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Takeaways and observations from the 2022 midterms

Democrats hold off Republican "red wave"
Democrats hold off Republican "red wave" 04:15

As the final votes are still being tallied in several battleground states, Democrats appeared to have fended off the predicted Republican "red wave." 

As of Wednesday evening, CBS News characterized Senate control as a toss-up with four seats left to be decided. CBS News estimated the House, meanwhile, leaned Republican, although Republicans are estimated to have 210 seats to 200 for Democrats, falling far short of a landslide victory. 

Here are some takeaways from the consequential midterm election: 

Big night for abortion rights advocates

Reproductive rights advocates seeking to protect the right to an abortion through ballot measures had victories from coast to coast. The future of abortion access was directly on the ballot in five states, and the proposals marked the first time a large swath of voters expressed their views on the hot-button issue since the Supreme Court wiped away the right to an abortion under the federal constitution in June.

In California, Michigan and Vermont, CBS News projects voters approved proposals to amend their state constitutions to protect reproductive rights. But the biggest victory for abortion right advocates is expected to come from Kentucky, where CBS News estimates a proposal to amend the state constitution to declare it does not protect the right to an abortion and to prohibit state funding for abortion is likely to be defeated. A reliably red state, Kentucky follows Kansas, another traditionally conservative state, in likely rejecting an effort to restrict abortion access. In the fifth state, Montana, it's unclear whether voters have approved a legislative referendum asking voters to adopt the Born Alive Infant Protection Act, which declares infants born alive, including after an abortion, are legal persons.

Melissa Quinn

Abortion helped propel John Fetterman to his narrowly-won Senate race in Pennsylvania, which CBS News polling found was the only Senate battleground where abortion topped inflation as the most important issue for voters — boosted by women picking abortion as their top issue. 

The move reflected in the abortion ballot measures toward a pro-abortion rights position is especially significant in Kentucky and Montana, both heavily Repubilcan states with super majorities in the legislature. And in Michigan, a Democrat not only got reelected as governor, but also flipped the state House. Voter registration increased among women post-Dobbs in 45 states, according to TargetSmart.

—Caitlin Huey-Burns

GOP's worse-than-average midterm performance

Republicans may very well take the House, but this was a poor showing by historical standards. Not only did they do much worse than estimates based on fundamentals like the economy and presidential job approval, but they did worse than even an average midterm performance by the out-of-power party. (Throughout the campaign, CBS News' Battleground Tracker model consistently indicated that GOP gains were going to be smaller than usual this year.) 

Democrats remain competitive in many battleground districts across the country, and CBS News' polling suggests it's in large part because of abortion as an issue and the related perception that Republican candidates were too extreme.

—Kabir Khanna

Democrats limit damage

So far, it appears that Democrats had more tightly coordinated campaigns and messaging, and they stuck with issues that polled poorly because the coordinated voter contacts told them it would work. This is boring and often overlooked political work — but it matters and may have had outsized importance here.

—Major Garrett

The courts and the maps

In the end, judges in New York and Florida might have more to do with the House swing than any other force in America. Rejection of New York Democrats' congressional map and the embrace of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' hardcore Republican map may account for a heavy percentage of House GOP pickups.

—Major Garrett


At a news conference on Wednesday, President Biden expressed relief about better than expected results from the midterms. The White House was bracing for a red wave that did not materialize — a kind of victory for the president, despite challenging economic conditions. Still, the House still seems likely to be controlled by Republicans and the fate of the Senate may not be known for days. Mr. Biden was asked about the next election in 2024. It's his "intention to run again," he said, but added that he's a "great respecter of fate," and this is ultimately a family decision. He said he's not feeling hurried into deciding and guesses it'll be "early next year" when he and the first lady decide.

—Kathryn Watson

Trump's election denialism takes a beating

Former President Donald Trump's stock is wobblier than at any time since before he announced in 2015, Republicans close to Trump and those who have tried to distance themselves agree. His policy ideas stand, but the election denialism he's complained about since the 2020 election took a beating. And so did his interference in primaries that produced flawed candidates as nominees. GOP strategist Jeff Roe summed it up as "headwinds v. headcases."

—Major Garrett

Here are some of the Trump-endorsed Republicans who lost: Mehmet Oz (Pennsylvania Senate), Doug Mastriano (Pennsylvania governor), Tudor Dixon (Michigan governor), Lee Zeldin (New York governor), Tim Michels (Wisconsin governor).

—Kathryn Watson

Strong showing for DeSantis

That wobbly night for Trump could open a 2024 path for DeSantis, who fared much better on election night, easily winning Miami-Dade County and the state as a whole. He and Sen. Marco Rubio also won the Latino vote, according to exit polls: 56% of Latinos voted for DeSantis; 54% for Rubio. Both lost the Hispanic vote in their previous elections in 2018 and 2016 respectively.

Kathryn Watson, Eran Ben-Porath and Jennifer De Pinto

Revival of "normal Republicans" on the horizon?

Maryland's two-term GOP Gov. Larry Hogan, who is mulling a 2024 presidential bid, is eager to lead a revival of what he called "normal Republicans" in the wake of disappointing turns by candidates endorsed by Trump. "I don't know if it was a complete repudiation of Trump and Trump politics, but it was certainly a much better night for Republicans running as commonsense conservatives," Hogan added. "Those Republicans won almost everywhere."

For years, Hogan said, "I felt like I was on a lifeboat all by myself" inside the GOP, "with everybody on the Trump Titanic" and with few allies for his conservative but Trump-skeptical approach. 

"Now we need a bigger boat," he said, as fellow Republicans arrive at a political crossroads and consider the party's future. 

—Robert Costa

Latinos and Republicans

The share of Latino voters voting for Republican House candidates has gone up compared to four years ago. In 2018, 29% of Hispanic voters voted for Republicans. According to exit polls, this share has now gone up to 39%.

Kathryn Watson, Eran Ben-Porath and Jennifer De Pinto

Chaos in the new majority?

If Republicans win the House (CBS News currently estimates the House leans Republican), the slimmer the majority, the more chaotic it will be for the party. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is still the heavy favorite to become speaker but each individual member will have more power to exact a price from McCarthy at the times when he must have their votes.  This will really matter when it comes to the basic mechanics of governing — like raising the debt ceiling or passing spending bills. 

—Rebecca Kaplan

Republicans had scheduled their leadership elections for next week, but it's unclear if that schedule will remain in place if their majority is a narrow one. Republicans could need more time to find consensus within their caucus. The far-right wing of the party — the vocal election deniers and Capitol rioter sympathizers — could be a much louder voice in the House.

—Kathryn Watson

How did democracy do?

Democracy as we know it flourished. There was high turnout and accessible voting. There was transparent counting. Glitches were reported and resolved. Candidates who lost generally conceded. Forbearance won over denialism — not everywhere, but in many places, and every place where it happens unexpectedly matters. 

—Major Garrett

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