US Republicans gain firm toehold a week out from Election Day

Agence France-Presse
US Republicans gain firm toehold a week out from Election Day
A 'Vote' sign is posted at the Orange County Registrar of Voters less than two weeks before midterms Election Day on October 27, 2022 in Santa Ana, California.
Mario Tama / Getty Images / AFP

WASHINGTON, United States — Candidates were making closing pitches Tuesday in the US midterm elections that decide control of Congress for the remainder of President Joe Biden's term, with Republicans smelling blood in the water.

Polling is pointing to a re-emerging "red wave" that will likely see the party of Biden's political foe Donald Trump dismantling the Democrats' razor-thin majority in the House and possibly retaking the Senate.

Republicans are confident they can flip the one state they need for the upper chamber and are expecting gains in the House of 12 to 25 seats, easily enough to overcome the Democrats' eight-member advantage.

"I think the Democrats are going to get a rude awakening on November 8 that high inflation, high crime, open borders is not what the American public wants," National Republican Senatorial Committee chairman Rick Scott told ABC on Sunday.

With all 435 seats in the House of Representatives up for grabs alongside a third of the 100-member Senate and a slew of state posts, the economy is proving the biggest liability for Biden's Democrats.

Inflation—up 8.2 percent in a year—is easily outranking abortion rights in voters' priorities, forcing Democrats to recast their closing message to tout legislative wins they say will save Americans money.

They are also warning that Republicans want to curb entitlements, and have doubled down on threats to democracy they say extremist right-wingers pose, as well as Trump's role in the 2021 attack on the US Capitol.

'Reality is setting in' 

Republicans meanwhile have zeroed in on urban violence, an issue that has helped the party make notable inroads in key swing states, portraying their colleagues across the aisle as soft on crime.

The story of the final days of the campaign has been Republican incursion into the Democrats' back yard, with candidates eyeing opportunities for House seats that were once out of reach. 

Strategists from both parties are seeing districts across New York, Oregon and Connecticut that went for Biden by double digits in 2020 coming back into play. 

"We thought for a little bit that we could defy gravity, but the reality is setting in," Sean McElwee, executive director of Data for Progress, a left-leaning polling firm, told The New York Times.   

The Republicans are also showing most of the late momentum in the Senate—where the Democrats currently rely for their majority on a tie-breaking vote from Vice President Kamala Harris.

Democrats are a nose in front but see their margins narrowing in Pennsylvania, Arizona and New Hampshire.

Republicans have taken the lead in Nevada, the country's closest contest, and Wisconsin, while Georgia has edged back into the red column despite a tumultuous campaign by scandal-hit challenger Herschel Walker.

More than 21 million people across 46 states have already voted but the public is being warned that patience may be required on election night, with vote counting in some states expected to take days.

If Republicans win back either chamber, they have vowed to launch investigations into the Biden administration, with the targets ranging from the president himself to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

'Across the aisle' 

For Biden, who turns 80 two weeks after the election, a comprehensive defeat could be a double-blow, threatening his agenda and chipping away at support for his bid to seek a second term.

The president—who voted early in Wilmington, Delaware on Saturday—heads this week to Florida, Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Mexico and California to make the case for Democratic government.

Former president Barack Obama, still comfortably the party's biggest star, has been on a tour to reinvigorate support in tightening races that takes him to Nevada, Arizona and Pennsylvania this week.

"I understand why you might be worried about the course of the country. Sometimes it's tempting just to tune out, watch football, watch 'Dancing With The Stars,'" Obama said during a weekend blitz of swing states. 

"I'm here to tell you tuning out is not an option."

Trump kicks off a series of rallies in Iowa, Florida and Pennsylvania on Thursday, shrugging off an array of legal investigations against him as he throws himself behind some of the dozens of candidates he has endorsed.

Some Republicans worry that their winning margins could be narrowed by the defeat of fringe Trump-backed hopefuls in moderate races, although most remain four-square behind the 76-year-old tycoon.

"Joe Biden has always talked about how he wants to be unified and work across the aisle," Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna McDaniel told Fox News on Sunday.

"Well, this is his chance, because this is going to be repudiation of the Democratic Party."

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