What to watch in the high-stakes 2022 midterm elections


WASHINGTON (AP) — After months of primaries, campaign events and fundraising pleas, the midterm elections that will determine the balance of power in Washington and state capitals are finally here.

Republicans are predicting a massive red wave as anxious Democrats defend their narrow majorities in Congress while struggling to overcome pervasive concerns about the economy, crime and President Joe Biden’s leadership. Democrats are hoping that a backlash against the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade will save them.

The political environment has led to an unusually large playing field as emboldened Republicans press into Democratic strongholds like New York, California, New Mexico and Washington state. Still, the marquee races are taking place in swing states like Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, all of which could help determine the outcome of the 2024 presidential contest.

Because of close contests and extended vote counting, it could take days or weeks before the final outcome is known in several key races.

Red wave rising?

All signs point to Republicans making significant gains on Tuesday. But whether it’s a red ripple or a tsunami remains to be seen.

Voters are overwhelmingly pessimistic about the direction of the country as inflation surges and political divisions explode. And history suggests that voters will take out their frustrations on the party in power.

The party that occupies the White House has suffered significant losses in nearly every president’s first midterm election for more than a century. Exceptions were in 1934 during the Great Depression; in 1998 during the effort to impeach Bill Clinton; and in 2002 after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Operatives in both parties expect the GOP to win the House majority, which would require a net gain of five seats. But with a big wave, the GOP could win 25 new seats or more. Sensing opportunity, Republican groups invested millions of dollars in Democratic-leaning districts in California, New York, Illinois and Pennsylvania in the election’s final days.

Should a massive red wave materialize, Democrats may struggle everywhere.

The 2024 impact

In ways big and small, the 2022 midterms will help shape the 2024 election.

A bad night for Democrats could undermine Biden’s rationale for a second term. And Trump would almost certainly seize on sweeping Republican victories as evidence of his political strength ahead of a third prospective White House bid.

Days or weeks?

It’s possible — maybe even likely — that the outcome in several key contests may take days or even weeks to be finalized.

In Georgia, a candidate must earn at least 50% of the vote to win outright. Otherwise, the election goes to a Dec. 6 runoff.

In some swing states, including Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, officials are not allowed to begin validating mail ballots until Election Day. Nineteen states provide a grace period to receive mail ballots as long as they were sent by Election Day. Such ballots in California can be received up to seven days later.

This could take a while.

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