Republicans snared Democratic-held House seats in Florida and Virginia in early returns Tuesday and held on to their districts, putting them on the path to flipping control and creating new hurdles for President Biden next year.
Big races were still to be called across the country, but the early tallies confirmed what prognosticators had predicted: Facing rising crime rates and higher fuel and grocery prices, Americans soured on Democrats’ total control of the levers of electoral power in Washington.
The Senate majority was also up for grabs. The breakdown might not be known until Georgia announces the winner of a runoff election next month.
In the House, the breakdown may not be known for weeks, but analysts were projecting Republicans to net anywhere from a handful of seats to several dozen. Most projections had House Republicans winning 230 to 240 seats when the dust settles, with 218 needed to claim the majority.
Republican Anna Paulina Luna turned a blue seat red in Florida’s 13th Congressional District by defeating Democrat Eric Lynn, a former national security adviser.
The seat, which leans more Republican under the new congressional maps, opened up after Rep. Charlie Crist stepped down to run for governor.
SEE ALSO: Republican ‘red wave’ evaporates, but GOP still inching toward House majority
Republicans Aaron Bean, a member of the state Senate, and Cory Mills, an Army veteran, also picked up Florida seats in the newly drawn, more Republican-friendly 4th and 7th congressional districts, respectively.
In Georgia, Republican Rich McCormick, an emergency room doctor, picked up the seat in the redrawn 6th Congressional District.
Republican state Sen. Jen Kiggans, meanwhile, defeated Democratic Rep. Elaine Luria in Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District.
Democrats, however, gave a sigh of relief after Reps. Abigail Spanberger and Jennifer Wexton pulled out reelection wins.
Democrats said the early results suggested that the predictions of a Republican wave were petering out.
Davie Axelrod, an adviser to President Obama, said he served in the White House in 2010 when a red wave rolled in and Republicans netted 63 House seats.
“I know what it feels like,” he said. “It doesn’t feel like this.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, offered a similar take, saying in an interview with NBC this is “definitely not a Republican wave, that’s for darn sure.”
Heading into Tuesday, Democrats had a 220-212 edge over Republicans, with three vacancies — one held by a Republican and two held by Democrats.
Flipping at least one chamber of Congress would derail Mr. Biden’s left-leaning legislative agenda and force him to bargain with Republicans or retrench and try to flex his executive powers more than he has already.
His ability to use the budget process and Vice President Kamala Harris’ tiebreaking vote to circumvent Senate filibusters would no longer matter, even if Democrats maintained control of the upper chamber.
More crucially, Republican control of the House would give Republicans a platform to investigate Mr. Biden, who despite myriad stumbles on immigration and the economy has avoided intense congressional scrutiny.
House Republicans would lead key committees and have the power to investigate the FBI and Justice Department as well as Mr. Biden’s son Hunter Biden and his far-flung business dealings. They also plan to shine a bright light on what they see as the Biden administration’s irrational approach to immigration and border security.
House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik of New York recently told The Washington Times that Republicans plan to put forward legislation on energy production, gun rights and parents’ rights during the first 100 days of the next Congress.
Rep. Jim Jordan, who is in line to become chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, told The Times that the House could move to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas over the unprecedented surge of illegal immigration at the southern border.
Republicans would need a simple majority to start the impeachment process.
House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy of California is the clear front-runner to become speaker of the House.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi, meanwhile, may be facing the end of a storied career. In 2007, the California Democrat became the first woman to hold the speakership. She lost it in the Republican wave elections in 2010 and regained it after an anti-Trump backlash in 2018.
Midterm elections tend to be rough on the party in power. The party opposing the president has averaged more than two dozen seats in elections since 1934.
Democrats thought they might elude history this year. They counted on the decennial redistricting process to strengthen their grip on power in states where they controlled all the levers.
That gamble appears to have backfired. They spread their voters thinly across districts in usually reliable states such as Oregon, and a court ruling struck down their power-play map in New York.
Democrats thought they had been granted another electoral gift in June when the Supreme Court overturned the Roe v. Wade ruling that had guaranteed a national right to abortion.
Party analysts said voters, particularly suburban women, would give Democrats another look, but many of those voters drifted back toward Republicans as inflation and crime dominated headlines.
Polling showed independents, who usually land close to the middle between Republicans and Democrats on the issues, were tilted significantly more toward Republicans on the big questions this year.
Mr. Biden was largely missing in action. Democrats running in competitive races calculated that the risk outweighed the reward of campaigning alongside the unpopular president.
Republicans, on the other hand, blamed Democrats for pursuing big-spending policies that worsened inflation, making it harder for families to make ends meet, and for embracing an “open borders” immigration stance that opened the doors for illegal immigrants and cartels to flood the country with fentanyl.