Nov. 12, 2022 US election coverage

By Adrienne Vogt, Matt Meyer, Melissa Macaya and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 8:34 a.m. ET, November 13, 2022
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4:01 p.m. ET, November 12, 2022

GOP strategist reports sour mood in Laxalt campaign as Nevada Republican lays out "narrowed" path to victory

From CNN's Matt Meyer and Dan Merica

A tiny margin separates the two candidates in Nevada's pivotal Senate race, and a GOP strategist told CNN the mood inside Republican Adam Laxalt's campaign is "awful."

Different factions of the Republican's operation have begun the internal blame game, feeling it is a forgone conclusion that Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto will take the lead soon, the strategist said. When asked by CNN to describe the current mood, the strategist said, "shocked and depressed."

Publicly, Laxalt laid out what he described as a "narrowed" path to victory in a pair of tweets Saturday.

As of Friday evening, Laxalt had a lead of only 862 votes over Cortez Masto. An early lead for the Republican eroded further Friday as election workers counted and released the results of more ballots.

"Multiple days in a row, the mostly mail in ballots counted continue to break in higher DEM margins than we calculated," Laxalt wrote. "This has narrowed our victory window."

In Clark County, Nevada's largest, CNN estimates there are roughly 24,000 more mail-in ballots to be counted, along with about 15,000 provisional ballots and ballots that need to be cured.

Laxalt said the race will come down to those ballots, saying that "if they continue to trend heavy DEM then (Cortez Masto) will overtake us."

If they come from GOP-leaning precincts or from only slightly Democrat-leaning areas, "then we can still win," Laxalt claimed.

For its part, Cortez Masto's campaign told CNN the team remains "confident" as it awaits further results.

Laxalt campaign responds: Brian Freimuth, Laxalt's press secretary, responded to CNN’s reporting later Saturday, saying: "Our campaign team remains confident and hopeful, and any reporting to the contrary is inaccurate and poorly-sourced."

Why it matters: The Nevada Senate race has been deadlocked for months, and it could ultimately determine the balance of power in the upper chamber.

With CNN projecting Sen. Mark Kelly to win his race in Arizona, Democrats need to win one more seat: Nevada or Georgia, which is headed to a December runoff.

Republicans need 51 seats for majority control. Democrats would have control in a 50-50 tie with Vice President Kamala Harris casting tie-breaking votes.

View Laxalt's tweets below:

12:53 p.m. ET, November 12, 2022

Biden makes phone calls to projected Democratic winners

From CNN's Betsy Klein

President Joe Biden speaks at a Democratic National Committee event in Washington, DC, on November 10.
President Joe Biden speaks at a Democratic National Committee event in Washington, DC, on November 10. Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

President Joe Biden has called Maryland Rep. David Trone and Arizona Sen. Mark Kelly after both Democrats were projected to win their respective races.

Biden “made a congratulatory call to Congressman David Trone from Phnom Penh, Cambodia at 11:39pm local time,” the White House said Saturday.

Biden is in Cambodia at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit.

Trone won a competitive House race in Maryland this week, defeating Republican Neil Parrott. 

Biden also made congratulatory call to Arizona Sen. Mark Kelly earlier, the White House said. 

Kelly defeated Republican Blake Masters, who was backed by former President Donald Trump, to secure the Senate seat, CNN projected late Friday.

The president also called Rep. Pat Ryan from Phnom Penh, the White House said Saturday. Ryan won his competitive House race in New York's 18th District.

12:59 p.m. ET, November 12, 2022

"Red wave" hype got ahead of actual poll numbers, Washington Post data analyst says

Did the Republican "red wave" failing to materialize mean the polls were wrong again?

Not necessarily, says one analyst, who believes the hype got ahead of what the numbers were actually saying in the aggregate.

"People who are expecting the polls to be accurate," says Washington Post political columnist and data analyst David Byler, "are asking a little bit more than really any predictive measure can deliver."

Watch his interview with CNN's Michael Smerconish below:

11:36 a.m. ET, November 12, 2022

As both parties turn focus to Georgia runoff, Democratic super PAC will pour millions into key contest

From CNN's Dan Merica

A top Democratic super PAC will begin airing a new ad targeting Republican Herschel Walker Saturday, as both parties turn their focus to a Georgia Senate runoff that may end up determining control of the Senate.

Whether the runoff will determine control of the Senate is yet to be known, given CNN has not projected a winner in the tight Nevada race. But both Democratic and Republican organizations are prepared to pour money into the Georgia contest.

The Walker attack ad:

The ad from Georgia Honor — a group tied to the predominant Democratic super PAC focused on Senate control — is backed by $4 million for one week of airtime.

It calls Walker a liar who has a "long record of violence toward women."

"Herschel Walker has shown us who he is," a narrator says in the spot. "Herschel Walker is unfit for office."

In a 2008 interview with CNN, Walker's ex-wife, Cindy Grossman, said that Walker had held a razor to her throat, and at one point, "he held [a] gun to my temple and said he was going to blow my brains out." Grossman did not respond to CNN's request for comment when CNN reported on the interview again in September 2021.

GOP groups are also on the attack:

Meanwhile, the National Republican Senatorial Committee has opened a joint fundraising committee with the Walker campaign and the Georgia Republican Party.

The group launched its own ad this week, comparing the Georgia Senate race to "a miniseries" and arguing that Warnock "belongs in Hollywood, not Washington," noting some of the Democrat's more unique campaign ads.

"Warnock is a great actor," says a narrator, "he just doesn't act like your senator. Spending, taxes, energy, you name it, Warnock votes with Joe Biden 96% of the time, and that act is getting old."

Remember: CNN projected this week that the race between Walker and Warnock would go to a runoff after neither candidate was able to get more than 50% of the vote, extending what was already one of the most expensive Senate races in the country by a month.

Here's more on how the process works.

10:40 a.m. ET, November 12, 2022

Exit polls offer clues about close midterm elections

From CNN's Ariel Edwards-Levy

It remains uncertain which party will control the Senate or the House of Representatives next year, with votes still being counted and key races too early to call. But it's clear that the "red wave" wished for by Republicans did not materialize in 2022.

Voters were broadly discontented with the state of the nation, the economy and President Joe Bidena national exit poll found – the sort of political environment that conventionally leads to a midterm backlash against the party in the White House. But other factors, including views on abortion and Biden’s predecessor, may have helped keep Democrats competitive.

Here are some of the factors that were on the minds of voters:

President Biden: Biden’s approval rating was underwater among the electorate, with only about 44% of voters approving, about 55% disapproving and roughly 45% saying they strongly disapproved. Voters were more likely to say Biden’s policies had hurt than helped the country and more likely to say their vote was meant to oppose the president than say it was in support of him.

The economy: A slim plurality of voters, about 31%, called inflation their top issue, and roughly 8 in 10 said inflation had been a hardship for them personally. By roughly a 12-point margin, voters said they trusted the GOP over the Democratic Party to handle inflation.

But the closeness of the election suggests it wasn’t solely a referendum on an unpopular president or a reaction to grim views of the economy.

Abortion rights: The Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade brought abortion to center stage, with about 27% of voters calling it their top issue. About 6 in 10 voters felt negatively about the decision, with nearly 4 in 10 expressing anger. Democrats had a roughly 11-point edge over the GOP when it came to which party voters trusted to handle issues related to abortion.

Former President Donald Trump: Trump was on voters’ minds nearly as much as the incumbent. Roughly 28% of voters said they intended their vote to express opposition to him, only a few points lower than the roughly one-third who said they were expressing opposition to Biden.

Democrats win over Biden skeptics: The strength of individual candidates likely helped Democratic candidates win over some voters who were disenchanted with the Democratic president. In New Hampshire, for instance, Democratic incumbent Maggie Hassan kept her seat by winning nearly all voters who approved of Biden, as well as roughly one-fifth of those who disapproved.

In Pennsylvania’s gubernatorial race, the projected Democratic winner, Josh Shapiro, picked up roughly one-quarter of commonwealth voters who disapproved of Biden. In a number of races, Democratic candidates won outright among voters who somewhat disapproved of Biden.

What are exit polls?

CNN Exit Polls are a combination of in-person interviews with Election Day voters and in-person interviews, telephone and online polls measuring the views of early and absentee by-mail voters. They were conducted by Edison Research on behalf of the National Election Pool. Read more here.

10:34 a.m. ET, November 12, 2022

Envelopes sent to Kari Lake campaign contained no powder or harmful substances, police say

From CNN's Anna-Maja Rappard and Taylor Romine

Republican gubernatorial candidate for Arizona Kari Lake speaks to members of the media in Phoenix, Arizona, on November 8.
Republican gubernatorial candidate for Arizona Kari Lake speaks to members of the media in Phoenix, Arizona, on November 8. Olivier Touron/AFP/Getty Images

Two envelopes that were sent to Kari Lake's campaign headquarters in Phoenix last week did not contain powder or harmful substances, the Phoenix Police Department said in a statement.

Police responded to reports of suspicious mail at the GOP gubernatorial candidate's headquarters around 10:15 p.m. last Saturday, police said.

The day before, a volunteer said they opened an envelope containing a "white powdery substance and a letter" that included vulgar language, police said. The volunteer threw the letter and the powder in the trash, which was disposed of by cleaning staff, they said.

It's not known where the initial envelope from Friday was thrown away, Scott Masino, head of security for the Kari Lake campaign, told CNN.

The next day, the same volunteer found two more pieces of mail that resembled the letter, but the head of security wasn't informed until later in the evening, police said. When the head of security found the unopened letters, he said he felt a powdery substance in them and called the police, according to the statement.

Specialized units responded that evening and placed the two envelopes in separate, sealed bags that were then sent to the Arizona State Public Health Laboratory for processing, police said. The lab analysis showed "there was no powder present and no harmful substance in either of the envelopes," but that they did have two letters containing "additional derogatory and vulgar statements," they said. 

The campaign volunteer was under medical supervision after the incident and is fine, Masino said. Lake's campaign provided no further comment. 

9:34 a.m. ET, November 12, 2022

Here's what you need to know Saturday morning as key races hang in the balance

From CNN's Jeremy Herb

Nevada Senate candidates Catherine Cortez Masto and Adam Laxalt.
Nevada Senate candidates Catherine Cortez Masto and Adam Laxalt. Getty Images

It's Saturday, and election workers are still tallying the votes in pivotal races across the country. Here’s what to know as Election Day turns into Election Weekend:

Key races in Nevada and Arizona:

The razor-thin elections for Nevada’s Senate seat and Arizona’s governorship have yet to be called Saturday as counties in both states work to whittle down the tens of thousands of ballots that still need to be counted.

Democrat Katie Hobbs leads Republican Kari Lake by about 31,000 votes in the Arizona governor’s race as of Saturday morning, following the reporting of roughly 80,000 ballots in Maricopa County, the state’s most populous. And as of Friday evening, Republican Adam Laxalt is holding onto a slim lead of just more than 800 votes over Democratic incumbent Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto.

Balance of power in the Senate:

CNN projected Friday that Arizona Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly will defeat Republican Blake Masters in Arizona, and Republican Joe Lombardo will defeat Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak in Nevada.

Kelly’s Senate win puts Democrats one seat away from maintaining control of the Senate, with just the Nevada race uncalled. If Cortez Masto wins, Democrats have at least 50 seats needed regardless of the outcome of the Georgia Senate runoff. If Laxalt wins, the Georgia runoff will determine Senate control, as it did in 2021.

Control of the House:

The state of the House, meanwhile, remains up in the air, with 21 races still uncalled. Democrats have won 203 seats so far, while Republicans have won 211 (218 seats are needed to control the House), according to CNN projections. Many of the uncalled House races are in California.

The GOP still appears to be inching toward a majority.

Regardless of the ultimate makeup of both chambers next year, Republicans’ lackluster midterm performance has prompted a backlash against House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy, while a handful of Senate Republicans are calling for a delay in next week’s scheduled leadership elections.

Republicans attack the count:

The Arizona Senate candidate Masters, the Republican National Committee and the Republican Party of Arizona criticized the tabulation process in Maricopa County Friday.

The groups demanded “around-the-clock shifts of ballot processing” until all of the votes are counted, along with “regular, accurate public updates,” and threatened potential legal action.

“The suggestion by the Republican National Committee that there is something untoward going on here in Maricopa County is absolutely false and again, is offensive to these good elections workers,” said Bill Gates, the county's board of supervisors chair.

Addressing the specific accusations from the RNC statement, Gates said: “I would prefer that if there are concerns that they have, that they communicate those to us here. I’m a Republican. Three of my colleagues on the board are Republicans. Raise these issues with us and discuss them with us, as opposed to making these baseless claims.”

You can read more here.

9:38 a.m. ET, November 12, 2022

CNN Projection: Incumbent Democrat Mark Kelly wins Arizona Senate race

From CNN's Maeve Reston

(Mark Kelly/Handout/Reuters)
(Mark Kelly/Handout/Reuters)

Arizona Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly will win a full six-year term, CNN projects, defeating Republican Blake Masters, a venture capitalist who was backed by former President Donald Trump and had repeated some of his falsehoods about the 2020 election.  

The win by Kelly, who was elected in 2020 to fill the term of the late GOP Sen. John McCain, is a critical victory that edges Democrats one step closer to their goal of maintaining control of the US Senate – which would be a stunning feat given the low approval ratings of President Joe Biden and the unfavorable economic climate that seemed to be driving momentum toward the GOP.  

With Kelly’s win in Arizona, Democrats will hold 49 seats and Republicans will hold 49. With the Arizona seat in their column, Democrats would need to notch just one more seat to hold the majority in the upper chamber, following their pickup in Pennsylvania where Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, a Democrat, defeated Trump-backed Mehmet Oz in the contest to replace retiring Republican Sen. Pat Toomey. (The Senate is currently divided 50-50, but Vice President Kamala Harris casts the tie breaking vote).  

Both parties are still eyeing an incredibly close race in Nevada where Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto is trying to fend off a challenge from Republican Adam Laxalt, the state’s former attorney general. Democrats are also defending a seat in Georgia, where Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican Herschel Walker are headed to a December 6 runoff, CNN projects.  

Control of the US House still hangs in the balance, but it is clear that even if Republicans win a majority, it will be a far more slender advantage than GOP leaders had hoped.  

To read more, click here.

9:37 a.m. ET, November 12, 2022

CNN Projection: Democrat Adrian Fontes will defeat election denier Mark Finchem in Arizona secretary of state race

From CNN staff

Adrian Fontes speaks at an election night watch party in Phoenix on November 8.
Adrian Fontes speaks at an election night watch party in Phoenix on November 8. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Democrat Adrian Fontes will win Arizona’s secretary of state race, CNN projects, and defeat Republican state Rep. Mark Finchem.

Finchem is one of Arizona’s most strident backers of former President Donald Trump’s lies about the 2020 election. Finchem, a self-proclaimed member of the far-right extremist group the Oath Keepers, has called the 2020 election “irredeemably compromised,” co-sponsored a bill that would’ve allowed the legislature to reject election results and attended Trump’s speech on Jan. 6 (but he’s denied he participated in the riot).

Fontes had called Finchem’s ideas “dangerous” and shortly after announcing his campaign called the state representative a “traitor clown.”

Arizona’s secretary of state serves as next in line to the governor, as the state doesn’t have a lieutenant governor.

The race had been one of the most closely watched contests for state election chief in the country, and national Democratic groups spent heavily to keep the open seat in their party’s column – as Finchem outraised Fontes. 

The current officeholder, Democrat Katie Hobbs, ran for Arizona governor this year. 

Fontes oversaw the 2020 election in Maricopa County, home to Phoenix. But he lost his reelection bid as county recorder that year after facing criticism for some of the changes he made to the county’s procedures during the pandemic.