Congress in peril: mixed midterms complicate Biden’s agenda

In one of America’s most controversial and contested midterms, Republicans remained favored to win the House of Representatives after Tuesday night, though the results fell short of the sweeping “red wave” many conservatives had prophesied. Control of the Senate is up in the air as key races are still to be decided in Georgia, Wisconsin, Arizona, and Nevada.

Riding a wave of economic discontent and conspiracy, the GOP currently holds 48 seats in the Senate and 192 in the House. Democrats, who had tried to turn the tide by focusing on abortion rights and the future of democracy, cling to their majority with 48 senators and 172 representatives. 

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, first in line to replace Nancy Pelosi as speaker, declared an early victory. 

“When you wake up tomorrow, we will be in the majority,” he said.

Tuesday’s midterms were the most expensive in American history. The 2022 elections are expected to cost over $16.7 billion, according to a new study by the nonpartisan group OpenSecrets. In particular, the fight for control of the Senate saw massive spending as both parties engaged in a war of attrition to squeeze as many last-minute votes as possible. According to the same data, the most expensive races included Pennsylvania, Georgia, Arizona, and Ohio. 

Democrats’ efforts paid off in Pennsylvania, where former Lt. Gov. John Fetterman defeated TV celebrity Dr. Oz by a margin of fewer than 3 points. Fetterman’s election was particularly dramatic after a stroke earlier this year affected his verbal and cognitive abilities — something Republicans exploited to question his fitness for the position. 

Also in Pennsylvania, Democratic Attorney General Josh Shapiro beat Republican Doug Mastriano to keep the governorship. Yet, Democrats Beto O’Rourke and Stacey Abrams lost their respective gubernatorial races in Texas and Georgia against incumbent Republicans Greg AbbotT and Brian Kemp. 

The big loser of the night was former President Donald Trump. MAGA candidates underperformed in almost every state as voters preferred more moderate choices, according to Politico. Rep. Lauren Boebert, one of Trump’s most vocal and ardent supporters, is having a surprisingly hard time winning re-election in Colorado against Democrat Adam Frisch, who is holding a small lead as of Wednesday morning. Republican star Herschel Walker is also locked in a neck-a-neck contest with Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock, making likely a runoff election in December. 

“A GREAT EVENING,” Commented Trump on Truth Social. “Fake News Media, together with their partner in crime, the Democrats, are doing everything possible to play it down. Amazing job by some really fantastic candidates!”

Photo by the White House National Archive.

Republicans dominated the race in Florida, establishing the once swing state as a clear right-wing stronghold. This shift was exemplified in Miami-Dade county, a traditionally safe spot for Democrats, which flipped red for the first time since 2002. 

The biggest victory was for Gov. Ron DeSantis, who won his re-election bid by getting 59.5% of the electorate against Democrat Charlie Christ’s 39.9%.

“We chose law and order over rioting and disorder; education over indoctrination; facts over fear,” said DeSantis at a rally celebrating the results. “Today, after four years, the people decided their verdict: freedom is here to stay.”

Yet, DeSantis’s triumph comes in a bittersweet moment for the rising conservative star. The governor’s presidential aspirations have recently put him at odds with Trump, who openly criticized and insulted him during a rally earlier this month in what many analysts considered a show of force ahead of a possible Republican primary in 2024. Trump reportelty voted for DeSantis nonetheless. 

Incumbent Senator Marco Rubio also scored a crushing victory against Democratic Rep. Val Demings. Rubio won 57.8% of the popular vote, while Demings got 41.1%. 

The House results were also not comforting for Florida Democrats. Out of 28 federal seats, Republicans won 20. Maria Elvira-Salazar, an incumbent Republican for District 27, celebrated her success against Annette Taddeo by pointing to the political oscillation of Latinos to the right in the last two years. 

“This election proves what Regan famously said, “Latinos are Republicans; they just don’t know it,’ until tonight,” said Salazar to a cheering crowd.” 2022 is the year of the Hispanic Republicans.” 

Rep. Maria Elvira-Salazar in her victory speech. Photo by Aquiles Bareto.

At a state level, the GOP won 75 seats in the Florida House and 28 in the Senate; whereas Democrats obtained 30 and 11 seats, respectively. Conservatives also kept the offices of the attorney general, agriculture commissioner, and chief financial officer. 

On the topic of referenda, residents of Miami-Dade agreed to pay more in property taxes to increase teacher pay and expand school safety. Miami Beach voters rejected two proposals to lease city-owned parking lots near Lincoln Road for 99 years for the development of offices.

A majority of Florida voters appeared to support three amendments to the state constitution, but election results showed all three below the 60% threshold needed for the changes to be approved.

On the national landscape, voters legalized recreational cannabis in Maryland and Missouri, while similar measures failed in North Dakota, South Dakota, and Arkansas.

Steban Rondon is a digital journalism student at Florida International University and a member of the Honors College. One of Steban's defining traits is his profound academic dedication, accompanied by his infectious charisma and his genuine interest in giving a platform to all stories. Steban is also well-known for his intellectual curiosity that extends to multiple domains, encompassing the arts, humanities, politics, philosophy, and the law.