Oh, what a night!
Democrats, who were expected to suffer considerable losses in the House, appear to have held their own, but they still look likely to wind up in the minority.
The battle for Senate control is a nip-and-tuck affair, with Democrats currently netting a single seat in Pennsylvania. Key races in Arizona and Nevada are too early to call, while CNN projects the Georgia Senate contest is headed toward a December 6 runoff.
Below I’ve picked out some of the biggest winners and losers from the midterm election results so far. As more results come in, I’ll keep updating who had good nights and who leaves disappointed.
* Ron DeSantis: In an overall disappointing night for Republicans, the Florida governor was a very bright spot. He absolutely crushed former Gov. Charlie Crist to win a second term. The victory – and the margin by which he won – could well serve as a springboard for DeSantis’ national hopes as it allows him to make the argument that he can do nationally what he just did in Florida. DeSantis reached for broad conclusions in the wake of his victory, calling it a “win for the ages” (I mean…) and casting Florida as the state “where woke goes to die.” (Alrighty.) DeSantis is now clearly a politician with momentum coming out of the election and now the Republican Party waits to see what he’ll do next.
* Josh Shapiro: If you’re looking for the next generation of Democratic rock stars, look no further than Shapiro, who coasted to victory in the Pennsylvania governor’s race on Tuesday. Shapiro is articulate, bright and has a clearly demonstrated appeal among voters in a swing state. Shapiro’s win is also a victory for election security. The Pennsylvania governor appoints the head of elections for the state, and Shapiro’s opponent – Republican Doug Mastriano – was a 2020 election denier.
* Marjorie Taylor Greene: Had Republicans realized the wave that so many of them were predicting in the run-up to the election, the party would be on their way to enjoying a comfortable cushion of seats in the majority. But that’s not what appears to be happening nationally. The most likely outcome – and there are still plenty of key races that are too early to call – appears to be a narrow Republican majority. That would be great news for Greene and her fellow members of the House Freedom Caucus. Since that group represents a solid bloc of votes, Greene and her ilk would be able to hold out their support from Republican leadership in order to extract concessions and gain leverage. Under that scenario, whichever Republican would become speaker – with Kevin McCarthy being the favorite – would have to make sure he is right with the Freedom Caucus before any major vote.
* Simon Rosenberg: Rosenberg, a longtime Democratic strategist, was telling anyone who would listen that the seeming movement to Republicans in the final weeks of the race was misleading – fueled by a series of Republican-sponsored polls that moved polling averages in a more favorable direction for the GOP. He was right. Period.
* Gretchen Whitmer: The Michigan governor had high highs and low lows during her first term. But on Tuesday, she won convincingly over Republican Tudor Dixon, leading by nearly 10 points as of Wednesday morning. Whitmer, who was on the list of potential Joe Biden vice presidential picks in 2020, has solidified her status as a force to be reckoned with in the future of the Democratic Party.
* Sarah Huckabee Sanders: The former Trump White House press secretary cruised to a general election win to become the next governor of Arkansas. Which was expected. Watch now to see what Sanders does to expand her appeal beyond the state’s borders. She is absolutely someone who seems likely to wind up in the national candidate pool at some point in the not-too-distant future.
* Joe Manchin: No matter what happens in the remaining uncalled Senate races, we know this: the Senate majority is going to be razor-thin – again. Which means that Manchin, the West Virginia Democrat, is likely going to, again, be a swing vote on critical legislation over the next two years. Which, if the past two years is any indication, is a very powerful place to be. Adding another wrinkle? Manchin is up for reelection to a third term in 2024 …
* Donald Trump: It’s hard to imagine things going any worse for the former president on Tuesday night. Republicans did not sweep the country in his oft-predicted Republican wave and the rise of DeSantis was one of the big storylines coming out of Election Day. (Not to mention the fact that Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, two Republicans who have drawn Trump’s ire, won reelection.) And you can tell that Trump is getting nervous about DeSantis, sending him a warning shot over the 2024 presidential race on Tuesday. I don’t think anything – including last night’s results – will change Trump’s trajectory in 2024. But despite all his bluster (and there will be plenty of it), it’s clear that Tuesday was not the night Trump hoped it would be.
* Beto O’Rourke: O’Rourke came up short in his challenge to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday night, meaning that he has now lost three straight elections: 1) The 2018 Senate race to Ted Cruz; 2) the 2020 Democratic presidential primary; 3) the 2022 governor’s race. In politics, like in baseball, it’s usually three strikes and you’re out. It’s hard to see O’Rourke credibly running for another office any time soon – a remarkable downturn for someone who was regarded as a rising Democratic star just a few years ago.
* Stacey Abrams: Speaking of stars who have faded, the Georgia Democrat lost the governor’s race in convincing fashion as she was unable to replicate the coalition that got her close to victory four years ago. Abrams, who emerged from that first race as all the rage among Democrats nationally, looks far less impressive this time around. And with two losses in her two most recent races, it’s hard to see where a political comeback starts for her.
* Charlie Crist: It’s hard to imagine Democrats aren’t ruing their decision to nominate the former Republican governor as their party’s nominee against DeSantis. Crist, who lost the governorship to Rick Scott in 2014, never had a chance against DeSantis and put up almost zero resistance throughout the campaign. This looks like the end of the line for Crist in Florida politics.
* Kevin McCarthy: Yes, it’s a bit odd to have the man who could be in line to be the next speaker of the House in the loser category. But consider the predicament that McCarthy would face if Republicans win control of the House and he is picked to lead the party: A potentially narrow majority controlled – or at least heavily influenced – by the most extreme elements within his party. (See Marjorie Taylor Greene above.) Those forces would maintain significant leverage over every vote that McCarthy would try to take. Getting anything done – much less doing the things that the House Freedom Caucus might push for, like impeaching Biden – would be a heavy lift.
* Republican Senate map expansion: In the final stretch of the campaign, some Senate Republican strategists suggested that they could well put three reach states – New Hampshire, Colorado and Washington – into play, giving themselves more paths to the majority. None of the three races wound up being all that close. The Democratic incumbents all not only won, but as Wednesday morning, were leading by double digits.
* Election deniers: Several high-profile election deniers running for governor across the country came out on the losing end. In Wisconsin, Tim Michels lost. In Michigan, Dixon fell short. Mastriano got blown out in Pennsylvania. Ditto Dan Cox in Maryland. And Darren Bailey in Illinois. While CNN hasn’t called the Arizona governor’s race, Republican Kari Lake is trailing.
This story has been updated with additional information.