By Maeve Reston and Stephen Collinson, CNN
(CNN) — Polls have closed in Georgia and five other states in a midterm election dominated by anxiety about inflation and high gas prices that will determine control of the otherwise divided House and Senate. as well as on the governors’ mansions throughout the country.
Republicans are increasingly confident of winning the House in a victory that would allow them to constrain President Joe Biden’s domestic agenda, while the Senate race hinges on key races in Nevada, Arizona, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and New Hampshire.
Georgia is home to the critical Senate race between Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican Herschel Walker — which could go to a Dec. 6 runoff if neither candidate wins a majority — as well as the high-profile gubernatorial rematch between Republican Gov. Brian Brian. Kemp and Democrat Stacey Abrams. Although polls closed at 7 p.m. ET in Georgia, judges ordered six precincts to remain open after that time because they opened late.
Polls also closed in Virginia, where two suburban House races will provide an early indication of how vulnerable Democrats are. Rep. Democrat Elaine Luria faces a challenge from Republican Jen Kiggans in a district that includes Virginia Beach and some of Norfolk’s exurbs. Another Democrat elected in the 2018 blue wave, Rep. Abigail Spanberger is defending her seat, in a district that has become bluer in redistricting, against Republican Yesli Vega.
Early exit polls reveal a nation in the grip of economic pessimism, potentially bad news for Democrats given their monopoly on political power in Washington. About three-quarters of voters felt negatively about the economy, with about 4 in 10 seeing it as downright poor, according to preliminary national exit poll results for CNN and other news networks by Edison Research. A third of the electorate said inflation was the most important issue for their vote, while about 27 percent cited abortion — the issue Democrats had hoped could give them a boost after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.
At 6 p.m. ET, the first polls closed in House districts in parts of Indiana and Kentucky. In the next hour, polls are scheduled to close in one of the key Senate battlegrounds — Georgia — but the judges ordered six precincts to remain open after that hour because they opened late.
Republicans have already vowed to launch investigations into the administration and cripple its agenda if they win the House majority, and many of their nominees have echoed former President Donald Trump’s election fraud, leading to Biden’s repeated warnings about threats to democracy.
But the economy was most important to voters this fall. With all 435 House seats up for grabs Tuesday, Democrats are on the defensive even in seats that Biden would have comfortably won two years ago. His low approval ratings — along with the historic challenges facing a president’s party in their first midterm cycle — have left Republicans optimistic about their chances of building a sizeable majority in chamber, where they only need a net gain of five seats. Between Labor Day and Election Day, nine of the 10 top-spending House races featured Democratic incumbents — a sign of the danger the party in power is in.
Control of the Senate, which is currently split 50-50 with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tie-breaking vote, remains on a razor’s edge as Democrats cling to seats in battleground states. Republicans only need a net gain of one seat to win the majority.
But as they try to hold off Republicans, Democrats are also trying to pick up seats to protect themselves from losses. Their best opportunity is in the perennial pivot state of Pennsylvania, where Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman and Republican Mehmet Oz are battling to replace retiring GOP Sen. Pat Toomey in what has become the country’s most expensive Senate race. country this fall. Democrats are also trying to defeat Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, a close Trump ally who remains the most vulnerable Senate GOP incumbent as he faces Democratic Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes.
The economic shocks of the Covid-19 pandemic, followed by rising gas and food prices, have forced many working-class Americans to pare down their savings and cut back on everyday spending, creating a sour mood in electorate, while voters prepare for a potential. recession. In a recent CNN poll conducted by SSRS, three-quarters of Americans said they feel the US is already in a recession.
While there are many factors driving inflation — including lingering supply chain problems and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine — voters are also registering disappointment with Biden, whose approval rating was 41 percent in latest CNN poll.
Frustration over Washington’s inability to significantly cut costs has left Democrats on shaky ground even in blue states like California, Oregon and New York. The latter two feature surprisingly competitive gubernatorial contests. And there are more than enough contested House seats in those states alone for Republicans to win the House majority.
Democrats hoped the Supreme Court’s decision in late June to strike down abortion rights would help turn the tide. But while the ruling helped close some of the enthusiasm gap between Republicans and Democrats, it may not have had as much of an effect as Democrats had hoped in some key races.
Biden, as he hung on in mostly blue states, repeatedly warned that “democracy is on the ballot” after Trump promoted dozens of Republican candidates who echoed his lies about the 2020 election. But, as access to abortion, the fragility of democracy has consistently ranked lower than the economy and inflation when voters are asked about their biggest concerns ahead of an election.
Talk of the threat to democracy has been prominent in some gubernatorial and secretary of state races, however, because of the prospect that pro-Trump candidates who decline the election could end up winning positions that will allow them to manage the 2024 presidential election.
The midterms will serve as a critical proving ground for Trump, who has cast a long shadow over the Republican Party as he has used appearances for the nominees he has picked to tease his likely 2024 bid.
Appearing Monday night in Ohio for his Senate nominee, JD Vance, who was in a surprisingly close race against Democrat Tim Ryan in a state won by Trump twice, the former president said he would make an announcement important on Mar. -a-Lago on November 15. CNN previously reported that his aides are eyeing the third week of November for a campaign launch — a time that would allow Trump to take credit for the GOP’s midterm successes. He’s hoping a good night for his candidates — including a full slate of election-deniers in Arizona — could help build momentum for a third run at the White House.
Ahead of a potential rematch with Trump, Biden’s approval ratings have made him an unwanted presence on the campaign trail in swing states. He held election-eve rallies in Maryland for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wes Moore and in New York days earlier for Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul.
Republican momentum in the latter part of the campaign — particularly in the House race — put the White House on notice about the potential future frustrations of governing in a divided Washington. The GOP has already promised relentless investigations and hearings focused on the Justice Department, border management policies, the US withdrawal from Afghanistan and the president’s son, Hunter Biden. In an exclusive interview with CNN on Sunday, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy left the door open for impeachment proceedings to begin against the president.
A divided government in Washington could allow Biden to exercise his presidential veto to thwart Republican plans to extend Trump-era tax cuts and any attempt to pass a national abortion ban. But it could also trigger fiscal standoffs and threats of government shutdowns. A clash could also be over raising the debt ceiling.
This story has been updated with additional developments.
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