Subscriber OnlyUSAnalysis

Projected Republican tsunami fizzles out to become a ripple

US midterm elections: Democrats performed far better than anticipated by pollsters and media

The trends of history and the economic realities of today both appeared to herald that there would be a Republican Party landslide in the US midterm elections.

But when the counting of votes started the projected Republican tsunami had fizzled out to little more than a ripple, if that.

“It was definitely not a Republican wave, that is for darn sure”, senior party senator Lindsey Graham conceded on US television.

By early Wednesday morning the Republicans had already claimed victory in the House of Representatives, even though dozens of results were still outstanding hours later. If the Republicans do take control, their majority is likely to be narrow – and nowhere near the 60-seat margin they had predicted earlier this year.


President Joe Biden’s Democratic Party performed far better than anticipated by both pollsters and the media.

The president is more unpopular than popular and polls suggested the American public was deeply unhappy with the state of the economy and the cost of living.

However, Democrat members of Congress across the country – including in New Hampshire, Virginia and the midwest – who were deemed to be vulnerable, managed to hang on.

In New York, governor Kathy Hochul, who seemed to be in a far closer contest than had been anticipated in a strongly Democratic state, was also re-elected.

The balance of power in the US Senate it will come down to whoever wins in Georgia, Arizona and Nevada. The victory of Democrat John Fetterman in Pennsylvania gave a huge boost to the party as it meant Republicans lost a seat they had held going into the contest.

US midterms: Red wave fails to materialise

Listen | 31:42
In the run up to the US midterm elections, polls and political spectators forecast a landslide for the Republicans, but as the results continue to pour in, a different picture is beginning to emerge. The red wave that was expected on the back of the cost of living crisis, failed to materialise, with the Democrats performing far better than anticipated. To go through the winners and losers so far and to discuss what the results will mean for the Biden administration, Hugh is joined by Washington Correspondent Martin Wall.

The Democrats on Wednesday were trailing in their bid to retain their seat in Nevada and it is possible that after all the speeches and rallies, and expenditure of hundreds of millions of dollars, the new Senate will be identical to the outgoing one, with the parties tied on 50 seats each. That would see the Democrats retain their effective majority through the casting vote of vice-president Kamala Harris.

The big winner of the elections would appear to be Florida governor Ron DeSantis, who crushed his Democrat opponent and saw Republicans take full advantage of re-drawn constituencies in the state to win crucial additional seats in the House of Representatives.

There has been strong speculation that DeSantis is looking at a run for the White House even though it is likely that former president Donald Trump will officially throw his hat in the ring as early as next week.

On Tuesday Trump warned DeSantis not to run for the presidency. “If he did run, I will tell you things about him that won’t be very flattering. I know more about him than anybody other than perhaps his wife, who is really running his campaign,” he said.

But in the aftermath of the election Trump’s standing appears weaker. Many of the candidates he backed were defeated, although JD Vance did win in Ohio. Some Republican strategists and donors were reportedly questioning whether the former president is now an anchor on the party’s fortunes.

At one stage before the supreme court eliminated the federal constitutional right to abortion last summer Republicans had been predicting a huge majority in the House of Representatives.

By early on Wednesday Republican strategists were talking about gaining possibly 20 seats, to secure a comfortable majority. Other observers have suggested the margin could be slimmer.

A small Republican majority could prove problematic for Kevin McCarthy, the man expected to be the new speaker of the House of Representative, as the votes of the more extreme members of his party will be much more important, giving them greater leverage.

The results are more favourable than Biden and his supporters could have reasonably expected in the light of the polls. History suggests that new presidents lose out in their first midterm elections. Barack Obama lost control of the House of Representatives in 2010 as did Trump in 2018.

The results would suggest that Biden will do much better than either of them, although he  is also likely to lose the House.

Arriving at the White House from his final pre-election rally on Monday night the president was asked  what would await him in a Republican-controlled congress. Biden said it would be “more difficult”

Even a small or smallish Republican majority in the House of Representative will present significant problems for Biden.

The president’s domestic agenda would still face likely opposition from Republicans, who may demand spending cuts that would be hugely unpopular with the Democratic Party.

The president would also face a whole host of investigations by Republicans into a range of issues from the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan to the business dealings of his son, Hunter Biden.

In a Republican-controlled Congress it is also possible, perhaps likely, that there will be attempts made to impeach the president.