republicans lose 40 House seats in his first midterms, and Barack Obama more than 60.

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Biden personally called three dozen Democrats who won their races to congratulate them. Aides and allies believe his efforts to cast the election in terms of abortion rights, right-wing political extremism and healthcare staved off a Republican "wave."

Republicans are likely to have big enough gains to take the House, meaning they could block Biden's promise to legalise abortion rights nationwide or ban the sale of assault weapons, and launch possibly damaging investigations into his administration and family.

While Republicans cited high inflation and crime as top voting issues, Democrats said they were more motivated by abortion rights and gun violence, exit polls show.

Democratic strategist Ben LaBolt, a former spokesperson for Obama, said Republicans' focus on a cultural wars in their campaigns missed the mark for some voters.

"It's not about addressing, at a substantive level, any of the top issues facing the American people," he said. "And that really provides an opening for Democrats."


White House advisers have begun preparations for a host of Republican investigations, and to govern with a more limited toolbox of issuing executive orders.

If Biden's agenda is blocked in Congress, they plan to use presidential veto power and using the president's conspicuous presence in American media to advocate for his priorities.

Biden has two months until the end of the year during the "lame duck" period to pass legislation while Democrats still control Congress. White House officials have said he will focus on securing government funding bills and money to combat Covid-19 as well as getting Senate confirmation for his judicial nominees.

Trump allies including US Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Jim Jordan of Ohio, who both won their races easily, could have greater influence under a Republican-controlled House, and political strategists say that party could overplay its hand.

A Republican-led Congress would "be the end of his legislative agenda in any meaningful way, but it's certainly not the end of [Biden's] political fortunes," said Brendan Buck, a former adviser to Republican House Speakers Paul Ryan and John Boehner.

"Republicans have a very long track record of overreach with Democratic presidents, and it's not hard to imagine that (Biden) will be able to have a very strong contrast with Congress and use that to his advantage."


Biden turns 80 this month and has faced questions about his fitness to run for a second term in 2024. The president has said he intends to run again and Tuesday's results could bolster his cause.

Early this year, Biden, his chief of staff Ron Klain, and other aides worked to frame the midterms as a battle of "levelheaded" Democrats against "extreme" Republicans in league with former President Trump.

They embellished that message in June when the Supreme Court struck down the Roe v. Wade right to abortion. In a stark September speech from the birthplace of American democracy in Philadelphia, Biden said: "MAGA Republicans represent an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our republic."

Even as members of his own party declined to campaign with him, Biden stuck to his anti-extremist message, adding possible threats to long-cherished social programs like Medicare under Republican leadership.

That framing helped many Democrats like Representative Abigail Spanberger of Virginia and Pennsylvania Senate candidate John Fetterman weather bad historical odds for the party in charge during midterm elections, Biden aides and allies believe.

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