After clinching Senate, Dems eye the unthinkable: Holding the House

After clinching Senate, Dems eye the unthinkable: Holding the House

With the Senate now in hand, Democrats are hoping for something that was almost unimaginable a week ago: keeping the House.

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) was declared the winner over Republican Adam Laxalt late Saturday night, securing Democrats at least a 50-50 split in the upper chamber even before the Georgia runoff in early December.

After her win, all eyes turn to the House. There are still 20 seats left uncalled, and Democrats have a legitimate — if narrow — chance of holding the lower chamber as well.

In those uncalled races, Democrats would need to nearly run the table to keep the House. That remains unlikely, and Republicans are still favored to flip the chamber. But any majority — for either party — will likely be incredibly narrow, a major disappointment for the Republican Party that was crowing about a red wave even the morning of the election.

“The pundits in Washington said we couldn’t win because ‘history, history, history.’ Elections are about the future,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in an interview on ABC’s “This Week” with George Stephanopoulos on Sunday morning. “I’m very proud of our candidates.”

Of the 26 House races POLITICO forecasted as toss-ups before the election, just five of them remain uncalled. Democrats would likely need to win all five of those, win the remaining three uncalled races forecasted as “lean Democratic” — they currently lead in all three — and eat into some districts initially forecasted as “lean Republican” to win the chamber.

A number of those undecided races are in California, where many votes remain uncounted and where mail-in votes produced a big shift in 2018 in the days and weeks after Election Day.

On Sunday afternoon, the Associated Press called the open-seat race in Oregon’s 5th District, in which the GOP was slightly favored, for Republican candidate Lori Chavez-DeRemer. That put the Republican count at 212.

Pelosi acknowledged in the interview that it would still be a steep climb for her party to win the House. “We’ll see” was about all she offered in response to a question about the possibility.

She added that she was “disappointed” by the outcome of a handful of key House races in New York that Republicans flipped, which came after the state Supreme Court threw out a map the Democratic-controlled state Legislature drew that favored their party.

“That four votes could make a difference at the end of the day,” Pelosi said. “But we haven’t given up.” She also declined to say if she would run for speaker again should Democrats win.

The last 96 hours have been bitter for House Republicans.

“This was a very disappointing outcome on election night, not the one we expected,” Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.), who is running to be House GOP whip, said in an interview on “Fox News Sunday” on Sunday morning. “There will be a lot of unpacking the outcome for weeks to come. Did we have the wrong strategy? Why did our message not break through? Why did the voters not buy into the vision and the message that Republicans were selling?”

But Banks predicted Republicans will still win “a very slim” majority. He said a small House majority would serve as “the last line of defense” against President Joe Biden’s agenda.

Democrats’ hopes of winning the House got a surprising boost on Saturday night, when Democrat Marie Gluesenkamp Perez defeated far-right Republican Joe Kent in Washington’s red-leaning 3rd District. Republicans lost the seat after Kent successfully displaced GOP Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler out of the district’s top-two all-party primary, railing against her for being one of the handful of the Republicans who voted to impeach former President Donald Trump for his role in inciting the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

Outside of the House, one of the last big uncalled races is the Arizona governor race. There, Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs narrowly leads Republican Kari Lake, a former TV anchor who became a prominent booster of Trump’s lies about the 2020 election.

Hobbs’ lead is tenuous. The secretary of state’s office estimated late Saturday that there were roughly 250,000 ballots remaining to be counted across the state, in addition to 16,000 provisional ballots that could be added to the tally. The vast majority of those ballots are in Maricopa County, the state’s most populous county.

In a Sunday interview on “Fox News Futures,” Lake said she anticipated those ballots would lean toward Republicans.

Maricopa County officials are expected to report tens of thousands of more ballots this evening, and officials in the county said last week that they anticipate the tally to be done early this week.

Though control of the Senate is now settled, the campaign for the chamber isn’t over. Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) and Republican Herschel Walker are set to face off in a runoff on Dec. 6. An extra seat for Democrats, bringing their margin to 51-49, would make a significant difference. It would give them majorities on key committees, instead of an even split. And it would make it easier for the party to approve Biden’s judicial and other nominees, which is expected to be a major focus of the Democratic majority.

“I’m confident in Georgia that Rev. Warnock will be reelected and back in the Senate,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a late-night press conference Saturday, after he secured another two years as Senate majority leader.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee publicly released a memo from Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), the committee chair, on Saturday afternoon about the runoff, pleading with donors to help fund Walker’s campaign. The Scott memo said Walker raised $7 million on Wednesday and Thursday, but “we need to keep it up and make sure everyone does everything they can to support Herschel Walker and make sure we win back the majority.”

Even though the 2022 midterms aren’t yet in the books, the 2024 campaign is already well underway. Trump is planning to announce Tuesday he’s running for president again, putting Republicans on the spot about whether they’re prepared to back him again after a third consecutive poor election with him at the helm.

As for Biden, senior adviser Anita Dunn said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that Trump’s announcement won’t change the president’s own plans.

“The president has made it clear he intends to run and that he will make a formal decision later this year or early next year,” she said. “You don’t run for president because of what the other side is doing or what another candidate may be doing.”

Some Republicans have publicly pleaded with Trump to hold off until after the Georgia runoff. They’re likely having uncomfortable flashbacks to 2021, where Trump’s fixation on a stolen election myth likely helped cost Republicans a pair of Senate runoffs in the state. But Trump has shown no signs of changing his mind.

Late Saturday night, after Nevada and the Senate was called for Democrats, Trump’s fundraising operation teased a run.

“If you want me to run in 2024, who should my Vice President be?” an email signed by Trump read. “You have 30 minutes to answer.”

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