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Senate still up for grabs as Republicans close in on U.S. House majority

Although Republicans were making slow advances in securing a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives early on Thursday, the case of the Senate has not yet been decided two days after Democrats held off a Republican “red wave” in midterm elections.

Republicans managed to pin down 210 seats, according to projections by Edison Research projected, which is eight short of the 218 needed to wrest the House away from Democrats and effectively halt President Joe Biden’s legislative agenda.

As many as 33 House contests were yet to be decided, including 21 of the 53 most competitive races, Reuters reported based on its analysis of the leading nonpartisan forecasters. It went on to say that although Republicans remained favoured, the final outcome would not be determined for some time.

But the standoff for Senate seats was much less clear, as either party could claim control by sweeping too-close-to-call races in Nevada and Arizona, where officials are methodically tallying thousands of uncounted ballots.

Georgia, for the second time in two years, would turn out to be a tipping point regarding who is to seize the Senate majority if a split ensues. Democratic incumbent Raphael Warnock and Republican challenger Herschel Walker both failed to reach 50 percent on Tuesday, forcing them into a one-on-one battle on December 6, Reuters said.

There are a lot of gains for Republicans to snatch, however slim their victory in the House would be. Effectively, if it comes about, the party would be able to shape the rest of Mr Biden’s term, freezing priorities such as abortion rights, and launching investigations into his administration and family.

Joe Biden acknowledged that reality on Wednesday, saying he was prepared to work with Republicans. A White House official said President Biden spoke by phone with Republican House Leader Kevin McCarthy, who announced earlier in the day his intention to run for speaker of the House if Republicans control the chamber.

“The American people have made clear, I think, that they expect Republicans to be prepared to work with me as well,” President Biden said at a White House news conference.

Should Mr McCarthy become the next House speaker, he may find it challenging to hold together his fractious caucus, with a hard-right wing that has little interest in compromise.

Republicans are expected to demand spending cuts in exchange for raising the nation’s borrowing limit next year, a showdown that could spook financial markets, Reuters reported. Control of the Senate, meanwhile, would give Republicans the power to block Mr Biden’s nominees for judicial and administrative posts.

‘Red wave’ never came but Biden’s repute sinking

Whichever party holds the reins of power usually suffers heavy casualties in a president’s first midterm election – in this case, the Democrats, who, defying the trend, were spared going down under a Republican “red wave”, which never came. However, their frontman, Joe Biden, has been struggling with low approval ratings pegged at 39 percent (against 57 percent of disapproval).

Voters were angered at President Biden for the steepest inflation in 40 years, while also lashing out at Republican efforts to ban abortion and undermine the nation’s vote-counting process.

To President Biden’s mind, the elections were a trail of U.S. democracy at a time when hundreds of Republican candidates embraced Former President Donald Trump’s false claims that the 2020 presidential election was stolen. A number of those candidates won on Tuesday, but many who sought positions to oversee elections at the state level were defeated.

Donald Trump, who took an active role in recruiting Republican candidates, notched a victory in Ohio, where “Hillbilly Elegy” author J.D. Vance won a Senate seat to keep it in Republican hands. Still, several other Trump-backed candidates did not bring home the bacon, such as retired celebrity surgeon Mehmet Oz, who lost a crucial Senate race in Pennsylvania to Democrat John Fetterman.

The elections offered a view on Republican Florida Governor Ron DeSantis winning re-election by nearly 20 percentage points, adding to his growing national profile. Commentators believe Ron DeSantis could run against Mr Trump in 2024.

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