The future of the Congress hangs in the balance as many races are still too close to call

Democrats have reason for cautious optimism, but Republicans still have a slim lead in the battle for House

2022 US midterm election results: live

2022 US midterm elections - latest live news updates

Democrats had reason for cautious optimism on Tuesday night, as some of their threatened candidates looked likely to emerge victorious in the midterm elections, but Republicans still enjoyed a slim advantage in the battle for control of the House of Representatives.

Americans head to the polls on Tuesday to determine control of the US Congress for the next two years, and the election forecast has favored Republicans in the final days of the campaign. The president's party usually loses seats at half-time, and Joe Biden's low approval rating, combined with concerns about the state of the US economy, has lowered Democratic expectations.

But several key races tilted toward Democrats in the final hours of Tuesday night, including one of the night's biggest prizes: a fiercely contested Senate race in Pennsylvania between Mehmet Oz, a Trump-backed Republican, and Democrat John Fetterman, who has struggled to convince voters that he was fit for office after suffering a stroke.

"We held on," said a tearful Fetterman, declaring victory in a speech to supporters on Wednesday morning.

In an early sign the party was poised to prevent a surprise loss in the House, Democrats won two of three Virginia House elections and angered Republicans on election day boom. Jennifer Wexton and Abigail Spanberger fended off Republican challengers, although Elaine Luria - a member of the House elected committee investigating the January 6 uprising - acknowledged her opponent, Republican Jen Kiggans.

With many races still too close to call, control of Congress – and the future of Biden's agenda – hangs in the balance. The results of some of the tightly contested elections are not expected for days, or even weeks. But early results have returned one certainty: the election did not go the way Republicans hoped.

"Definitely not a Republican wave, that's for sure," senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, told MSNBC as results filtered Tuesday night.

In a statement, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said it was "clear that House Democratic members and candidates are vastly outperforming expectations across the country".

While there is a glimmer of hope for Democrats, Republicans are still seeded for regaining control of the House, thanks in part to the favorable redistricting season following the 2020 census. The party has already flipped at least three seats in Florida, where state legislators are redrawing the congressional map to give Republicans a chance. significant advantage. And in New York, congressman Sean Patrick Maloney, chairman of the Democratic campaign arm in the House, tasked with protecting the party's narrow majority in this cycle, looks unlikely to win re-election in his newly-drawn district.

"It's clear that we're going to take the House back," Kevin McCarthy, the Republican House leader who hopes to replace Pelosi as Speaker if his party wins control of the chamber, told supporters in Washington.

In the battle for the Senate, which is currently split 50-50, some races remain too close to take place in the wee hours of Wednesday morning. Georgia Senator Raphael Warnock is in a tight race with Republican Herschel Walker, raising the odds of a second round next month if no candidate gets 50% of the vote. In the west, incumbent Democrats Mark Kelly of Arizona and Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada held out early but were far from leading. Masto and his Republican opponent, Adam Laxalt, both said they were not expecting a result in their tight race until the end of the week.

JD Vance, author of the Trump-backed Hillbilly Elegy, defeated Democratic congressman Tim Ryan in an unexpectedly tight contest for the Ohio open Senate seat, while Republican Ted Budd defeated Democrat Cheri Beasley's spirited challenge for the North Carolina open Senate.

But the success of Democratic senators Michael Bennet of Colorado and Maggie Hassan, who is seen as threatened in the event of a Republican boom, gave her party hope of retaining control of the upper house.

The final outcome, which will determine control of Congress for the remainder of Biden's first term as president and could further constrain his legislative agenda, could even take weeks in some tightly contested Senate elections. The pending results are likely to trigger legal challenges and conspiracy theories about vote-rigging, especially if the remaining seats determine control of the Senate.

Several battleground states ran into trouble at the polls on Tuesday, raising fears that election deniers would use isolated incidents to cast unfounded doubts on the legitimacy of the results.

Thirty-five seats in the Senate and 435 seats in the House of Representatives are on the ballot, giving Republicans the opportunity to drastically change the composition of Congress. Polls show that support for Democrats has fallen in recent weeks amid growing voter concerns about high inflation and crime, two issues Republicans view as stronger.

According to AP VoteCast, half of voters said inflation was a significant factor in their midterm decisions, a potentially ominous sign for the Democratic outlook. But in more encouraging news for Democrats, a large proportion of those same voters – 44% – said their main concern was the future of democracy, which is a theme that Biden and his fellow party members emphasized in the final days of their campaign.

The president has said that American democracy is at the center of many challenges, from voter rigging and suppression to Trump's false claims of vote rigging.

"Our lives will be shaped by what happens next year to the next three years," Biden said at the final campaign rally in Maryland on Monday. "This will shape what the next few decades will be like."

Many Democratic candidates have also focused heavily on protecting abortion rights following the U.S. Supreme Court's annulment of Roe v Wade earlier this year.

The results of the elections for state governors and judges are expected to have important implications for abortion access in some states.

In Michigan, governor Gretchen Whitmer declared victory over her Republican challenger, Tudor Dixon, an anti-choice Trump loyalist, in a race centered on abortion access.

Meanwhile in Florida, Republican Governor Ron DeSantis clinched victory, amid growing speculation about his 2024 presidential ambitions. His wide margin of victory includes votes from the former president, a Florida resident who has sharpened his criticism of DeSantis as he prepares to launch another White House bid.

In Georgia, Stacey Abrams, a star Democrat, surrendered to governor Brian Kemp, ending a bitter rematch of their 2018 fight. Another Democratic nominee, Beto O'Rourke, failed in his bid to oust Texas governor Greg Abbott, who won a third term.

Two gubernatorial elections provide reason for optimism among Democrats. The party flipped seats in Massachusetts and Maryland, Democrats with a history of voting Republicans across the state. The Democratic candidate in the state would make history, as Wes Moore would become Maryland's first black governor and Maura Healey would become the first openly lesbian governor in American history.

In New York, governor Kathy Hochul easily defeated Republican congressman Lee Zeldin's challenger, who hoped to anger the liberal state by capitalizing on voter concerns over crime. Hochul, who rose to power following the resignation of Andrew Cuomo, became the first woman elected governor in New York history.

In Vermont, Democrat Becca Balint became the first woman and first gay person to publicly represent the state in Congress, while Republican Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Trump's second press secretary and daughter of former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, was elected Arkansas' first female governor. And in Florida, 25-year-old Democrat Max Frost became the first GenZer to be elected to Congress.

Anger over the supreme court's decision appears to have driven many people to polling stations that usually don't vote at midterm, especially women.In Michigan, voters appeared on track to protect abortion access, while voters in Vermont and California voted to guarantee abortion rights in their constitutions. Meanwhile in Maryland, voters are overwhelmingly in favor of legalizing marijuana.

If Republicans take over the House, they threaten to launch a series of investigations into Biden and his government in an attempt to embarrass him ahead of the next presidential election.

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